Finland, fresh and fiery

Located between Sweden and Russia, with a quarter of its territory lying north of the polar circle, Finland is a land of contrasts, with the hills and mountains of Lapland, hilly centre and numerous lakes and islands to break the monotony. This is also the official address of Father Christmas, originally founded by reindeer, elves and Laplanders, the result today is a vast melting pot of people and culture.

This is the country with 145 telephone connections for every 100 inhabitants (!), with its streamlined appearance, cutting edge design and the very latest in technology and trends. This can be applied to electronic music, but also fashion, with brands such as Marimekko (clothing, homeware and accessories), Halti (hi-tech outdoor protective clothing since 1976, inspired by the highest peak in Finland) and Globe Hope, specialising in recycled materials. In Finland, recycling is not just a habit, it is a way of life. The Finnish were certainly not a nation to wait around for the official government go-ahead and other global initiatives to protect the environment. Cycling, sorting household waste, reducing packaging, saving electricity, water and paper, even in the land of forests! Eco-responsibility is for the home as well as the workplace.

Much more than a leisure activity or a place of contemplation, the Finnish sauna is a convivial pastime quite apart, and a true social tradition. Since the 12th century, the benefits of dry heat - 110°C max - have been apparent, for hygiene and good health, and sharing a sauna is much like going for a coffee, to discuss and put the world to rights. Turning down an invitation may even be seen as impolite. Traditional saunas were small timber cabins constructed even before houses, and were heated by wood. Today it is estimated there are 2 million saunas in Finland for a population of 5 million and in the Mokki, traditional Finnish housing, common practice would be to alternate the sauna with a dip in natural or freezing water, either in the lake or river, or a simple cold shower in suburbia. Thermal shock guaranteed!

Journey of discovery | Published on: 13 June 2013
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