Finlandia is a country with strong contrasts, the light and the dark, the land and the water, the technology and the nature. One third of the nation is considered a protected area thanks to its 40 National parks that are spread along the whole country. It’s a landscape where you can experience the nature in a comprehensive way, visit the typical villages that are set in peculiar environments that are maily featured by the lakes. Our journey from the Baltic costlines of Lapponia shows us the main facets of Finland: it’s an anthropological, geographical and cultural phenomemon. The history of this geographical area is related to the trades especially the ones that were carried out by the Southern villages that were completely made of wood in the past. One of the most untouched is Rauma, it overlooks the gulf of Botnia and it was enetered into the list of the Unesco’s Heritage. In its oldest part around the church of Santa Croce there are hundreds of tiny pastel coloured houses dating back to the 18th and the 19th century that have become nice cafés, art galleries or workshops dedicated to the production of the bobbin laces.
The sweet Porvoo
Moving towards the East 50 kilometres from Helsinki you can find Porvoo, it’s a caharcteristic village founded in the 13th century and it was one of the most strategic harbpurs of Northern Europe for the fur trade. The best way to reach this place from the main city is going through an interesting route that crosses some islands by an historical boat dating back to 1912. The old district is overlooked by the Gothic cathedral and it’s crossed by the river Porvoonjoki, there are paved narrow streets and tiny red houses that were used as warehouses for the dried fish, the coffe and the spice and they have become nice cafés and workshops in recent times. Besides its historical interest Porvoo is also famous for the production of sweets mainly the chocolate flavoured with the Finnisch salt liquirice and also for the production of a partuclar round cake with jam and raspberries decorations that is served in the typical cafés that is dedicated to Johan Ludvig Runeberg, a Finnish poet and writer who lived in Porvoo in the 19th century.
The region of lakes
If you go up towards the centre of Finland you’ll see a territory featured by a labyrinth of lakes, islands and canals, forests and slopes that stretch for hundreds kilometres. There are many ways to experinece these stretches of water, it’s headen for the kayak and ice-skaying lovers or you can go on a trip aboard a steam ship from lake Saimaa to the Gulf of Finland. The little cities of this regions are often equipped with strongholds and castles that witness the troubles of its borders. The fortress Linnoitus in Lappeenranta was first built by the Swedish people the it was finished by the Russian in 1774 when this area was given to the Empire of zars. There are many museums nowadays and the Cafè Majurska is located in the former Officers’ Club’s buildings, you can sip a glass of Mannerheim, the typical sparkling wine from this area. Another unmissable stop in this region of lakes is Savolinna with its castle of Olavinlinna dating back to the 15th century that is perched on a little island facing the harbour and Retrettinwith with its modern modern art gallery that is set in some undergound caves also deserves a vist. The neraby village of Kerimäki deserves a visit too, it features the biggest wooden church in the world.
Jyväskylä the capital city of design
Jyväskylä is in the heart of the region of lakes, it can be considered a museum in the open air: the architect Alvar Aalto worked here, he was one of the Msters of the Modern Movement, he theorized th organic architefture that is the harmony between what is built and the natural elements. In this little town 37 buildings are a sort of personal exhibition by the artist. Among the most paculiar “works” there is the workers’ club, an early work that took inspiration from the shapes of the Italian Renaissance, the university and the city theatre, the Keski-suomen Museum dedicated to Central Finland and the Alvar Aalto Museo that exhibits projects and more than 1.500 design objects by this artist. In the nearby village of Muurame you can see the white church that was designed by Aalto in the 1920s, you can visit the Museum of Saunas where some saunas built from the projects dating back to the 17th and 19th century are exhibited. The sauna is a real must in Finland and there are more than three million including the public ones and the private ones that is one every two Finnish people!
Heading towards Lapponia
The Finnish railway is a pride of this country, it’s very wide and enables you to reach Lapponia and visit Kemi, 11 hours by train from Helsinki. This little town is the starting point for the Winter cruises on the icebreaker Sampo. You can spend a special night at Lumi Linna, an amazing ice hotel that is built every year and it melts down at the end of April. If you go towards the North you’ll find Inari in the far distant Lapponia where you can go by coach. It’s a tiny village inhabited by the Sami people, the natives whose culture is told at the Museum Siida. The village is feautured by some beautiful workshops whose uniqueness is guaranteed by the Samiduodji brand, it overlooks lake Inarinjärvi which is spread with more than three thousand islands many of which can be reached by the seaplane. You can leave from here on your excursions towards the natural Reserve of Kevo: it’s a heaven of rare plants species and wild animals and there is also a tectonic canjon which is one of the most unspoilt places in the world.