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2010. augusztus 12., csütörtök


Update: some links at the end of this post :)

Now it's time to write something about our trip and stay in Finland. I've decided to write it in English, hopefully it won't be a problem for my dear readers (anyway there can't be too much hehe). Surely my English is not the best but it's the only way that other (non-Hungarian) friends can read it too. Also, you shouldn't be surprised that it won't be a short post ... well just my usual habit to write too much if I have some thoughts, and this time I don't only have some thoughts, but simply too much :) Also I feel a bit sad that my English is far not enough to express my thoughts and feelings, but maybe it would be the same with my native language as well, that's really hard to write what I feel/felt. I've made photos too, but somehow technology is not enough the bring the real feeling through … By the way, there were few questions “why don't you blog” during our stay. The question is simple: I was so “busy” to enjoy our stay (in a good way, of course!), that I haven't even felt the lack of computers which is really odd if someone knows me and know, that I always want to access some kind of computers. Usually I have my thoughts about my hobbies and even my work, but this time I could totally forget all of these. That's quite nice way to really relax, maybe I should learn for now how to relax in the “proper” way :) I have the idea that many of my problems (I can be to worrier kind, sometimes too nervous even about not so important things and so on) is because I need to learn this and I've lacked it till now.

First of all, our trip was perfect because we had the possibility to enjoy a smooth transition through many different kind of places; Helsinki first, which is a big city (not as big as Budapest, but still). Then we could enjoy some stay in a smaller city, Lappeenranta (about the same population as Veszprém has, but on larger area), then the real world of peace the mökki (Finnish word for something can be called “summer cottage” maybe) at the area of Puumala. It's simply the perfect way to learn something about the “Finnish feeling” starting with a big city, throughout a smaller city and with some “mökki feeling” as well. I can tell you that I've enjoyed every minutes of our vacation, surely a place like mökki is quite different from Helsinki, but I liked all the places we were anyway. I think I become boring soon that I say “too much” thanks to our Finnish friends (Minna, Mikko, Milla, Miro) that we could be part of their life (if I can say that, hopefully they allow that for me to say) for a while, but it's a really important thing, and maybe that was the major reason that our vacation was so good: I always felt a little “outsider” as being a tourist. It's simple a bit annoying for me to visit even very nice places if I feel that I am just a visitor there who can't really understand what's going on, how people live there, what feelings they can have, and so on. Of course I can't say that I am “so Finnish now” that I can understand what it means to be a Finn, but still, I think we had much more this way to understand something about them, and their country too. Well, of course there is some other reason too that I am so keen about this topic (and I am quite sure that others have already know this who knows me even a bit): I had so much interests about Finland, the Finnish language and the culture even before I had known any Finns or had had any plans to go there. So about this “being a tourist” thing: I know I was that even in Finland. But somehow with the possibility to “live” with our friends here made our vacation very special. If you travel to a place at your own, to live in a hotel, it's really not the same. Well for sure, you can visit “exotic” places (exotic for us, at least) like smaller villages, even mökkis, so someone can say that it's just matter of organization (and money, for sure). But still, at least according to my opinion, you can get more to have (“local”) people around you too (well you have people around you in the middle of a hotel in Helsinki too, just they are unknown for you then, it can't be told then that you have any relation with them, and still a hotel is a hotel – quite similar everywhere – and not a real home). Now what I wanted to tell could go wrong: I didn't want to say, that our hosts were good only for helping my feelings to feel part of something, for sure, they are my (our) friends, and it's not even a question that I was happy to meet them again and we could spend some time together, it would be the same if they visit us here in Hungary, and the the opposite. Only my enthusiasm made me to write about these things so much ...

I am also learning Finnish, though I am still so a beginner, maybe I should learn it more seriously, as Ani would say: “it is a nice hobby to learn languages, still much better than being in a pub and/or being an alcoholic (so alcohol as a hobby)” ;-) I always have the problem to be too analytical (maybe because of my hobbies/work too), I should forget to be so keen about the grammatical structures and it's better to have some vocabulary so I can say something meaningful at least … There was a funny story about this: we were on a boat and I decided to use my Finnish to ask a beer (important to mention that it's not so cheap compared to the Hungarian prices, it costs about 6 euros for a glass) and it seems it worked, and I got a loooooooooong sentence as response after I got my beer (it turned out later that it was about: “you should drink it quickly since we will arrive soon, so not so much time for you to drink it” or something similar). No need to mention that I haven't got too much idea what I wanted to be told about … So I had the idea again that I can use my Finnish to say that “I only speak a bit Finnish”. The face of waitress formed a smile and she told me in English, that no need to worry, she had five years here to reach this level and still she had problems quite often about using Finnish to communicate. I told her that I can understand her (difficulties about Finnish) but I had been in Finland since only some days. Well maybe it's not so funny story for others, but she made a so surprised face maybe because of the question that I am not so bad in Finnish at least if it has been only days here (I guess she haven't got the idea anyway that someone would learn Finnish just as a hobby and not because it's needed to live there – for example). Anyway me, like a kid (with some childish attitude in my personality anyway, especially if I am keen) was so happy that at least I can understand something sometimes, and I can say something (again, sometimes), these just made my decision even stronger that I really should learn Finnish to reach a “usable” way, I am quite sure that I won't be ever very good in it, well at least not before we move to Finland when I really need it and I can use it too :-)

OMG, that was only the preface of my post it seems :) So let's go back to the beginning (not of the Universe, fortunately). We started our Finnish experience even at the airport of Hungary (we had taxi to get there). It's not so strange that I could hear some Finnish speaking people around, but it was quite cool to meet a couple (already inside the terminal after the security check): a Hungarian wife and a Finnish husband, they live in Finland and they visit to Hungary sometimes, they were about returning Finland then. We had some discussion with the wife there while having coffee and Panni was happy to climb around us. We also met the man, it was nice that I could try my Finnish even at the very beginning of our “great journey” (hmm at least it was for us). The flight itself went smoothly, but poor Ani was quite scared because of her first flight. Panni was just OK it seems :) At the time of landing, I could enjoy the beautiful view, Ani was more about worrying basically. I had difficulties with the air pressure change (I had that once at the way back from Norway two years ago, then I had odd feeling for two days), it seems I am really a beginner traveler but a Hungarian man who sat next to us helped me with telling me that I need to hold my nose and try to “blow some air inside” (well sorry, I have no idea how to express this one in English), and it really helped. The landing was very smooth, I couldn't even notice the exact moment when we reached the ground. The “suitcase hunting event” was successful, I was clever enough to learn from the happenings in Norway, so I put some white ribbon onto the handles of our suitcases it made easier to recognize them. Meanwhile we got an SMS from Minna that train was late (they came to Helsinki too, to spend two nights in the same hotel and the plan was to visit some places there before we go to Lappeenranta) so they are at the airport when we arrive because no time to visit the hotel for them first. After the quite quick identification process :) - it was not so hard since they were near to the gate of the terminal - we went to the hotel by taxi (since we couldn't fit into the bus – that's also interesting, in Hungary there is no exact limit of the bus-capacity, if people are able to survive inside, more people can force themselves inside … according to my experiences – since it was not so funny to wait). In the hotel, after checking in, of course the first was the beer – quite nice habit :)

No need to mention that Ani was quite tired, I wasn't surprised because she was afraid of the airplane trip so much. We had talk with our dear Finnish friends that they want to visit the amusement park in Helsinki with the kids too. However since Ani was tired she decided to stay in the hotel with Panni this time. We had some nice walk (I also started to take photos) and we bought my card to be able to use the public transport service without the need to buy tickets every time. Now it's important to mention that in Finland mother's no need to pay anything if they are with kids in those baby carriers (pram is the word, I think). The theory behind this – according to our friends – that it can be dangerous for mothers to buy tickets while having the children in prams. It's worth to declare here that Finland seems to be much more child-friendly country than Hungary. This is one thing what I've just told about mothers/prams. But there are much more things like this. First, I have never seen so much prams/kids/babies on public transport (but also on streets, parks, everywhere! Now the question: do Hungarians keep their children in their flats all the time or where are they then?), also they were everywhere even in pubs sometimes (not allowed to smoke inside, so it's not problem), and there are baby feeding chairs everywhere, including the pubs too. Also there are much more public toilets (are there any in Budapest? not so much, or at least you must pay) and almost everywhere there are dedicated places for baby care too there (for changing nappy). But back to the original topic: it turned out that it will be a bit late to visit that amusement park so basically we had some nice walk in Helsinki “only” and soon it was time to have some sleep. The first day (well, afternoon/evening) in Finland/Helsinki was good, though I worried about Ani that she was terrified about the flight, it made her very tired/sleepy too then, I think. Our walk was interesting since as I could notice at least, it's quite a “city-central-like” place where the Hotel is, but still only 1-2 minutes of walk (through a street) and there was a park there with trees, a big lake (well it's sea bay according to Mikko, I am not sure now, but surely he knows that better than me), and quite nice walking paths around it. And I couldn't notice too much garbage unlike in Budapest …

New day, new possibilities :) We had the breakfast – all together - which was included in the hotel price. It was a smorgasbord (hmmm, “svédasztal” in Hungarian – literally translated as “Swedish board” - we could even have the joke that why it's not “finnasztal” - Finnish board – then ...) like solution, and I could find some more traditional Finnish things, I had already known from pictures, like Karelian pies. Otherwise it was a quite familiar “svédasztal” which can be experienced in hotels, it was more than OK, I can say. Our plan were visiting the zoo first, and we needed some boat trip for that. It's funny that we had some conversation about zoos with Ani a long time before that Panni should see some zoo. But we had no idea then it will be in Finland for the first time :) It's also true for tram, boat and train, by the way. It's very nice that zoo in Helsinki is on an island. So we can gaze not only the animals but the beautiful view of the sea too. Little Panni was quite excited about seeing animals though it was not easy to notice for her especially if they were far away behind glass walls or grids. But there were birds just “walking” between us, and they made Panni surprised, she was very excited about them always pointing with her finger to them with appreciative blams (hmm, yells?) :) We also used boat (of course) to go back after some hours. For sure we had to focus about the original plan as well; to visit that amusement park, the kids were looking forward to that :) I worried that Panni will be too tired but we decided that we can go all together. Since Mikko was not so keen to try out those things (like the roller coaster) and they have two kids (and still for many machines one adult is needed for one kid) I “had” to go too with Minna (well, of course it was not a violence, I was happy to go, I could feel as being a child again at some moments, really, I haven't done things like this since a long time). There were wet things too, I got some water exactly at the place on my trousers as I had some pee because of the fear, hehe. Not because it meant a problem for me, it was more like a funny thing to notice. Unfortunately it became real I had had worries before: Ani became very tired fretful, so we had to go back to the hotel with Ani and Panni. I worried that it can be a very unfortunate thing that I had promised I take part of the “two kids – two adults on the machines” events, and I had to go after an hour. Hopefully our friends is not so angry about this happening. After some time in hotel room, I've decided to walk a bit around (alone) and to have an “evening beer” then in the bar. It was a coincidence that I met our friends there then.

The next day started with the breakfast again, of course. I was more experienced about the foods I would like, so it was even better than the previous one. Since we had to check out in the hotel at noon, but we wanted to visit Suomenlinna too (it is a fortress on an island) before the train trip to Lappeenranta, the plan was the following: checking out, go to the railway station with luggages and leave them there (you can have quite big lockable “chests” for 4 EURs if I remember correctly about the price). We hadn't got too much time though, since we wanted to reach the train to Lappeenranta. Still we needed to choose the second one, it turned out (not because it was a problem anyway). Suomenlinna was an interesting place and even some people lives there, as I could get to know. Interesting. Panni had great time with using the swing at a playground there. After another boat trip (I always enjoyed those; beautiful view, and small islands around us, also we can have better look on the city as “the whole” from more distance). Also you could buy beer too to have even more pleasure (and even less money …). ;-) Soon, we were at the railway station again so we could get back our luggages. Buying tickets were nice especially because our friends helped us (of course we payed them) to buy the tickets in once. It was more like a bank, you had a number and you could go to the corresponding counter when your number was shown on the display. It felt a much more comfortable way than in Budapest, when you have to stand in the queue for a very long time (sometimes). Again the storm: we were lucky since it was told that there had been major problems in the train traffic too because of it, but luckily it was OK for the time we traveled there, though we stopped at one time because of some “technical problem” but it was only 1-2 minutes, I think. The Finnish train was quite comfortable though a bit too warm (Minna told us that usually there are better ones with proper air condition and so on). I've also been in the “bar” of course, once with Panni too, so Ani could have some rest. It seems it's really natural there to bring kids/babies everywhere as I've already mentioned it when I told about the “prams/kids/babies/feed chairs/nappy-changing-places everywhere” effect in Helsinki. It was told that there is even some kind of “play place” for kids on Finnish trains. Of course smoking is not allowed on trains, though there was a separated some square meters sized “room” with proper air circulation for that purpose.

It was not a long time and we were in Lappeenranta, we traveled by taxi then. The place where our friends live is interesting. For our eyes (me&Ani) it looked like (their house and the others too nearby, and the whole area) a “vacation summer house” place, for me it could be called almost “mökki” already :) well without lake. But I hadn't had exact ideas about the “proper mökki feeling” yet either. What do I want with this? It's a beautiful place, with many green, and that area seemed to be more like a little place than being part of a city like Lappeenranta. I would live at a place like that with so much pleasure! By the way, it was great to watching Finnish TV channels. First of all, my Finnish was not enough to understand anything (hehe, better to say: it was not enough to understand too much) so I wasn't bothered by the commercials :) Also they hadn't got the so much annoying Hungarian habit (at least I haven't noticed that there …), that commercials are broadcast with doubled volume to make people totally deaf and/or terrified within a second. Also “dubbed” programs are so much Hungarian ones it seems. I also heard that from other non-Hungarians that “it's an odd habit” to make dubbed (szinkronizált in Hungarian) programs, someone may wouldn't even understand what it is, and what is the purpose. Maybe in Hungary people speak English less, because having so many dubbed things all the time (well for sure it can be only one minor reason), people there are used to hear so many English too because of the TV (with Finnish subtitles instead of). So then I could understand English more (of course) but still I could read (read, not understand, at least not all) the Finnish subtitles too. And I have this odd habit here in Hungary too, there are some channels of some IPTV providers who can allow you to select Finnish as subtitle language if it's available :) Also their news seems to be more serious (in a good way). I mean that Hungarian news are so childish compared to the Finnish ones, we have news about stupid political things like X.Y hates Z.W., and so on … Well this is the Hungarian reality, but if you spend some time outside of “our reality” it's so odd to be part of “our style” again, like I would get into the center of a kindergarten again …

I need to mention here, that Milla and Miro were very nice kids, and they cared about Panni a lot, it was even a big help sometimes, and also Panni likes children in general so she was always happy to play with the kids. It was true for our whole trip, not just in Lappeenranta, of course.

During our stay in Lappeenranta we had a car trip (with also a stop at a sluice) so we had a quick overview on Lappeenranta's area. Then we also had a “bigger” (at least in time) trip in the center of Lappeenranta (by bus), and we also visited the beach/harbour (of lake Saimaa). Saimaa is a quite big lake, the 4th biggest in Europe, and the largest in Finland. For comparison: Balaton is only the 22nd largest, though it's the largest in Central-Europe. But one thing is important to mention: Saimaa (for me at least) has a very complex shape (not like Balaton, which seems to be much more “one” water surface) with many smaller “parts” connected together, islands, also with many small bays, and so on. But exactly this makes it beautiful, in my opinion at least, though it's not the only reason. Lappeenranta is a very nice city, what is strange for me, that it seems it has got several quite different areas, like the place where our friends live (and I've already told about), of course the “center” seems to be much more “city-like” view (not in a bad way, I mean). Near to the coast of lake Saimaa there was the famous sand-statue show, I had already known it (from a tourist book) that it's a yearly event in Lappeenranta. Theme of this year were about dinosaurs. It was quite nice, at least I haven't seen this big sand statues before with my own eyes. Also there were a place next to the statues, small and cute houses for kids, but unfortunately Panni was quite tired for that time already.

Next important event was the trip to the area of Puumala where our friends' mökki is (so “mökki” is a Finnish word for “summer cottage” or “nyaraló” in Hungarian, but I always have the idea that the word “mökki” has some special meaning over these translations still, who knows …), it's about 100km from Lappeenranta. Now this was the first longer car trip for us there, and Finnish roads (at least there) are quite interesting, I must to say. They remembered me to roller coasters rather than roads :) If you watch the map of Finland, two things can come into your mind. First, there are huge amount of lakes, no wonder Finland is also called “country of the thousand lakes” (literally – or even more -, since there are more than 180 thousand lakes there with larger surface than 500 square meters). Second thing you can notice: Finland is quite flat, not counting the blue of the water, it's green, not so much hills you can find there. However the situation is a bit more complicated if you are there. Surely I couldn't see very big hills, but still the average landscape is quite undulating, this made me to think about “roller coasters”. Also there were lots of lakes everywhere (I am not sure they were all separated ones, or “only” parts of Saimaa, or both) so roads should have sinuous attribute too, now we could enjoy the horizontal and vertical sinuosity of the roads too :) I am not so good in knowing the names of plants, trees, but one thing is sure: they are very tall trees, and we could see forests almost everywhere (I've forgotten to mention that it was the case during our train trip too from Helsinki to Lappeenranta). It's quite different from Hungary, mostly only those tall trees, which gives some very special feeling. Sometimes I could feel that we traveled on the surface of some lake, since at both sides there were lakes, and the level of the water was almost comparable with the road itself. Well, it's really hard to describe these in words, just let's say: Finland's landscape is simply beautiful!

But the true wonder which was begun with this landscape was just the prelude, as we could notice later after we arrived to the mökki. Now I am really fighting with the words to be able to push my feelings through the limits of letters and beyond, in written form (and especially in English) so you can forgive me that I am trying to be “too poetic” which can be felt even slushy for my readers, but please believe me, I do this only because I don't know any better method to explain at least the a very minor part of my feelings. So the mökki. First of all, unbelievable amount of piece and silence. Not in the bad way, you can hear the wind, animals, and so on, but not the usual sounds of people, cars anything: even at places (I would usually treat as “peaceful”) in Hungary there are much more background noises, not from the nature. Also during the nights, not so much light, just our ones from the mökki. It's really “in the middle of nowhere” (as Minna told us once) but I mean it in a good way. And the view is beautiful too! Small and cute buildings of the mökki (not just a single one, there were more) were hiding in the forest, the coast of Saimaa was about 10 meters from them. This is a smaller (well smaller compared to the size of the whole Saimaa) bay, and for the first sight it seems to be a proper, separated lake surrounded with forests with those tall trees. Later I had some boat trip too there, and it's not the case, of course there are connection with the “bigger parts” of Saimaa. But really, what can I say … This description does not help too much to feel to be there, and though I've taken several photos, even those are far not enough for that. By the way there was a wild-duck (“sorsa” in Finnish) family overthere quite often, walking near/around us, bagging for some food :-) They can even come to play in the water to you, if you go into the lake. The “mökki buildings” are quite cute and nice ones painted with blue and white. The “main building” has a living room, small kitchen and two rooms, and a sauna (how surprising). It has got a nice terrace with table and bench where you can gaze the beauty of the nature, drink something :), or just relax (maybe after having sauna too).

There is another building some meters away, which is not a closed one (but with roof still), it is the place for grilling and eating. Also you can find some other buildings a bit more far (maybe 10 meters or so?), those are smaller ones. One has an open “corridor” at the middle (with a bench too), it's a great place to sit, and it has some reason for that, since there is the other sauna there, so they have two there, at the mökki. This one is the traditional “savusauna” (smoke-sauna), which is told to be the ancient and original type of the Finnish saunas, you can find them rarely outside of Finland, I guess (as far as I know there is a place in Hungary with savusauna you can “book” it for some friends and go there, maybe we should some time). Maybe one explanation for this, that it can be even dangerous if someone is not the master of heating it: it has not chimney, so after you managed to get fire with enough woods, the sauna is filled with smoke. For sure, it would be very dangerous to go in then! Also the sauna (which build from wood, as the other mökki buildings too) can burn, the key feature is to know the exact needed level of gassing (without too much oxygen the sauna won't burn, hopefully). After some hours when you have only cinder-like hot stuff inside the stove and not much smoke anymore. With the proper amount of gassing now you can even go in to enjoy the sauna. One of the nice attributes of the savusauna is the smell of the smoke you can still notice, and believe me, it's not that you can't even breath inside because of the smoke (it would be dangerous to go in in that period of the heating), it' s just lovely to feel. I'm missing that a lot now. The stove itself contains very large amount of stones, so the whole sauna remains hot enough even after some hours (interesting: at a morning I checked it out, and there was still about +60 degrees inside the sauna after a night without heating, but of course it's not enough anymore to have some sauna). But let's leave the sauna topic for later now. That building (with the corridor at the middle) has the “guest place” at the another side. It's a very sweet room, and quite nice that guests can enjoy some place without bothering the hosts always (at least I hope we didn't bother them too much) :) So we slept in that room, it was a nice place with quite comfortable bed, at least I could sleep well there. Panni had her own “baby bed”. Again I need to say thanks for our friends, since they had everything for Panni: feeding chair, bed, chair into the car, it was true here, at the mökki, but in Lappeenranta too. Surely we would be able to manage somehow without them, but it was easier this way, nice. Still, there is another building “above” (so from some meters away from us towards the opposite direction of the lake) the guest/savusauna building: it was some kind of storage and the toilet :) The toilet made nice memories to come into my mind, as we had similar one at my grandparents too without having one “inside the house” as we're mostly used to have it nowdays at home. And it was surprisingly comfortable to sit on it :) Oh well, that's my way, to talk too much about toilets, but as Al Bundy, I like to spend some time there, it seems. :)

Now it's time to write something about the foods too. Of course I am not the master of knowing about traditional Finnish foods, and we were also told that it's not so much “traditional Finnish” we could eat in Finland, but “only regular” ones, known well in other countries too. Maybe it's true, but still, they did everything so well, everything tasted so delicious, I can't even say what was the best, since I liked everything so much. Of course we had some grilled fishes and meats too, and it was not even similar to the stuffs I've ever had in Hungary. Well, of course it's possible that it's just matter of using other methods to make them, spices and so on. But it's true for the meal we had in Lappeenranta too, not only at the mökki. Anyway Minna told me, that there are some traditional Finnish food they seldom eat (if there is some feast or so) and they can be like the shit (by appearance), and also the taste. I am not sure it was only a joke or really true though :)

We also visited Mikko's parents who live at the nearby of mökki, maybe 1-2 kilometers only. That's a lovely place too, it would be wonderful and relaxing to live there. They were very kind people, and it was a great possibility to try my Finnish again :) because they knew only some words in English, maybe comparable with my Finnish knowledge. So at once I managed to tell a quite long Finnish sentence after we had problems with English (Minna or Mikko was not there at that moment to help in the translation between Finnish and English), and it was a great pleasure for me that it was totally understandable (maybe it was not 100% correct grammatically, but understandable). Ani was also surprised about my “abilities” but I still think it was not so much knowledge, and I need to learn a lot-lot-lot more to have a real usable knowledge in the every-day-speech. Hehe, please forgive me because of my pride about my Finnish, it's really nothing, but still it felt so great and it helped me to be sure that I'd like to learn more in the future too, it's just that. We had Karelian pie there too, but it was home made, quite delicious, better ones than in the hotel. Also some kind of cake which was surprisingly so good, even if you consider the fact that I am not so big fan of cakes. It was with forest berries collected in the forest by the mother herself. Panni felt great, she managed to find some toys and she was very happy to play with them. Of course Ani “was totally fainted” because of those cakes, no need to mention :) By the way, every-day-speech in Finnish. It's not an easy task :) If you try to learn Finnish you can find books, Internet resources, dictionaries, anything you need. But that's the “official Finnish language” which is spoken by “no one” for real, in the every day life. That's interesting for me, I think Hungarian is much more “simple” that the “official” language is spoken too (of course there are some differences, dialects, and so on, but still not as much difference as in Finnish). For sure, they can understand the “official Finnish” but it's quite hard to understand them, because they won't use that too much, but only their way to speak, which even involves different words (even for the personal pronouns!), shortened ones, and sometimes different grammar too.

Back to the mökki now. Maybe our Finnish friends often could have the idea that I felt so bored there since there were so many cases when I only sat on the ground (or on rock) or just standing and just gazing. But it was not that, it was the feeling that even after some days this place is so magical that I started to gaze a single point of the landscape for looooong minutes. Saimaa is wonderful, in that quite closed bay, there can be several “flows” at the surface of the water often in a complex structure, and like little diamonds they caused beautiful light effects. There was reed (“ruoko”, “nád”) along of the coast, but there was enough free space at some parts, to go in to swim easily. At on day I even helped Mikko to cut some reeds to have more space near to the coast. It was great to do, in an environment like that, even some work (especially if it's because of our needs) felt nice to do, including the dish washing ;) since it had to be done outside too. The night is wonderful too. There are now bothering light sources from other places, everything looked so “uncluttered” by humanity. It was wonderful to go to “swim” during the night. Well it was not swim for me, but I just went in and I sat into the water in a way that only my head was out. Before that even the noises I made with my steps in the water felt so noisy and bothering ones, but after some minutes inside, the waves I caused went away and it was heart touchingly beautiful and peaceful. It was not totally dark (well around the longest day in Finland there is not even totally dark at least during the night, but for this time it can be, just maybe it was not enough late for that when I had this experience) and I still could see the dark contour of the forests of the coast around the bay. There were very soft noises made by fishes (maybe) with some light waves in circular shapes, and some lights only from “our” mökki which was reflected nicely on the surface of the lake. The mökki seems to be even “living” within this peaceful environment “emitting some happiness towards me” (hmm it's a really odd sentence, but I can't express it in a better way).

Now you can imagine how nice to have some sauna there. Of course I've already been in sauna in Hungary before, as most of us does somewhere too, I think. So you can have some idea how it felt. Well, not. You can't. It's not even similar. First of all, you could have that unbelievable beautiful view through the window of the sauna even if you were in. And of course you could go into the Saimaa at any time. No walls around you, like in a hotel, where sauna is just a “place” inside the building. When you went out to have some rest, you were outside, you could felt the wind on your skin, and so on. For sure, it's really not a habit to have sauna other way than naked, but even in Hungary in a wellness hotel we had to do this, it was a written rule (funny, so many people was scared away there because of that table with this text on it) there. Also, it was not so much the case to use swimming suits either (in the lake). And it wasn't felt “odd” as I had thought before it could be (since I am/was not used to that), somehow there it felt so natural and “logical” without any bad thought about it. And the “smell” (better tell “aroma” since word “smell” often means a bad thing) of sauna is really not even similar you can feel in a sauna of a hotel, or so. For sure, there was no additional “lemon aroma” and similar things used sometimes in public saunas at least in Hungary. Just the natural “aroma” of the wood. Especially the savusauna left so sweet memories in me with that “smoke-smell” but in a way that it was so good to feel. Ah, and the löyly :) It's a Finnish word (Hungarian way to say it: löülü), it means “steam” but it's very important to note here that Finns only used this word about the “steam in the sauna”, other kind of steams can't be said with this word. It's a familiar thing, you can dabble the stones of the sauna-stove with some water and it will surely cause some löyly (and then because of the increased humidity in the air, it feels much more hot inside). Of course the kids were very keen to tease us, to go in and do “more löyly” for poor beginner sauna “victims” (us) ;-) Did you know, that relative words of löyly in many Finno-Ugric languages can be found and meaning something about the soul, life or similar? For example Hungarian “lélek” (soul/mind) has relation with the Finnish word “löyly”. No wonder, for Finns sauna is not an “extra” or “wellness”, it's said that even Finnish soldiers in the war built “saunas” from tin. Once we had very nice time with Mikko, we talked about many things (including history, politics, women, life and everything) and after some alcohol there were no linguistic limits even if you consider the fact that neither of us have perfect English and alcohol is usually not the best mood to help your language skills :)

Also not so many non-Finns know that in Finland the most drunk white wine is called “Magyar Fehér Bor”. Yes, it's a brand-mark written in this way exactly, it's said that it's some kind of imported wine from Hungary. And since it's cheap (for them …) and still it has good quality compared to its price, it's very well known brand there. Also, in Finland you can't buy alcohol anywhere (similar to Norway and maybe Sweden too, but it's not the case in Hungary). There are shops (of the government only) called “Alko” where you can buy them. In regular shops only middle-strong beers and lighter things can be bought, so not wine, vodka, or anything like that. We had our participation, since I bought there 96 cans of beers in summary during our stay :) Well those didn't need Alko either to buy.

By the way sauna, of course Panni had it too :) Ani had many worries that it's simply too much for a small girl like Panni, well, no need to mention not for small Finnish kids :) Well since there is no shower at the mökki (and what would be its purpose? There is the lake there, and even two saunas) , so we put some water into some plastic tube and Panni sat in that inside the sauna, near the entrance with open door. It seems she liked it ;) Panni also had her great time in the Saimaa even “alone” (well we were there, one meter away at maximum), since she could sit in the water where it was only 20cm deep or so.

It's time to mention something about the Finnish attitudes. Fortunately I was aware (since my hobbies about the Finnish language and culture) of these, they're much more straight people without the need of some “polite rounds” as we usually do. For a Hungarian it's quite natural that it's “not polite” to accept meal or drink at the first time given by host, or at least host is needed to ask you every minute or so, and after some time you accept, and things like this, which seems to be totally crazy for a Finn. Their ideas about these based on the “be straight, say and so what you want” theory. And it's nice not to overcomplicate things all the time. For example if you are asked if you want something, and you say “no” maybe you won't be asked again, since they will honour your wish that you don't want that, “forcing” it again and again (with the question like “are you sure you don't want it?”) is treated unpolite thing for them. Of course it also means that “help yourself!” theory can be used, you can decide you want it, then you can have it yourself, no problem, no need to worry at all. If you are guests maybe for longer time than only a visit, it's also so natural that you can use their fridge to find something. Maybe it's strange for us, but if you ever have the chance to feel this attitude you will find out that it's so simple, straight, and easy. Also this can be called “trust in the other that (s)he will do what (s)he needs and (s)he won't do what (s)he doesn't need or what is bad”. I mean about this: I could see that people go to the shop with bags full of things bought somewhere else. Then they simply put their bags alone and they don't worry that someone will steal it. Even our friends haven't worried to much to leave the mökki unlocked for a day or so.

We had a car trip to Savonlinna too from the mökki, it is about 70km away. Savonlinna is a nice city and there is a castle there which is surrounded by the Saimaa (so you can see Saimaa is a quite big lake, we “met” it in Lappeenranta, Puumala and Savonlinna too). The view is beautiful from the castle. Also I like a street a lot, near at the place we parked with the car. Again we could see the result of the storm there. I think we were lucky that we arrived after it. By the way, weather. Again, I can say, we were lucky. We could have rain almost all the day, then we could have much less fun. It was not too hot, just before we arrived there were temperatures like +35 and so, which is quite hot for me at least. During our stay it was about +25 or higher but not counting maybe one or two days it was OK. There were some quite hot periods anyway, but again, because of the lake, mökki, and the wind it felt very well to stay. Our friends worried that we don't like to be “in the middle of nowhere” and we are bored. Surely, it was not the case. Also in this nice weather it was better to be at the mökki than inside a city, even if I don't count now the beauties what the mökki can give for its guests. There was a day when it went very windy and it was forecast to have even storm. Also the electricity disappeared which is not so good at the mökki, since many foods were there in the fridge for several days, and at an area like this often needs even days before it's repaired. Fortunately there was electricity again after some time. I was told that it's not so long ago to have electricity there at the mökki anyway, it was harder before that.

Also I could meet Maija again too, we had already met in Budapest at once when she was here with Minna.

Of course I was sad to leave the mökki. One reason is the fact that our stay in Finland is about its end soon, but surely the another reason to be sad was the mökki itself. Not because Lappeenranta is a bad place to be, but still it was nice to have that kind of peace. But surely, the biggest heart pain for me that it means the end of our journey very soon. We had only a single night in Lappeenranta before we traveled back to Hungary. I think it caused that I was sad because of it that I could enjoy less the rest of our stay in Finland, surely it's not the fault of Lappeenranta or anybody, just me. We also visited a nice playground nearby, with the kids (and Panni+Ani of course). It's a very nice one, trees everywhere, and it's a quite big place. I tried hard to find any garbage, even the smallest one with walking around, but no success. It seems it was very clean, cannot be compared easily with an average Hungarian place. We ordered some pizza this time, I had difficulties to choose anything from the list, since it was Finnish, but I picked the one Mikko had too. It was quite good, and enough for dinner. There was a big fire in Russia and even the smoke of it was in Finland blown there by the wind, at least day at the mökki, I noticed that weather is foggy and/or stormy, but Mikko told me it's the smoke. Also we saw in the news later, that the situation is quite odd in Helsinki. Fortunately the wind helped then, and not so much noticeable effect we can saw later.

Next day, the last day, the day of returning, the end of the magic ;( Again a visit of the playground now we knew the way without the kids' help. Our plan was buy train tickets online (with help of our friends) and go to Helsinki by train, and taxi to get the airport. So we had the tickets printed out by Minna. Then they told us that there is some problem with the train, and changes needed (by bus too) during our trip. Ani started to worry, but it wasn't a good news anyway. I think we would have been able to manage anyway of course, but Mikko was very kind and he offered us to take us to the airport by car, which is 250km trip (and the same for him to travel back). It turned out that the price of the ticket can be got back, so we decided to leave the money for our friends, since it can't be too cheap to use a car for Mikko to take us to Helsinki and back then. So we had to say good bye to Minna and the lovely kids. The trip by car was ok, not so much lakes at that area and much more flat landscape this time, but it has got its beauty too, anyway. We had some little break next to the motorway near to Helsinki, but shortly we were at the airport already. Again it was time to say good bye to Mikko then. And soon it was time to say good bye to Finland itself :( For me it was the saddest moment that the last steps in Finland when we walked towards the airplane.

But allow me to go back in time a bit now. We were about to check-in, and there was a long a queue at the airport. Panni was restless and crying. The check-in counter was so far away some dozens of meters . But a lady come to us (I can't even imagine how she could pick us by her eyes from that distance in that queue) and she told us that passengers with kids can have the another check-in counter which was totally empty. So it was a quick check-in after all.

I was told by some relatives/friends “why are you so keen about Finland? You haven't even been there yet”. Now I've been. But the questions remained: “Why are you so keen? You can't say how is to live there if you are there for only 10 days as a tourist”. Well what can I say. Do I need to move there for 10 years to have the proof? :) Even before we were there, I had the feeling which is quite hard to be expressed. Maybe the best way: “in my previous life I lived there”. It's a nice thing to say just I don't believe in things like this, but still, it's the best way to express myself now. When we were there, everything was new, but still at the deep it looked familiar as I would have had memories about these deep inside me somewhere ...

I took several photos (more than 600) and some videos. Thanks to Encsi who borrowed her camera. Unfortunately there were problems. The first one is not a technical one: it's only that it's impossible to take photos to have the real feeling on them. If I watch them, I can remember the happy moments and they are so sweet. But if I try to forget my experiences for a second at least those photos are simply not enough. It's not the fault of the camere of course. It just the fact that there things in the world which are impossible to preserve, just in our memories and heart. Also I had some problems with the auto focus sometimes it seems. Well one of the sad things are the videos. I was so keen to have some quite good quality videos after I was used to watch videos made by my mobile where everything consists of big colourfull rectangles only. But somehow I managed to do every videos in the lowest resolution :( In general, I was so busy to enjoy our stay, that I was not careful enough about these things, it seems.

Don't misunderstand me, please. I don't hate my country (well there are times when I am nervous about something or so) but still Finland is lovely place for me. And of course I miss our friends too, with and without Finland too. So I just hope I can visit Finland again as soon as possible but I also hope that we can meet our dear friends there, whatever it's in Finland or Hungary or on the planet of Mars :)

Hmmm, it seems it's not only that I was sad to come back but also the fact that I don't want to stop writing now with writing that “so we came home”. But still, I have to. Again, the flight was over without any problem, and we landed. We had some difficulties that our luggages cannot be seen on the “track”. But it turned out that there were more flights from Helsinki and we should have been at another one. So that problem had been solved at the end. We hired a taxi (meanwhile I sent SMS to our friends that we arrived), the driver was quite nice and figured out a way to avoid the traffic. I just gazed out of the window of the taxi and missed Finland and our friends already. The trees, the roads were different, also the feeling. Not in a good way this time ...

UPDATE: some videos: