Monday, January 23, 2012

The ultimate Finnish outdoor winter experience

There are many reasons to come to visit Finland.  Unfortunately, not all visitors discover the inner circle of Finland's ultimate winter treats.  The trick is not just to visit this beautiful country in the summer time, (although that is my favorite season here).  Darkness and cold weather tend to be on people's mind during the winter months in Finland, but beyond the melancholy is a winter wonderland waiting to be explored.  One does truly need to step off the beaten path at times and dig into the local's world, in order to experience the magic of old man winter in Finland.

Sledding in Jyväskylä    
Our family journeyed up to Jyväskylä this last weekend.  It is about a 3.5 hour drive North from the Espoo/Helsinki area.  We visited some cousins who now call Jyväskylä their home.  The weekend called for skating, skiing, sledding and a bit of hiking.  So after arriving later that evening, we got dressed in multiple layers in order to keep Jack Frost from causing too much damage.  Soon enough we were dressed up in our winter clothes and ready to take a hike into the vast woods for dinner.  Dinner in the woods in the middle of winter in 23 degree Fahrenheit (-5 Celsius) weather with the snow coming down?  Huh, is something not quite right in this picture?   We started off on the path through the thick woods and about 1/2 kilometer later we reached the bonfire site near a frozen pond.  The first task of the night before dinner called for clearing the fresh snow from the frozen pond so that the kids could skate on it.  So, we shoveled and shoveled and finally about an hour later the ice rink was clear and ready to skate on.  The kids all laced their skates up and were raring to go.  Even when dressed up appropriately, nothing keeps the bite of coldness away like being active.  So, soon enough the bonfire was lit and the kids were skating by only flashlight and fire.  I had always heard about skating on a frozen lake when I was younger, but I never imagined I would actually be doing it some day.   The little pond made an excellent rink and the children were just thrilled zooming around in circles.  

Skating on the frozen pond
Soon enough appetites needed to be satiated after all that skating and shoveling, so we gathered by the bonfire which had now turned to hot coals.  A metal grate was placed over the fire and the Finnish sausages were thrown on.  It was quite surreal as we were all sitting out in a clearing in the dark forest by the fire watching the sausages cook as the snow fell harder.  I don't think a sausage ever tasted better in my life.  Sitting outdoors in the woods with a bonfire, snow covered trees and a frozen lake is quite the setting for dinner. Soon after dinner we packed up and trudged back via the forest path to their home.  I noticed my fingers were now starting to freeze even in my gloves and my mind was already drifting to thoughts of a warm Sauna that I will be thawing out in upon arrival.  We made sure to leave no trace behind so that mother nature will appreciate our visit and welcome us back.  A winter's walk through a snowy forest to a frozen lake by the fire, skating on the lake, sausages eaten outdoors, then a cold beer and a Sauna.  Can't think of a better way to spend a cold winter's night in Finland. :)  

<Click on all photos to enlarge>

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