On the 16th January 2013 I set off with my boyfriend to Helsinki. My aunt lives about an hour and a half outside of the city in a solitary landscape of tall birch trees and scattered cabins that sit like loners amid the wilderness.

The drive from Karjaa station moved us through darkened roads curtained by the crowds of forest silhouettes. Eventually we stopped beside a postbox resembling a little gingerbread house, which is when I realised, ‘oh, this is her driveway’, and then uttered a sigh of ‘wooooooow’ as we continued on through a wooded path towards the view of a beautiful red house.

I instantly loved everything. maybe it was just the excitement of being in a new place talking, but stepping out into the snow and feeling the frost on my face I was ready to just move here for good.

I hadn’t seen Viv (my aunt) for about 8 years. I’d occasionally chatted to her on Skype and knew she liked William Blake and animals and art. I was still slightly worried though that the week here might be awkward  having not met in so long (although to be fair, I’m always worried about things being awkward).

My worrying turned out to be completely stupid (of course). We couldn’t have been more comfortable. First, the house. Even from the outside it looked cosy and charismatic, with fairy lights hanging across the kitchen window and that red paint, which against the snow felt so friendly and reminded me of the way faces turn rosy in the cold.

Inside was an artful scatter of Viv’s character. Her painting’s embellished the walls (including some beautiful designed crows on pastel coloured kitchen cupboards), and the hum of the turtles water filter along with the scurry of dogs made everything feel lively and welcoming. I may not have seen Viv for a long time but being there made it feel like no time at all, with all these fragments of her personality and past there for constant fascination. It made me feel very inspired in this little peaceful capsule of life that Viv had made her own.

We spent a lot of our time there going on small excursions to local villages (such as the famous Fiskars), taking pictures (or video footage in my case), playing in the snow, marveling at the amount of Moomin merchandise, ordering spicy nuts and beer in a local bar, watching True Blood and mostly, chatting into the early hours of the morning with the accompaniment of some of the most delicious cheese I’ve ever tasted, and wine (lots of wine). It was really relaxed, and just what we needed before embarking on our month of InterRailing. Plus, check out all this cheese!
On the day we left the drive to the station followed the low sun flickering in the trees, so that the scenery passing by seemed like a super 8 film, all static and already turning into a memory.

After saying bye to Viv and the animals, we did still have the chance to get a little better acquainted with Helsinki.

This would have been more enjoyable had we not been carrying around all our stuff! (I just had to pack those two extra jumpers, didn’t I! Doh.)

So we managed our curiosity of the city with the creeping pain of the heavy backpacks by wandering for about forty minutes before heading to the nearest cafe we could spot and collapsing with some caffeine in the warm until we’d regained our strength!

Although this did cut into our time of exploring, it also meant we got to see some of the unique cafes that I’ve realised exist around most of Europe (and for this reason I’m also starting to feel bad about my routine of only going to the big corporation cafes back home rather than exploring the more interesting independent ones!)

We even had a tea stop on a little boat that overlooked the frozen water.

Then we left on this giant of a ferry for Stockholm (which is an experience for another post!)

I should probably try and summarize my experience of Finland, but in all honesty, I don’t know. I suppose I liked most the way it felt like such an escape, tucked away in the North of Europe with the warm glow of life in windows amid the snowy distance.


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