My lovely, talented and creative sorority sister visited Finland with some of her family members. Her perspective about life in general is very interesting to me because she is resilient and family-oriented as well as innovative in her pursuits. She shared with me her trip experience and how she put her own Italian-American spin on things in Finland.
What inspired you to travel to Finland?
We went to visit a family friend who plays basketball for Lapua, Finland which is in the central Eastern inland portion of Finland. (not the coast). We went to two of his Lapua Cobras games. Their seasons run from October- May. I went with my 12 year old son, my 23 year old daughter and her 2 year old son.
What did your trip itinerary involve?
We started in Helsinki and Lapua and then took a day trip to Vaasa. Everything is written in Finnish or Swedish. Some people speak English but a lot of print material was either Finnish or Swedish. Kotka is on the Southwest coast and seaside. Vaasa is on the East coast. Our favorite was Kotka because Lapua was a rural and small hometown. Kotak was bigger and urban. Typically, I don’t think a tourist would go to Lapua but we went because of the basketball connection.
Lapua Gardens! The hometown atmosphere was great. There was no fast food but several pizzarias. We went to grocery stores and cooked every night for our friend. Lapua used to be the largest ammunition plant in Finland. It had an explosion that killed 60 people. Now, it’s a museum; not a plant anymore. It’s been moved outside of the city.
Describe the perfect Finnish meal.
We cooked our own food but we did discover a dish of fried fish and potatoes that was good.
The people were very nice, very accommodating. Everyone we met, even the cab driver, was nice. He walked us into a train station and showed us how to buy a ticket.
Describe a custom that you observed there. Did you incorporate any of their customs back home?
Bikes were everywhere! I loved that! Even the elderly biked. Their walkers had scooters, a footpad, wheels and they could scoot along in them. They were like skateboard walkers. No one is overweight there. Breakfast was slices of salami, ham, cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes. We incorporated their breakfast back home. At the games, they served bratwurst with no buns vs. the traditional American home dog in a bun. The lack of fast food places contributes to their lack of obesity there.
What did you learn about yourself from this trip?
To not bring so much luggage! We way overpacked! I also learned that I can travel anywhere and be fine. When something goes wrong, I’m always a “go with the flow” person. I booked our hotel rooms the day before on Expedia. I did not rent a car because I didn’t have an international driver’s license. Most cars there are stick-shift anyway and I don’t drive that. We used public transportation anyway. Their public transportation is fabulous. Finland is kid-oriented. For example, restaurants had a playroom for kids and so did the airports. If you had a stroller, you went to the front of lines in airports or transportation places. VR public trains were awesome and they go all across the country. On the last night, we stayed in Helsinki which is the “New York of Finland”.
How did this trip enrich your life?
So it was two moms with their two babies–you got to be the grandmother and the mother. Tell me about your pie making activity there. That intrigues me.
Yes. We made blueberry pies, blueberry/raspberry and apple pies. The family friend we visited, who is a basketball player there, lives in an apartment complex of ball players. He had a Finnish style kitchen with an interesting feature of drying racks built into the cabinets that drained over sinks. It was like a 1940’s kitchen. The inspiration to bake pies came from wanting to make homemade food for him.
So the Italian-Americans made Italian meatballs and American pies in Finland!?
Yes, my son and I made my grandmother’s Italian meatballs recipe and my daughter made pies.
photos by Allie Meehan
Follow this lesson plan to build trip itineraries with your family: