Free time activities

My third week here in Finland has been a week that has had a lot things going on as classes have started this week and as for our free days, we have definitely not let them pass us by. To start the weeks off we decided we would throw ourselves into the Finnish culture (quite literally) by going ice swimming. When we arrived at the lake in Rykmentintie with the outside temperature of -1 degrees the only question going through my mind was why I had allowed myself to get into this. As I thought of having to get into swimming gear to walk outside into the freezing cold to jump into a frozen lake, the only thing I could do was laugh over the madness of it and embrace the experience now that Finland is officially my home for the next four months or so and an experience it definitely proved to be. The effects were not exactly what I expected them to be. I didn’t expect to witness the sensation of feeling totally refreshed and relaxed afterwards, but after experiencing such cold water and then spending time to relax and get the body temperature up a bit in the sauna afterwards; refreshed is exactly how we all felt and weirdly we now understand why the Finnish people keep up this very unusual hobby. It is definitely something I would advise anyone who visits Finland to try, even though I’m sure I would receive the same look that I initially gave to the person who suggested we try it.

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On Monday, our student tutors kindly invited us over to their apartment to make cinnamon rolls and buns which are a typical Finnish tradition. I really enjoyed this as we were able to relax and meet a few different friends of our tutors as well as other exchange students they had invited round. It is safe to say, how the Finns make cinnamon rolls is a far cry from how we do back home. They tasted so good that I was determined to get the recipe from Milja so I could have an attempt at baking them when I get home. The second buns we made were Finnish buns called Laskiaispulla which are buns filled with jam and cream, they proved to be very delicious. Our student tutor explained to us that these particular buns have been a tradition in Finland since 1800 and they predate Christian influences marking the beginning of lent just before Easter. For modern day Finns the buns are usually baked to mark the end of the darkest part of the year. I don’t think any of us have ever eaten a dessert that has an actual meaning to it that we are aware of – a first for most of us.

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Since Turku is our host city we decided that it would be nice to find out a little bit of the history of the city, so we came up with the idea of visiting Turku Castle. We found out that this castle is the largest surviving medieval building in Finland. Building of the castle first commenced around the time of 1280 and the Swedish conquerors of Finland intended the castle to be used as a military fortress. Since that time the castle has seen some very different changes as it’s role became the home of former monarchies of Finland. The day spent walking around the castle was very interesting and it was nice to get a flavour of Finnish culture all those years ago as in the next few months of being here it will be interesting to see how far Finland has come culturally.

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Text and photos by Aimee Chambers