Finland with Friends
After kicking around Stockholm for a few days, it was time for the real reason we came to Europe in the first place. Our friends Nina and Alex live just outside Helsinki with their three kids (Mishka 15, Miro 13, Sofia 9) and we'd been wanting to see them ever since we said goodbye to them on the dusty streets of Kunming three years ago.
I rented a house not far from where they live and we jumped into a week of adventures, dinners and dodging raindrops. May had been beautiful, but June was so far...chilly. The answer to this came in the form of something I'd heard about but wanted to experience myself. Sauna. We all know what a sauna is, but in Finland, they're a part of nearly every household. Nina told me that family saunas were strictly for birthday suits, so therefore, every afternoon Eden and Will heard me bark,
"Strip down, kids! We're getting in the sauna!"
It took little time at all for the three of us to relish the feeling of perspiration dripping off our bodies as we lay on the slabs of wood. Will became obsessed with pouring water over the hot stones, creating plumes of steam and an increase in temperature. I imagined the toxins leaving my body as sweat dripped off my nose while Eden chanted, "Hotter! Make it hotter!"
Life outside the sauna in Finland was equally jolly. We spent precious little time as tourists and more time as....friends. A trip to the waterfront downtown was punctuated by games of tag. The boys fell into a happy rhythm of X Box and comic books. The girls did a whole lot of make believe which involved nothing more than...talking. One day we took a ferry across the gulf to Estonia and Sofia and Eden talked for, I'm not kidding, 16 hours solid. From 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM. I don't think they even knew we'd gone to a different country for the day. They simply talked their way through the day, each location we visited being the backdrop for a scene in their fantasy land. As we drove home, it became clear that 16 hours wouldn't be enough. Sofia informed us that the day prior, she'd worn her pajamas under her clothes in the hopes that we'd let them have a sleepover. She'd be....ready.
Besides being our home base for a week, Finland was also the jumping off point for our adventure to St. Petersburg, Russia. The three-day trip was a complete mix of chaos, communism, beauty and hilarity. More on that in a few days. Until then, listen up, America...Saunas...discover them!