Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ten Interesting Things About Finland

1. Finland's population is about 5.3 million, substantially less than that of Israel. Its land area is 337,030 square km, over 15 times that of Israel, which has 20,770 square km.

2. Finland's official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Finnish uses some extra letters/symbols/diacritics in addition to the standard alphabet and is not a European language. This leads to the interesting situation of my telling my Norwegian neighbor "so when we didn't understand things, we read the Swedish." and him saying "but you don't speak Swedish either." True, but we were actually able to figure out a fair amount of what we read in Swedish and almost none of the Finnish.

3. Blueberries are called
mustikka and are very popular, though not very cheap. Blueberry pie, called mustikkapiirakka is considered a traditional Finnish food.

4. Most of Finland's trains are electric, but have diesel backup, because snow and electrical storms can down the wires. If the tracks are entirely unavailable in an area, the train providers provide buses for the shortest possible part of the route.

5. Many of Finland's trains contain a family car. On the family car, there are private compartments for families, as well as a children's area containing a mini-library, a small slide, and some other toys. Other cars on Finnish trains include the dog car and the dining car.

6. There are trains from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and to Moscow daily. The morning train from Helsinki
to St. Petersburg is a Finnish train, while the afternoon train is a Russian one, and vice versa. On the Russian morning train into Finland, they offer you two choices for breakfast - apple juice and cake or beer and nuts. Air conditioning on Finnish and Russian trains is spotty at best, and not all are equipped with windows that open. When it's 27 degrees out and you have a baby sleeping on you, this is unpleasant.

Almost everything in Finland is wheelchair/handicapped accessible. In places built before elevators were around, there are elevators that follow the path of the stairs. This is highly cool.

8. Because of the enormous number of lakes, streams, rivers, etc, there
are enormous numbers of mosquitoes and other biting/flying insects in Finland. They all think Kinneret is very tasty.

9. Swimming in lakes in Finland is very
different from swimming in the Mediterranean in Israel for a number of reasons. The one you'll notice first is the temperature. If the water temperature is 24, that's considered warm.

10. Public places, including public restrooms, including those at campsites, are immaculate.

And finally, a video on Finland: