Lakes, forest, quiet, simply beautiful!
On the second weekend of June, I was invited to Scott and Virpi’s wedding in Finland. They both live in Newcastle, Australia, but Virpi is originally from Finland, and so they had decided to celebrate in the village of Hartola, about 180 km north of Helsinki, where Virpi had grown up.
When I landed in Helsinki the day before the wedding, it was pouring down with rain, and I was hoping for conditions to improve because I knew that Scott and Virpi were planning some outdoor activities. I was going to share a rental car with Virpi’s friend Inga from Düsseldorf, and I met her and Virpi’s friends Corinna and Nino at Helsinki airport.
The four of us arrived at the mansion in Hartola where the wedding would take place in the evening. It was so good to see Scott and Virpi, I had not seen them for almost a year. We had pizza together and then did what you just have to do in Finland: we went to the sauna. I heard about some interesting statistics saying that there is one sauna per two inhabitants in Finland. I am sure there is no country in the world with
A bilingual wedding
Finnish and Australian!
a higher sauna per inhabitant ratio 😉.
The next morning started slowly. Inga and I shared a room in the mansion, and as both of us were really tired after some tough weeks with lots of work, we did not get up until 9:30. I went for a run, which was beautiful because the mansion was out in the countryside, surrounded by a forest and several lakes and only very few other houses. It had stopped raining and the sun was out. It was not warm and also rather windy, but still pleasant to be in the sun. This was wonderful because it meant that the wedding ceremony could take place outside, like it had been planned. It was, as you would assume with the bride being Finnish and the groom being Australian, a bilingual ceremony.
I was glad that there was an English translation because I don’t speak a word of Finnish, and as Finnish is not an Indo-Germanic language, there is no way you could derive the meanings of the words, let alone the grammar. I learned that Finnish grammar is completely different from ours. Imagine that, it has 15 cases! When you want to express
Hartola Museum I
One of the buildings. The open door leads down to the coal cellar. In the building one can look at various tools that were used in the old days. No idea what most of them were used for :-S
different tenses, you don’t bend the verb, but the substantive. So you use a different flexion e.g. of the word “cake”, depending on whether you are going to eat a piece of it, are currently eating one, have just eaten one, and so on… Wow. Very different indeed.
The great surprise of the day was that Julia and Nikolai from Russia arrived at the party. They had been invited, but nobody really knew whether they would make it. They were spontaneous as they always are, and it was wonderful to see them. Last time I had seen them had been in Moscow last year.
The good weather meant that we could do some more outdoor activities: we were divided into teams and went through four different contests: a paper plane competition (in which Nikolai and I did great teamwork, he folded the plane and I threw it, and our plane travelled the longest distance), Sumo Wrestling (yes, in our dresses and suits, respectively), the Finnish version of bowling (you throw a stick instead of a ball and have to knock over other sticks so that they add up to a certain amount of points), and sack race. In
Hartola Museum II
Hearth in the kitchen of one of the buildings.
the evening, there was karaoke and music. Again, it was very nice to have Julia there because she had her guitar with her and sang for us – wonderful Russian songs!
The whole day was beautiful and relaxed, and everyone was happy, especially Scott and Virpi (which was the most important thing, of course). When I went to bed shortly after 1 a.m., I could hardly believe that it was still daylight outside. Apparently it does not get dark until midnight in this part of the country at that time of the year, the sun rises again around three in the morning, and even during “nighttime”, it does not really get dark. Unbelievable!
The next day, Scott and Virpi were busy with family engagements, so Inga and I had another slow morning and then went to explore Hartola. The town is small, it has only 3,500 inhabitants, many of them living out in the countryside. An American who had sat next to me on my flight to Helsinki had told me that he knew Hartola because he had been stationed there, and that there was a beautiful medieval church to look at. It turned out that there was
The holiday cottage
Beautifully located on a lake, all quiet, peaceful and incredibly picturesque!
a church, but it was from the late 19th and early 20th century. Well, one could say that this is kind of old… We could not go inside because it was currently under refurbishment. So we took a walk around the small city centre and then went to the local museum. This was super interesting, there were several houses and barns showing us how people used to live in the early 20th century: furniture, items that were used in the kitchen, farming equipment… I must say that I had no idea what most of these items were used for.
Virpi had invited Inga and me to her mum’s holiday cottage, which is about 40 km from Hartola, situated on a very picturesque lake (well, the whole place including the cottage and everything around it is extremely picturesque), far away from noise and hectic. This was where we went on Sunday evening. The centre of the cottage, the part that was built first, is the chimney and the sauna, made of bricks, the rest is built around it out of wood. It was cold and rainy outside again, so we (or rather: Scott) lit a fire and we enjoyed the
View from the veranda
... two boats right on the shore of the lake, ready to go rowing.
The next day, the weather was partly sunny, but there were heavy rain showers every now and then. I decided to do some hiking in spite of the weather and did a beautiful three hour tour around one of the lakes. There was nobody there except for me, and for the cows and horses in the paddocks I think I was the event of the day or maybe even week. Apart from that, I did not do much except for reading and of course enjoying the fact that I could spend some time with Scott and Virpi. In the evening, we went to the sauna and took a dip in the most beautiful lake afterwards.
The next day, the weather was beautiful again, and thus Virpi took us to the Kammiovuori, a little mountain not far from the cottage. We walked up and enjoyed the beautiful view of the surroundings. The rest of the day we spent relaxing, reading and talking, and I even went for another run. Of course, in the end of the day, we went to the sauna again. This time, we followed one more Finnish tradition and used a twig to gently beat
I walked past his paddock on my hike. At first he was very shy, but then his curiosity won and he came and had a look :-)
our backs and legs, which enhances the blood flow.
On Wednesday I had to leave. Virpi had some things to do in the nearby village, so she took me to the bus stop from where I caught a bus back to Helsinki. Everything went smoothly: I arrived in Helsinki on time, with more than enough time to have dinner at the airport. My plane for Munich left perfectly on time, and so did my plane from Munich to Hamburg. But then we had to circle above Hamburg Airport for about 20 minutes because of a heavy thunderstorm. I was starting to worry that we would be redirected to another airport because Hamburg Airport closes at 11 p.m., but we made it just in time. However, when we got to the gate, it took a while until we could get off the plane because apparently the ground crew had thought we would land somewhere else and was not prepared for our arrival. When we had finally gotten off the plane, the really bad surprise was awaiting us: the plane could not be unloaded due to the heavy thunderstorm. It would have been too dangerous. We ended up having to wait
View from the Kammiovuori
... the mountain we walked up. From there, we had a beautiful view of the surrounding lakes and forest.
for our luggage for 1.5 hours. Then it was difficult to get a taxi, but again I was lucky that my suitcase had arrived as one of the first ones, so finally I arrived at home a 1 a.m. – and had to get up at six the next morning because I had to go to the office. Oh well. I did not mind it too much because I had really, really enjoyed the wedding and my time with Scott and Virpi. Thank you, you two, for inviting me to your wedding and to the holiday cottage!
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