Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jyväskylä, Finland

A few days ago I returned from 8 days of annual leave visiting my very good friends in Finland, Mij and Troy, for the mid-summer celebrations. The mid-summer festivities are almost a bigger deal to the Finns than Christmas, and for the two day public holiday most families will retreat from the city out to their summer houses which are typically positioned right against a lake with not a house or person in sight. So this is exactly what I did.

On my first night in Jyväskylä, Troy's Finnish Cousin Janne and his wife Maria invited us to their place for a truly heavenly BBQ grill dinner. Admittedly Janne is a published chef, but I don't think I have ever tasted vegetables so full of flavour, and this was the case with every meal during my visit - packed with such intense flavour I just wanted to cram my suitcase with fresh fruit and vegetables - and a few dozen sausages. With the sun still up I was a little embarrassed to be suppressing yawns after dinner over glasses of red wine, until I realised it was close to 11pm! I had been warned that it was 24hr sunlight at this time of year, but I thought it would be more like dim twilight!

The next day it was off to a place I had heard so much about, Troy's family's summer house. I can remember on a few occasions over morning tea at work, Mij showing us holiday photos of this little forest retreat and speaking so fondly of his memories there, so I was most eager to see it for myself. Just as I had suspected, there could be no photograph which could do this place an inch of justice. From the lusciously dense flowerbeds and patches of deep green grass to the cute winding path down to the sauna and clear lake water I could feel the immediate onset of holiday relaxation.

The outlook from the summer house with the children's cottage in the background

The fireplace inside was crackling and glowing with heat waiting to cook the sausages which we had skewered onto big iron forks. With a generous amount of mustard and some fresh Finnish bread to wrap our crispy sausages in we scoffed down our lunch quicker than you could say sauna - which is exactly what we did after a post-lunch walk. I wasn't completely confident that I was going to enjoy the Finnish sauna experience given my dislike of swimming in water anything colder than a tepid bath, but I was more than happy to give it a go. After the first round of the process (5 minutes of sitting in the intense sauna heat, swatting yourself with branches of birch leaves, then running outside along the jetty and jumping straight into the lake) I was completely converted. I also took my most memorable shower ever - out on the jetty looking out over the lake with just simply a big bucket of hot water, a scoop and soap. I had never felt so invigorated and full of energy, the only thing which stopped me from enjoying another round of sauna was when i burnt my leg on the searing heat of the stove inside. Thankfully we had some medicinal ingredients for cocktails on hand which came along with us for a midnight row boat excursion out on the big glassy lake.

Midnight delight - cocktails and shouting directions at our rower Troy, it was all class

It was such a wonderful holiday and I was so pleased to be Mij and Troy's first visitor since their big move to Finland. I miss them so much already and would love to visit again in winter for some more laughs, cocktails, drinks at the Helsinki frozen ice bar and more Moomin paraphernalia


Anonymous said...

We were discussing some seagull names and when Mij mentioned the name you gave them, shithead seagulls, Mij's mother (visiting here) sighed in shock: "I never thought Ashleigh was so rude!" And Ellen and Elias renamed you. You are now officially "that barbeque -girl" referring to your sauna incident and appeal to sausages. Cheers, J

shit dont said...

You are always where the good food is Ash, Respect and Weeeerd!

steve at the pub said...

Lovely photos, keep it up.

Some of us keep sane by reading this stuff you know!