Midsummer in Finland

July 12, 2019

Photography/EditingHelen Janneson Bense | Thanks to my sisters for their assistance helping me capture the beauty of Finland

LocationHelsinki | Järvisydän | Tampere (Villa Linda + Periscope) – Finland

The midnight sun shining it’s sparkling light through the window of my Mummo’s house is one of the earliest memories of my childhood. I said to my Mummo I’m not going to sleep until it gets dark. She was always the one to be most patient with me and she joked “Ok then it will be a long, long night” This was the last time I ever saw my grandmother and as a 4 year old child I remember screaming and crying as I left Finland knowing somewhere inside I would never see her again.

Growing up in Australia was beautiful, but being separated from my family and culture has always been challenging. Every time I go back to Finland a little piece of me is retrieved. When I hear the language it feels like home. My mother said to me before my trip “Walk into the forest, be still, and listen to the trees. It’s here you will understand” It’s here that every cell of my being feels alive, my energy centres align, and I’m filled with a level of contentment that I can not describe.

This trip was a journey through my lineage, through the stories of my grandparents and my parents. And my own story; all stories connected, shaping who I am. I traveled to Finland with my 3 older sisters on this trip. We visited where our grandparents lived, loved and where their souls now rest. We connected with aunties, uncles, cousins and their families. There is so much love that exists within our family no matter the distance or time apart.

Our journey began in Helsinki. One of my favourite cities; full of beauty, history, incredible architecture. The highlight this trip was visiting the new Oodi library known as ‘book heaven.’ I was so impressed with the design and space created to encourage reading, creativity and expression. I know my kids would be in book heaven for sure!

From here we journeyed to Järvisydän to celebrate Juhannus – the midsummer festival. A joyous time of light when the sun never sets. We had a beautiful time at the Lake Spa and a little dance party into the early hours of the morning. It was one of the most fun nights of my entire trip, and it never got dark! You’ll get to enjoy long sunset pastel skies for hours.

Järvisydän is situated by Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in South eastern Finland. I love visiting this part of Finland, particularly as it draws me closer to our ancestral roots of Karelia. This resort and spa is one of a kind in Finland. It has all the history with a lot of modern touches. The lake spa is always a favourite for the sauna loving folks. You can choose between multiple sauna types and cool down in the pool or lake. The pool water actually comes from the lake and is heated by geothermal and solar energy. There’s also a salt room, Angel’s Hammam, and a storm shower. It’s the ultimate Finnish Wellness experience.

We stayed on a beautiful houseboat during our time here. We were even lucky enough to have a driver for the day to take us out on the lake. At one point my daughter called me to ask what I’d been up to. I was surprised when I realised I had literally been staring at the lake all morning drinking a million cups of tea haha! It’s absolutely mesmerising how the water changes through the day with the reflections, clouds and colour shifts. It’s honestly something I spend way too much time staring at because it’s so hypnotic.

Other than staring at lake reflections, there is so much to do here at Järvisydän. They have many excursions on the lake to see the endangered ringed seals. There are stand up paddles boards, boats, canoes, bikes and hiking trips to the national park. Everything you could need for a wonderful holiday time is here.

Our next stop was Tampere – the sauna capital of Finland. We had the most beautiful mökki (cottage) by the lake. It was here we really had our traditional Finnish midsummer experience. It was the perfect spot for slow mode. We enjoyed lots of stand up paddle boarding exploring the lake and cups of tea on the verandah watching swans and sunsets. My favourite moment was definitely having a ridiculously hot sauna, running naked into the freezing cold lake, and drying by the warm fire I had made. It reminded me of when I was young and my parents took me camping in Australia. Even living here, they still brought their portable sauna (that my Dad made) and set it up by the lake. We would sauna, swim in the lake and warm by the fire each night as we cooked our dinner over the fire.

We spent a week in Tampere and honestly I feel like it wasn’t quite enough time to fully experience all this city has to offer. We had a visit to the Frantsila Herb Farm which was an absolute dream for me. As a Naturopath, I’ve always loved connecting with plant medicine and to be able to see the herb fields in Finland was incredible. What was so fascinating is how resilient the plants are due to the extreme weather conditions. It means they are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants and are the ultimate superfood. If you want to try any out head here.

We had many culinary delights on this trip from Helsinki, to Järvisydän to Tampere. The standout experience was dining at Periscope. The sweeping views of Lake Pyhäjärvi, next level service, and the most exquisite food, made this an all round 5 star experience. They had numerous vegan options which were all delicious. I would highly recommend a night out here. After dinner head to their rooftop terrace and enjoy some of their amazing cocktails.

A road trip through Finland is one the most beautiful ways to explore this country. During the summer wildflowers and colourful lupins line the roads, with breathtaking forest and lake scenery along the way. You’ll want to stop every 5 minutes to take photos! The route from Helsinki to Järvisydän to Tampere is a very easy first trip to Finland. Each drive is under 4 hours and you’ll feel like you are a million miles away from the city.

I’ll really miss Finland and my family, though I’m already envisioning the next trip. If you aim for late July/August the prices may be a little lower, the nights will be a little darker, and the berries will be ready for picking :)

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020


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