Finnish cottage life

Midnight sun, Lake Saimaa, and the Finnish cottage life!

 

The experience: If you want to practice the art of silence then come to Finland. You will find tranquility in every corner of this country, even in its cities. But if you want to seek true peace and quiet in true Finnish style then you must experience the Finnish cottage life. And it’s not that hard to find!

Almost every Finnish family owns a cottage. So when they are not in the mood for the quiet time which is quite rare or it is absolutely necessary for them to stay away to earn a living in the city, they often rent it out to those who want a slice of their cottage life. Thus a short break at a Finnish cottage is one of the ‘must-experience’ things you can do while visiting Finland. Trust me, finding your zen moment in Finland is not as difficult as you think.

finnish cottage life

Having lived in Finland for a while, I just love the cottage life, especially in summers. So I jumped at the last minute opportunity of spending my midsummer holiday this year (2018) at a traditional cottage when a friend and his wife offered to take us along. Their Finnish friend whom I don’t know personally was kind enough to open the doors of her family cottage to us. As long as we respected the rules, it was free for us to use.

Thankful and keen to compensate for the electricity we had used, we paid her a token amount in the end. But the experience of spending 3 days by the enormous Lake Saimaa and watching the midnight sun was so priceless that no amount of money paid for this kind of experience would suffice. 

finnish cottage life

Now, as the polar darkness is about to descend on us, there are only two things we can do about the depressing thoughts that come free with it. First, wait for the festive season i.e. Christmas and the new year celebrations. Because that is the only thing you have to look forward to. Living in Finland has its perks as Christmas means a magical world of lights, glögi, and heart to hearts with Joulupukki (Santa Clause) like nowhere else. It is the land of Santa Clause after all!

Second, you can relive your beautiful summer adventures and dream of the midnight sun while sitting inside your cozy apartment. Or you can simply escape once again to the same cottage you spent your midsummer at. Since escaping is not an option here and I have other plans for my Christmas holidays I decided to relive our midsummer holiday break at that beautiful cottage through this post.

finnish cottage life

To begin with, it was an exceptional summer and all the Finns around me were like, “Oh! We haven’t seen anything like this in our entire life!” So, I guess, I got very lucky to experience the best summer in Finland till date or at least in the last few decades. The summer season made a grand entry right at the onset of Spring when we had the hottest may in last 30 years as the temperature soared up to 27 degrees and we were so happy. However, the best was yet to come and we didn’t even realize it. Well, it’s because Midsummer i.e. June in Finland is always cold and rainy and you kind of get the ‘summer is over vibe’.

The Finns do not care about the weather. As long as they have a sauna and a lake by the cottage Midsummer celebrations go on as usual.

But I was a little disappointed.

The fierce wind made it almost impossible to grill our food at the cottage and the water in the lake was too cold to take a bath. But the amazing white night kept us awestruck. Watching the sun slowly disappear in the horizon while it painted the sky in a thousand hues and waiting for it to come out again after some time were few of the best things I did this summer. There wasn’t a single moment of darkness at the cottage as it was the summer solstice. The golden water of the lake lapping against its shores and the wind rustling the leaves made us sleepy but we did not want to miss the magic of the forest unfolding in front of our eyes!

Besides, the angling madness till the wee hours was super fun! At around midnight, we managed to catch a beautiful fish but set it free again. It was his lucky day!

finnish cottage life

That beautiful cottage was tucked deep inside a forest located about a dozen kilometers from the pretty town of Lappeenranta in east Finland. It was actually located on an island called Taipalsaari in the west side of Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland with an area of about 4,400 square kilometres. Dotted with about 14000 islands like Taipalsaari, Lake Saimaa is Finland’s most popular region for enjoying the famous ‘Finnish cottage life’. The coasts of the lake are strewn with family-owned cottages and one can also find cottages for rent as well.

Listed as one of the 5 most beautiful lakes in the world, Saimaa will take your breath away, irrespective of the season. Be a lazy cottage sloth or an adventure junkie, you will find a thousand reasons to be so.

finnish cottage life

Here, you will be amazed by your own ability to live sans all those mechanical sounds that surround you all the time. The only thing you will hear is the sound of nature. This is why they say that for Finns living in a faraway cottage the sense of sound is so strong that they can tell a car is approaching from miles away. I had been to a summer cottage before but this experience was very special too. The pure air and water combined with the beauty of the forest made me realise that these elements of our existence are getting rare and rarer day by day. Again, such thoughts make me wonder if these places should be kept untouched.

That one question always surfaces in the end, should we write and promote it only to draw mad rush and destruction? I guess there is no right answer. 

The concept: The concept of Finnish cottage life is not all about practicing silence. It is also about the art of purposelessness and the beauty of living a minimalist and carefree life. Also, somehow the cottage life represents the art of survival and ‘sisu’. ‘Sisu’ is the unbeatable Finnish grit in the face of all adversities. Sisu is the very core of the Finnish identity. Ideally, kids who grow up spending lots of time in a cottage learn survival techniques. In a cottage one always has fresh water, abundant wild food, and a warm sauna. And this, according to the Finns, is sufficient for survival.

Moreover, extreme respect for nature is the foundation on which these cottages are built and the carbon footprints of such a lifestyle are minimal. Finland is one of the most technologically advanced and modern countries in the world. But when in the cottage you go back to the primitive lifestyle and leave modern things behind.

Most of the traditional cottages do not have running water or a bathroom. Electricity is also optional at times. The toilets are usually bio-toilets called ‘Pikkula’ in Finnish where you are not supposed to use water but only sawdust to hide your dump. Having said that, this doesn’t mean that these toilets are unhygienic places and breeding grounds for germs. It is quite the contrary. Pikkulas are eco-friendly, clean, and very functional. But it may surely sound weird to someone new. Without discussing it further let me just say, this was my least favourite part of the cottage experience. For some people, this may come as a culture shock.

Also, if you happen to rent a cottage in winter look for one with modern facilities as these arrangements are not very functional in the face of the Arctic winter. A lot of cottages do have modern amenities such as proper toilets, kitchen, running water, and heating but all the necessary measures are taken to protect nature. From using only eco-friendly hygiene products so that the lake water remains fresh to drawing running water only from a borewell and not from the lake, there are many rules the Finns respect and stick to.

And I don’t need to mention that it is absolutely compulsory to have a sauna in a cottage. A sauna is much more than an instrument for Nordic wellness. It is a sacred place for family and social bonding and like every sacred place, a sauna also has its own rules and etiquette. 

So do not be alarmed if your host wants you to follow all kinds of rules in the sauna or anywhere else in the cottage. They are not being rude. They are just trying to keep things clean, orderly, and eco-friendly for everyone’s sake.

I think that it is a super cool concept to leave your worries in the city and hide in a cottage. Have you experienced something like this? What do you think about the Finnish cottage life? Please drop your views on the comment box.

And before I wrap up, here is my photo gallery from our exquisite experience-

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

finnish cottage life

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