It’s the beginning of Fall at University of Turku in Finland; mornings are frosty, there’s frequent rain, and I’ve had to retrieve my puffy jacket from the back of my closet. Some would say that means the hiking season is over- but I had a field trip, and so I pulled on my hiking boots and got ready to spend the weekend about an hour and a half away from Turku, near the town Sastamala.
Here are 5 ways I learned to have fun outside of the city—a genuine rural Finnish experience.
1. When the weather is good, get outside!
Yes, there’s frequent rain—but that means you need to embrace the sun when it shows up. Some important notes for hiking: if it’s been rainy lately, wear good boots and make sure to watch before you step; the forest floor is prone to large gaps between boulders that would break your ankle if you let them.
2. Pick some berries!
We were there on official business, but I was still able to pick a few lingonberries. They’re bright red, and can be quite bitter. Even if you don’t plan on gathering any, I’d advise trying one, they’re very distinctive.
If you want a more exciting experience, the type of fern present in the picture below is quite interesting; if you eat the white root, it tastes like licorice–and very sweet. It does, however, have a very bitter aftertaste.
3. Try out a smoke sauna.
Now, I don’t have a picture for this–mostly because I feared for my poor phone if I took it into the smoke sauna. But once you get past the smell of charcoal, there isn’t much not to love about a smoke sauna, especially after a long day. The heat relaxes all of your muscles, and you get to see how the Finns had saunas before electricity. Just make sure not to touch the walls, they get covered in charcoal, and you’ll end up covered too!
4. Enjoy some porridge for breakfast.
When in Finland, do as the Finns do! I was originally not going to try the porridge, but I was glad I did; it has less texture than American oatmeal, but it was delicious with some lingonberry jam. Other classic Finnish options include open-face sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs.
5. Try out a Finnish hostel.
This suggestion goes with 3 & 4; I got to try some Finnish countryside living thanks to the Kartano Hostel near Kokemäki. Originally a farmhouse, the place has been converted into a hostel for the off-season. With access to 2 saunas, a friendly host, and beds that weren’t bunks, there was much to enjoy about it!
Overall, I think everyone should try getting out of the city once in a while; while there’s great things to do there, there are also great activities to try away from the hustle and bustle of civilization!
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