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Friday, July 7, 2023: Finland, The Happiest Place on Earth

For six years in a row, Finland has been voted as the happiest country in the world. They are very chill and down to earth. They feel safe. The government values their people and the people feel that their leaders are acting on their behalf. (Now that’s refreshing.) Even the homeless and elderly are cared for.

They enjoy good health … outdoor activities and saunas contribute to that. They also have the world’s cleanest water and cleanest air. They are intelligent and have a good work life balance. They work to have enough. There is not a great disparity in income wage. It is a country of “have enoughs” as opposed to “haves” and “have nots”. They get 39 holidays each year which is the most in Europe.

Rob and I notice there is little eye contact, and perhaps Finland could be considered a country of introverts. They value personal space, but an embrace from a friend lasts a few seconds.

Helsinki Cathedral, sometimes called the White Cathedral, is located in Senate Square. It is also known as the best place to get a suntan!! A military band was giving a short concert when we were there.
The interior of this Lutheran Church is quite simple. Seventy percent of Finns are Lutheran which was influenced by Sweden. One percent are Russian Orthodox. The rest are of another denomination or nonreligious. This latter category seems to be growing and sadly appears to be a worldwide trend.
Helsinki is usually quite windy. However, this is their summer and many people are wearing shorts. Rob and I have on winter hats, winter coats, sunglasses and gators. It doesn’t help that I am still kind of sick.
Here is the Finnish Orthodox Church, Uspenski Cathedral.
By contrast to the Helsinki Cathedral, the interior of the Finnish Orthodox Church is ornate. It was built when the Russians were in control of Finland.
After WWII, Finland developed an extensive bunker system that can accommodate 900,000 people. The population of Helsinki is 600,000 so we tourists need not worry. There will be room for us! Today some of the space is used for parking.
Helsinki is very design-focused. This scooter parking space is purposeful, necessary and clever.

The people of Finland seem to be great rule followers. No one crosses on a red walk light even if there is no traffic in sight. Bike paths, walkways, and streets are respected. When the bike path runs out, they get off their bike and walk with their bike on the bike path.

I had not eaten much in the last few days, but it was time to reintroduce foods. It’s difficult when you are in another country because their idea of comfort is not yours. This place served a plain baked potato, and it was yummy. They kept their coffee warm by putting the pots in heated sand.
Later, for dinner, we walked to nearby Noodle Story. This was a tasty dish of homemade vegetarian dumplings.

The country we know as Finland has only been around for about 100 years. In 1917 they asked Lenin to give them their independence as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution. He allowed Finland to be separate from Russia.

There were lots of prehistoric (which means before writing) peoples but one doesn’t know much about them because writing has not been found during this time period. But lots of artifacts demonstrate their existence and level of skill.

Sweden occupied this land for 500 to 600 years. Sweden thought of this land as “otherland” and planted a few outposts in Finland. Then they lost this land to Russia during the Finnish war.

Russians controlled Finland for 100 years. (In 2023 Finland joined NATO, likely thinking that Putin might decide that he needed to take it back. His plan to lessen a NATO border along Russia by taking Ukraine seems to have backfired with this move by Finland.)

Things in Finland flourished under Alexander II. He was well-liked and even encouraged the use of the Finnish language.

Finland was the first European nation to grant universal suffrage. Women were allowed to vote and hold office in 1906, even before they became a country.

The population of Finland is 5.8 million. They encourage foreigners to come to Finland to work. However, it is very expensive, and the language is difficult to learn.

Sámi are the only indigenous people of Europe and live in Lapland which is the northern part of Finland (and Norway, Sweden and Russia). They live above the Arctic Circle. The DNA analyses of Finnish people indicate a common ancestor with the Sámi. Finland has a regrettable past of cultural erasure and sent Sami children to boarding schools much like Canada did. Finland is putting forth a big effort to correct this abuse mostly by land right issues and reparation.

Here is an interesting article: Lapland and the Samí people

The sauna originated in Finland. There are more saunas here than cars. In the past, women gave birth in saunas as it was the most sterile place. Our guide’s grandparents were born in saunas.

This Ferris Wheel has a sky sauna. I think that it sounds like a fun adventure. But when Rob learned that it would cost $300, he didn’t think that it would be that fun. Besides, our hotel has a free sauna.

Saunas are good for the skin and the heart. People will slap their skin with birch leafed branches. It is best to follow up a sauna with natural lake water. Some people dip in ice cold water baths or even roll in the snow. Many people here have beautiful radiant skin. Saunas must be the secret.

Finland strives to be a world leader in sustainability. The world has agreed on national and international goals by 2030. Finland plans to be the first to hit these measurable goals by 2025. This makes me wonder how the USA is doing … we will likely ask for an extension!! Read more here:

Sustainable goals for Finland

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