One of the lands of the midnight sun, Finland has much more to offer than the cold nights, saunas, and skiing it is often associated with. Visitors are enchanted by charming villages alongside sophisticated cities and the largest unspoiled wildemess in Europe.
Finland is one of the most progressive countries in the world. For example, traffic fines are linked to gross income, an Intemet millionaire recently paid $70,000 for a speeding ticket. A reputation for eciency and organization has also made Finland host to many intemational meetings.
This modern country maintains its traditions and hearty spirit,celebrating many festivals. Its most popular Midsummer's Day finds many Finns lighting bonfires and drinking enthusiashcally at their country homes. Finland is also home to the world's longest-nuuung rock festival, Ruisrock. The best-known event is the Savolinna Opera Festival, while the strangest is probably the annual wife-carrying championship, where the winner is awarded his wife's weight in beer.
Helsinki, Europe's northemmost capital, boasts over 30 art galleries and museums. Although it is a cultural and economic center, it brings to mind small town charm with its many cafe and lack of tall buildings.While the city's public transportation system is renowned, Helsinki's extensive bicycle trails make riding around the city and its seaside parks a breeze.
After seeing the Market Square and great architecmre, including the Church in the Rock, wliich was cut from solid stone, tourists may want to check out Helsinki's bohemian art scene. Highbrow and popular culture meet at the Tennispalatsi with its museums and movie theaters. Lovers of modem art will also enjoy taking in the Lasapalatsi “ Glass Palace" media center.
A sight not to be missed is nearby Suomenlinna Island, where you can wander amid the ruins of an old sea fortress and visit several museums And only a few hours outside of Helsinki is Finland's most notable historic building, Turku Castle, which was founded in 1280.
While Finland is best enjoyed during the warmer months of May to September, its most famous resident is busiest in December. A little known fact is that Santa Claus does not live at the North Pole, but in the Lapland region of Finland. There, Santa receives about 600,000 letters a year written by children from over 150 countries.
Besides dropping in on Santa, visitors to Lapland can enjoy trekking and skiing in Lemmenjoki Park with its dreamlike arctic landscape, dense forests, and free wildeness huts that dot the area. Tourists may also stay in glass igloos, from which they can see the midnight sun and the northem lights, and ride in dogsleds and reindeer sleighs.
Lapland is home to the Samis, a native people who were gradually driven northward by development in Scandinavia. Their traditional livelihood revolves around reindeer, which number about 200,000 in Finland. Finally, don't forget, but a great reindeer stew can be had in Lapland as well.