Greetings from Seinäjoki in the Southern Ostrobothnia region of Finland! This year marks the 10th year of my (solo) travel and travel blogging existence! Can you believe that? Ah, I’m getting old now. In 2006, I set out on my own on what would turn out to be the biggest adventure of my life.. well, it turned out to be my entire life, to be exact. I never stopped traveling and I never stopped blogging and still love doing both.
While after 10 years travel isn’t just a hobby for me, but my actual job, and travel isn’t always 100% adventure for me anymore, but often a repetition of the same steps, I felt it was time to change things a bit.
To not only travel more with purpose, but also to write in a more personal and less of a guidebook-kind of way. Back to the mystery of travel!
On the way from Helsinki to Seinäjoki, photo by Sofia of Fantasiresor
Looking for Silence in Seinäjoki
I’m starting this year of travel with a visit to the Southern Ostrobothnia region of Finland, which is on of the 19 regions and is located in the west coast of the country. From Helsinki, we take a direct train that takes us to the city of Seinäjoki in just under 3 hours.
The train ride itself is quite relaxing already: the snowy landscape rushes past while you have the chance to either read (I’m currently reading The Art of Happiness by Howard C Cutler & HH Dalai Lama), work (there is good wifi and plugs everywhere!), chat and eat in the restaurant carriage or just do nothing for a while and just enjoy the view.
We stayed at the Alma Hotel, which is just a few steps from the railway station. The main building really makes you feel like you step back in time a bit. The restaurant dates back to 1909 and was used by the railroad workers back in the day.
But no worries, the windows in the room don’t let any train noises through. One night there was some loud banging coming from the room above me though, but that was probably due to the cold weather. Aaaanyways….
We got to stay in the modern and only recently opened rooms in the old water tower. The rooms are so comfortable and we even have our own private sauna! Sweet! (Well… more like: Sweat!)
Getting to Terms with the Finnish Cold
If there is one topic that we spoke about a lot on our trip, it was definitely the weather. And for a good reason, because when even the Finns themselves start talking about it, you know it’s getting serious. We started with about -10/15 in Helsinki, but during the train ride, you could see the temperatures dropping.
When we arrived in Seinäjoki, we hit -24 degrees Celsius and that even went down to about -29 in the next days.
It’s hard to explain the cold, as it’s quite different to what we experience in the UK or Netherlands (at home it’s usually also together with strong winds and pouring rain), but ‘really flipping cold’ would be the most accurate description I can think of.
It’s the kind of cold that requires two thermal layers, a mid layer and ski pants, topped up with a thermal top, fleece, down jacket and some woolen socks, hats, double gloves and the likes in between. It’s the kind of cold that only gets better when you try your best not to think about as full realization will only freeze your brain cells more.
Photo by Inari from Lapsiperheen Matkat
Cold? Yes. But also very pretty!
Tips on How to Warm Up Again
Ok, Ok, it’s cold here. We get it now. But luckily there is no reason for you to avoid travelling to Finland in Winter. There is enough to do to stay warm! Here are some of the activities I participated in and can definitely recommend you to try as well:
We paid a visit to ‘Komiat Hetket’, a company specializing in various experiences in the Finnish wilderness mainly in Ostrobothnia area in the western part of Finland. They offer a wide range of activities, such as Nordic walking, snowshoeing, building an igloo, ice fishing, learning wilderness skills and much more.
While we were here, temperatures dropped to under -28 and so we cut our program a bit short by staying close to the fire in the teepee, mostly :)
After we warmed up a bit, we jumped on a so-called ‘kicksled’ and moved it uphill by standing on one runner, kicking backwards on the group and working our muscles. When we reached a nice height on the ski-slope, we leaped down. Scary, but a lot of fun as well!
Kicksled racing is, by the way, a serious sport in Finland. There are races of up to 100 km (62 mi) long and the average speed is around 30 km/h (19 mph). Often the kicksled races are held in conjunction with marathon speed skating races on natural ice where the kicksleds use the same ice track as the skaters.
Do Sayna Yoga in a Sauna
Our group was welcomed into a traditional Ostrobothnian house (Koskenkorvan Trahteeri, about 20 minutes outside of Seinäjoki), where we got to experience the cleansing effects of yoga in a sauna.
You do Sauna Yoga at about 50 degrees Celsius, while sitting down for about half an hour. The movements are quite simple and I found the whole experience very relaxing.
The lady that lead our session spoke just in Finnish, but it was very easy to follow and the Finnish language actually made it even more a calming experience for me.
If you’re interested in what to wear during this session (hint: you’re not naked!), scroll down below.
Go Crazy at the Duudsonit Activity Park
Need more action, but don’t like to be outside? Well, then the Duudsonit activity park might be something for you. Especially suited for families!
The Dudesons (Duudsonit in Finnish) are a four-man stunt group similar to the Jackass boys. They are super famous in Finland and so they’ve now even got their own activity park, based on the crazy things they’ve tried in their shows.
Experience what it is like to roll down a hill in a shopping cart!
Shoot balls at people trying to complete an obstacle course
Jump into an ocean of foam blocks
The Importance of Coffee in Finland
If there is one thing I learned during my time in Finland, it’s that the Finns are the biggest coffee-lovers on the planet. In fact, they consume approx. 10 kg per person every year! That’s about 4-5 cups a day. Wow. I didn’t dare to say out loud that I don’t even like the smell of coffee, let alone drink it!
While coffee is mostly consumed at home, you can spot a few nice coffee places around town, although it’s not so common as in Sweden for example, where they call having a coffee with pastries or sandwiches a ‘fika’.
In Seinäjoki, we found this cute little cafe and enjoyed our coffee (well, me a hot chocolate) with a ‘monki’, which was a bit of a donut filled with blueberries, too good to be true.
Tasting Local Delicacies
Apart from the great pastries that you can see above, we also tasted many other great local Finnish food, have a quick look:
At the Alma hotel, we taste the -apparently- best gin of the region, from the Kyro distillery
Loved the Seabucktorn panna cotta as dessert as well ^^
At Komiat Hetket we sat around the campfire eating rye bread with fresh salmon, coleslaw and of course reindeer sausage!
Loved these crackers at Koskenkorvan Trahteeri, not sure what they were exactly, but I’ve seen them at more places. full of nice seeds, yum!
Home-cooked meal at Koskenkorvan Trahteeri
The lady of the house told us the best way to get her husband to eat anything, is to add alcohol to it. So here is cabbage with beer for you ^ and herring with gin below, haha
They even have their own liquor… named after the cat!
Meditate Surrounded by Art
The ‘Taidehalli’ (Art Hall) in Seinäjoki is a great place for lovers of contemporary art. The exhibitions keep changing and when we were here, we saw works of 31 Finnish artists focusing on painting and installation art.
While I am personally not really a fan of modern art, especially when it gets too abstract, what I did like was that we tried a meditation session in the museum, something that was new for them as well.
We got a lesson in ‘Sahaja Yoga’, a simple meditation technique which helps you find balance in your life on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. It is based on the experience of self-realization, which brings you to the state of thoughtless awareness or mental silence (after a bit of practice, of course).
I can definitely recommend looking more into it, so on your next visit to an art gallery, you take the time to appreciate the art more in the moment, instead of rushing through the visit and spend more time in the gift shop than you did experiencing the visit itself.
Discover Scandinavian Architecture
One of my personal highlights in Seinäjoki was the fact that famous architect Alvar Aalto designed most of the buildings in the center and we got a tour of not just the outside, but also some of the buildings from the inside. Such a shame Nick couldn’t join me on this trip though! :/
Alvar Aalto was born in Kuortane, in South Ostrobothnia and graduated as an architect in 1921. While he passed away in 1976, his legacy lives on, especially in the center of Seinäjoki. The Aalto Centre is composed of 6 buildings (The church, town hall, old library, congregational centre, office building and theatre) and was completed between 1960 and 1968.
The Church (‘Cross on the Plain’) was the first building erected and both outside as inside are by Aalto’s hand. In a seperate post, I will show you more of it!
^ The old library, also including a small exhibition of all the Aalto glassware, including of course his famous vase (that I believe every architect has at home, no?)
Bushman Craft & Survival Skills
I already spoke about the fun kicksledding at Komiat Hetket, but our guide Vesa Mäyry also turned out to be a real Finnish Bear Grylls! He runs the so-called ‘Survival Games program’, where you will learn some serious survival skills in the outdoors.
During the program you get to learn about things like crossing streams of water, finding food in the wild, making a campfire in every circumstance (which we did as well, see below), natural water purification methods, cooking without utensils on an open fire, packing for an outdoor trip and hygiene in the wild (from making your own toothbrush to even making shampoo from birch leaves).
How fantastic is it to get to learn about the climate in a country by experiencing it first hand like this? Would love to come back here to do a survival course with Vesa!
I hope you enjoyed travelling with me to Seinäjoki in Finland and that you got some inspiration on activities to do that will make you a bit more calm and relaxed on your next trip, even when the weather is crazy cold outside!
Seinäjoki Visitor Information: www.seinajoki.fi
Seinäjoki Art Hall: www.seinajoki.fi/…/seinajoentaidehalli
Alma Hotel Seinäjoki: www.hotelalma.fi
Komiat Hetket: www.komiathetket.fi
Duudsonit Activity Park: www.dap.fi/Etusivu
Koskenkorvan Trahteeri: trahteeri.com
Kyro distillery: www.kyrodistillery.com
Sahaja Yoga: www.sahajayoga.org
Sauna Yoga: www.saunayoga.com
Alvar Aalto: www.alvaraalto.fi
Disclaimer: I had the opportunity to make this amazing trip als part of the Nordic Blogger Experience 2016. Photos, opinions and cold toes are all my own.
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This post is also available in: Dutch