We weren’t able to stay long in Finland…
And we learned the hard way that Mid-Summer Night Season is not the best time for visiting…unless you want to join in the fun an debauchery that comes with it!
The young (and the young at heart) are busy staying up all night singing, dancing, drinking and attending massive music festivals!
This means that almost everything is CLOSED! It’s like Christmas in Europe or Songkran in Thailand–even the grocery stores and mall closed earlier than usual!
If we weren’t tired from driving and hoping from one ferry to the next, we might have wanted to join in the fun, but as it was, we were eager to find a quiet place to JUST SLEEP…
Our first stop was the Old City of Rauma. This almost 600 year old preserved town is beautiful and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but because of Mid-Summer everything was closed and it was ghost town…
We were able to explore the old streets and take a bit of footage, but we weren’t really able to get much info about the charming place.
Since we couldn’t really find anything open, we decided that it would be best to eat at the next restaurant we found open.
We found this cute pizzeria, and while we were enjoying the free salad bar (this was the kicker…as soon as Stefan saw they had a free salad bar we knew this was the place for us..:D) we met our first Friendly Finnish Folks!
This stood out to us because they actually initiated the conversation which didn’t happen in all the other places we had been through. Folks were friendly in Norway and Sweden, but we were usually the ones to start talking or asking questions.
In Finland it was so pleasant to have folks start talking to us. They told us that it was honestly the wrong time to visit Finland, because everyone was so busy celebrating the Mid-Summer Night that they had no time for tourists…
They also warned us that all the cheap lodging and camping spots might be taken by the Finnish young folks roaming around attending the different music festival.
I don’t know why we didn’t get wind of it before, but there was a HUGE music festival happening in Rauma and all the camping and hotels were booked!!
The friendly couple we were chatting with in the pizzeria offered us their back yard to camp in, in case we didn’t find anywhere to stay—so kind! 😀
Even though we were quite tired, since we couldn’t find anything in Rauma, we decided to push on towards Helsinki.
It was quite late so we stopped in another town called Turku, we again checked out the camping sites, but they were full (or the prices were double) because of Mid-summer so decided to see if we could find a wild camping spot…
Our first spot was already taken by some party revelers and there was no way we were going to get any sleep if we camped next to them…
The trick to finding a good wild camp spot (in our un-professional opinion) is to find a small road leading off the main road that leads to the conventional campsites. By following the smaller roads it usually leads you to a walking or cycling road that is not very frequented and THEN you can spot some level ground perfect for setting up a tent…
In this case we found a little path that turned off a jogging path into a small prairie and it was private enough that folks couldn’t see our tent while jogging or walking around.
The grass was up to my waist and we had to press it down to get some space for the tent, but this made it nice and soft so we considered ourselves lucky…
It was a beautiful night. The sun stayed bright all night but the temperature was cool. In the middle of the night we heard some noises and discovered that a family of small deer were nearby which made the whole “wild” camping experience more authentic.
You can see more footage of our Wild Camping and our Finland Adventure HERE:
The next morning we slept in till around 10am and we had fun watching some folks noticing us packing camp while jogging or cycling. Their faces read: “Oh, those guys camped there!!”
Wild camping is legal in Finland as it is in Sweden and Norway…but got the impression that most folks don’t really do it.
When we mentioned to the friendly couple in the restaurant that if we couldn’t find a place, we would “wild camp” they didn’t really know what to say and promptly offered us their back yard to camp in…LOL!
I LOVE HELSINKI!
Helsinki is a beautiful city. The architecture and the Orthodox Christian cathedrals were something we had never seen before. We haven’t been to Russia yet, but we can see why folks say that some of the outstanding buildings and churches have a strong Russian influence.
Walking around Helsinki and taking a ferry to Suomenlinna Island Fort that was 15mins away from the mainland was like walking around in a new world and seeing a part of Europe we hadn’t seen before.
And again, folks went out of their way to talk to us so it was nice to talk about where they recommended we should visit and we didn’t feel so alone and foreign J
***Shame we didn’t take any pics with the friendly Finnish folks we were able to chat with…I guess we are still getting used to cataloging our experiences for our blog…
Helsinki was a contrasting experience of the OLD and the NEW…the old roads, the old churches, cathedrals and forts the old bars and hang outs…
And then we checked in THE MOST MODERN and fully automated apartment we have EVER been to.
We booked this fully set up apartment just outside of Helsinki because it was a really good deal and it look new and clean.
We didn’t realize that it was completely electronic and supervised by camera and codes.
We booked but we didn’t realize that we had to PAY ONLINE to receive our code to access the building…
So we wandered around for an hour (trying to find a grocery store open etc) waiting for our “code” or for someone to email us back.
After not receiving the code, we went back to the apartment building and tried in vain to call the emergency number again and again…
Ah! It’s is still Mid-Summer holidays so I guess there wasn’t anybody answering the phones! What do we do???
We finally realized that we hadn’t actually finished the payment process, we had booked, but we didn’t finalized payment.
Our phones were dying and we had 2 euros left of internet credit and we were getting tired of being on the steps of our hotel!
It was the case of being so close…but so far…we could see the Promise Land but WE COULDN’T GET IT…lol!
Our payment finally went through (thanks to PayPal) as filling out our card details would have probably eaten up all our internet credit…
And wallah, we had OUR CODE!
Our code gave us access to everything! Free secure parking???
Tap in the code and the garage door would automatically open for you to drive in and automatically close after…
Tap in the code for front door…
Tap in the code for the elevator…
Tap in the code for the room…
Tap in the code for the kitchen…
Tap in the code for the laundry room…
We felt we were in a bit of Si-Fi movie.
We saw 2 other people the 2 days we were in this apartment.
1 guy was another biker who had booked a room and showed us where the garage was…
The other was the cleaner lady who said exactly 1 word to us… “Hi”
We saw NO staff…
We saw NO other folks though we knew it was full as it was the last room available.
It was strange after living in Thailand when you get used to seeing “staff” everywhere!
Once we had our PRECIOUS CODE…we had a really comfortable stay…
But it was so weird not seeing a single person to ask any questions or get directions or get any help from.
We were joking, what if we FORGOT THE CODE– we would have been seriously screwed!!!
The apartment was also extremely efficient. No frills, everything was utilitarian without being ugly or institutional.
In the room they provided us with:
· Complete set of dishes for 2 people
· Dish towels
· Dish washing utensils
· Garbage bags and general cleaning supplies
· Coffee machine
· Bath towel set
· Hair Dryer
· 2 in 1 body soap and shampoo
· Comfortable Bedding
In the “Common Areas” they provide us with:
Fully equipped kitchen with extra dishes and pots and pan
· Washing Machine
· Working Desk Spaces
· Brochures for things to do in town etc
· Signs for everything from the Internet code to saving the environment etc…
You are expected to:
· Wash and Dry your own dishes and put then back in their correct spaces
· Clean and Dry the kitchen pots, pans and utensils used. They also provide you with a large array of cleaning cloths to make sure you wipe and dry the counters and sinks after use.
· Empty your own garbage bins if they become full during your stay
· Check out by 11am as your CODE would automatically be invalid
It was surprisingly easy to comply as everything is so clean and orderly when you check in that you want to leave your room is similar order.
My OCD tendencies loved it!
Stefan was a bit dismayed, I think he is still having withdrawal symptoms from not having a maid clean up everyday 😛
Ok, I think I ranted a bit too long about our apartment….
But I hoped you enjoyed reading about it nonetheless 😀
We capped off our Finland stay with an authentic Finnish meal and beer and we were ready to get on another ferry to Estonia!