Maria Christina Marchi introduces you to a place she never thought she’d see. Welcome to Finland.

 

One of the beauties of coming to university in such a remote, yet renowned little place, is that you are bound to meet people from all over the globe. I mean, just look at your group of friends. I am sure some of them come from places you have not ever considered visiting; some might even come from places you didn’t even know existed!

In my first year I met a girl from a small town near Helsinki. We ended up becoming good friends, moving in together. I had no choice really – I mean, I had the opportunity to see a place I had never even dreamed of seeing before. So, full of curiosity and limited luggage (thank you, Ryanair), I found myself on a plane to Finland last summer.

Before going to this Nordic country I had painted a certain picture of it in my mind. I had imagined reindeer, herrings and lax to be waiting behind every corner; but my views swiftly changed as I discovered Finland to be a country of chocolate, crayfish parties and summer houses on little islands. My notions of the North changed and I discovered a country full of surprises. Here is what you are all missing out on:

 

One of the Islands Just off the Southern Coast

Many of the nieghbouring countries (eg. Sweden and Norway) have the same tradition of having summer houses on these little islands just a few minutes by boat from the mainland. They might spend their whole summers lounging on these hidden pieces of paradise, or they may use them as weekend getaways. I experienced my first sauna-session here, took my first dip into the Baltic Sea and loved every second of it.

 

A Typical Summer Cottage

 

Helsinki, the country’s capital, is a stunning city. With a population of 588,941 it may not be one of Europe’s biggest cities, but its position on the Gulf of Finland and its cultural connections to both Europe and Russia, make this a fascinating and diverse place.

 

The Helsinki Cathedral
The View of the City from the Cathedral
Walking Around the City Centre
The Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral
Cinnamon Buns at Cafe Esplanad
A Storm Approaching the Esplanadi Park, in the Heart of the Capital

 

But the wonders of the capital do not end on the mainland. Just outside of Helsinki, in the gulf, lies the city’s finest fortress: the Island of Suomenlinna. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, Suomenlinna means ‘Castle of Finland’ and used to be Finland’s foremost military base. Built on six islands, this sea fortress has been handed over to civil administration and now houses the Naval Academy.

 

Welcome to Suomenlinna

The Old Walls of the Fortress

The Castle of Finland

The Last Lighthouse before the Open Waters

If the photos have not gotten my message across then I do not know what will. Never underestimate unexpected places is all I can say. You will find things that will surprise you and that you might fall in love with. All I know is that I have not visited Finland for the last time.
Maria Christina Marchi
Photography: Maria Christina Marchi