Travel Tales

Finland - A Farm-Forest Fairyland

I only visited Helsinki in Finland once, and I remember eating cloud berries with reindeer tongue at the hotel. During a Finnish massage, I was most embarrassed that they did not see a need to close the door between the ladies' parlor and the men's room. While being pummeled like mashed potatoes into submission by an enormous woman, whose only English was, "you like stronger?" I said, "No, I like softer." Unable to comprehend my negative protestations, she continued to shape me into a hamburger patty, while a half-naked man smiled at me nodding his head from his table of torture. After the orangutan poured me into the sauna room with that dreadful man, I vowed never again to have a Finnish massage. Swedish - I might try one perhaps.

Despite that semi-chiropractic experience, this is a country I would like to see more of soon; if for no other reason than to visit Rovaniemi near the Artic Circle.

Those of us from Florida like to escape into freezers during August. My husband's grandmother came from Uppsala, Sweden, and it would be nice to visit family there, to thank them for their baking genes because my husband inherited their talent for making the best pies and cakes.

Although he said he would only travel to Finland, if I could guarantee that he would not be too cold because he had had enough of the snow and ice when he was flying as an Air Force pilot out of Fairbanks, Alaska, where it never got light in the daytime in winter. He disliked the artificial lights in the buildings and vowed when he got out he would move to the sunniest climate possible, i.e., Florida. I dislike the cold also, that is why I don't live in my own country, Scotland. When the North Sea wind blows it chills the marrow of my bones, which are used to skimpy bikinis, not sheepskin coats. These climates can be brutal but they do produce nice people. Nasty weather, pleasant company!

Finland's cold climate can be potentially subarctic but also mild, because of the moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current and Baltic Sea. The country has over 60,000 lakes. Its terrain is mostly low, flat rolling plains interspersed with lovely lakes and low hills.

Under Sweden it was a grand duchy from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During WWII, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union, although with some loss of territory.

The Finns have been able to make a remarkable transformation from a farm-forest economy to diversified modern industrial economy. As a member of the European Union, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.

It is an area slightly smaller than Montana. It borders Norway with 727 km, Sweden 614 km, and Russia 1,340 km. Its religions comprise of Lutheran National Church 84%, Greek Orthodox 1.1%; Christian 1.1%, and none 13.5%.

Finland has a large free-market economy, with per capita output roughly that of UK, France, Germany and Italy. Its key economic sector is manufacturing, principally woods, metals, engineering, telecommunications and electronics. Trade is important to them with exports equaling two-fifths of GDP. Finland excels in high-tech exports such as mobile phones. Because of their climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic products. Forestry, an important export earner, provides secondary occupation for the rural population.

It was one of the 12 countries which joined the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) but high unemployment still remains a persistent problem.

Its telephone system is digital fiber-optic fixed-line network with extensive cellular network providing domestic needs. Their international country code is: 358. It has one submarine cable from Finland to Estonia connection. Access to Intelsat transmission service via a Swedish satellite earth station is also available. And it also shares the Inmarsat earth station with other Nordic countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Various groups in Finland advocate restoration of Karelia and other areas ceded to the Soviet Union, but the Finnish government asserts no territorial demands at this time. A president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term. The president appoints the prime minister and deputy prime minister from the majority party. Their Supreme Court or Korkein Oikeus judges are appointed by the president. They maintain diplomatic representation in the USA: at 3301 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008. Tel. (202) 298-5800. They have consulate generals in Los Angeles and New York, should you wish to go for a visit.


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