20 May 2014
Southern Finland in the summer
For many people, Finland represents a cold, snowy country, almost crystallized with frost in the winter time, seemingly incapable of turning into this warmer season.
Yet, this country – although bordered by the sea and covered with forests – turns out to also be a surprisingly pleasant destination in the spring and summer. Perfect for enjoying the very long days of sunshine, late sunsets and multitudes of shades of green offered by its verdant landscape. The south of the country is home to hundreds of thousands of islands and lakes. In and amongst them, visitors discover its resort towns, rigorous design, and closeness to nature, gastronomy and artists.
Finland is not just the land of Santa Claus!
Having traveled a road lined with birch forests and colorful tall grass, an hour from Helsinki, the Westerby Gärd guest house welcomes you into its farmhouse dating from the 17th century in the countryside surrounded by fields of rapeseed. Inhabited by the same family for 150 years, the 400 year old farmhouse is still covered with the red paint of Falun, which is a very typical color of the country and called “punamultamaali ” in Finland, which means “painting the earth red”. Now converted into a family hotel, the house offers twenty rooms in the Swedish Gustavian style, with a discreet charm in the house annex. The restaurant, known for its English chef Stuart offers a revisited Finnish menu that can be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the fields and garden nearby that provides all the vegetables to the kitchen. Before dinner, to work up an appetite, one must take a ten minute walk up the path amidst the birches to discover a wooden pontoon, and take a moment to take in the lake, one of the countless Finland.
The village was born thanks to the steel plant of the same name, known worldwide for its famous orange scissors. Since 1649, the company has become a leading global provider of essential design tools for the home and garden. This year, the village celebrates its 365th anniversary and counts among its inhabitants more than a hundred artisans, designers and artists such as Karin Widnäs and the Spitz boutique.
Karin Widnäs, known for her ceramics since 1995 also lives in the village in a house designed by the architect Tumo Siitonen. Entirely made of made, the house is open to nature and features the famous sauna, a feature present in nearly every Finnish home. The artist also has her workshop here, where she makes handmade plates and dishware inspired by nature, destined for places such as the Royal Savoy Ravintolat restaurant whose interior was designed by Alvar Aalto.
Run by Mikael Spitz and his wife Mira Donner Spitz, the store sells robust and sober wooden cabinets, stools and desks, and the woodshop has been continuing the craftsmanship of the American brand, Bilnas Bruks, since 2006. This iconic brand goes back a hundred years and was produced up until the 70’s. The couple and their six children have lived here since the 90’s and have been involved in the education of the sixty village children by providing them with carpentry courses from the age of seven.
In summer, the Finnish love to relax by the sea on the beaches in this marina town. The city layout has not changed since its inception in 1546, and street names reveal the trades that were practiced at the time, such as the Street of Linen Weavers or the Street of Glovemakers. Originally a fishing village and trading port, the town has been a resort destination for 100 years and offers the charm of its colorful and bright facades and narrow streets. A typical window will be decorated mostly with small and charming characters to act as entertainment to passersby. Also known for its famous artists, Alvar Aalto grew up here and Ekenäs inspired the painter Hélène Schjerfebeck who adorned many of her paintings with its landscapes and the romantic atmosphere that reigns throughout the city.
Built in 1906 in 9 months, the tallest lighthouse in the Nordic countries is elevated 52 meters above the sea level, in large granite stones. It has a museum, a few guest rooms, its own post office and a chapel which can accommodate marriage ceremonies.
Another seaside resort, Hanko should be explored by bicycle to discover the range of architecture and opulent houses that dot the city. In the summer, the beaches are dotted with small wooden cabins that are very typical of the city. From its port, one can take a ferry that leads to the Bengtskär lighthouse.
In the middle of an English Baroque style garden, on the edge of a lake ideal for swimming, is a very romantic dwelling which has recently been turned into a charming hotel and gourmet restaurant. The castle, designed by Erik Palmesdt, belongs to the Linder family (descendants of the first inhabitants), boasts Rococo and neo-classical interiors, trompe l’oeil paintings and graphically designed parquets made of various species of wood and blown glass windows. After walking the many trails in the park and bathing in the lake, all that remains is to warm up in the sauna and return to a state of well-being.