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A day at mökki in Finland

Picking up where we left off on the last post, we’d just finished a fine brunch loaded with Finnish flare and dairy. The smoke sauna was pretty well curating itself at this point as the embers slowly churned out our evening’s plans and we were off to make rounds. See, korvapuusti is such a beloved pastry that one doesn’t simply make one batch, or enough for yourself. Korvapuusti when made correctly is enough for that sitting, extras for later, a batch for your parents and a batch for your grandparents.

Standing outside of an old Sauna entrance in Finland

Luckily, Heini knows how to make them very, very correctly. So, it was with a basket each for her grandparents and parents that we set off down the road for the short walk to her parents mökki. All three cottages are built quite close to each other so it only took a minute before Heini opened the door to her parents and while taking off her shoes, used some Finnish echolocation. I almost fell over laughing because I found the word hilarious, but the premise and gist of it I totally understand. In Finland, if you are quite familiar with someone (in this instance, biological) you can forgo the knock or the doorbell, and in its’ stead proclaim, “huhu!”

We all joined in the, “huhus,” and they quickly rang back as we rounded the corner from entryway to meet them for the first time. Her parents were very kind people! Her mother, Anna, is a bit of a rockstar in the Finnish art/graphic design arena. This perhaps explains the unique, imaginative yet cohesive interior design skills present in both her, and her daughter’s mökkis. Her father is amongst other things, a leader of a Finnish wine magazine and long story short, he knows his stuff. One can quickly tell they have a loving family, because you could see so many things that the parents did/love, are things that their children also do/love.

They gave us a tour of their house filled with relics from around the world, as they too love to travel and have done so for quite some time. As we finished seeing the last room, complimenting Anna yet again on her interior decorative skills (because, well, it was true!) we headed back into the den to have a glass of welcome prosecco to tell the story of how we all met, and run down the itinerary of what all they intended to show us while visiting. Hospitality is second nature for them, and Heini’s father made sure we had all the right maps in hand and went over the sauna preparation procedures with Iiro one last time. I’m telling you, sauna is not something they take lightly! Iiro is in his late 20’s/early 30’s and is incredibly knowledgeable about sauna, but it’s such an intricate practice one could learn something new each time, regardless of age.

An old smoke sauna in Finland

I guess that life is a lot like sauna. You want to do it well, but someone is always ahead of you in the scheme of things. It is when you take a step the side, realize you are not omniscient on any one given thing…when you realize that a lifetime spent learning is truly a golden gift, that some of the pressure to perform and the pressure to “do it all yourself,” falls off your shoulders.

Two things I learned from their exchange about sauna: Firstly, how to teach (Heini’s father) and how to be taught (Iiro) with dignity intact and no egos needing mended. Secondly, sauna is so intricate that though most of the conversation while we visited was in English (unfortunately we couldn’t oblige them with speaking proper Finnish, it’s a tricky language!), Finns must dive in Finnish anytime they speak about sauna because English doesn’t have all the words. It is cool to have things that are so indicative of your culture, that you couldn’t speak of it in any other way, than by your mother tongue!

After getting that all figured out we went over to her Grandparents house and proceeded with round two of the “huhu.” They were both sweet people and quickly welcomed us in, equally happy to meet new people, as to receive a basket of korvapuustis. They are pretty much the quintessential grandparents.

Their house is one huge storybook, each room as significant as the last, interesting tidbits about the this’s and the that’s on the wall. Just the way I hope to be some day. I could only imagine coming to that house as a young child and letting my imagination run wild with all the cool pieces (both art pieces and combat pieces) on the wall. The history was as rich as it was known by her grandpa, who gave us the grand tour.

After saying our good-byes, we headed out together in a row boat across the lake. The air fresh and crisp amidst the plethora of trees and nature, we really began to let down, relax and try to drink it all in. Speaking of drinking it all in, the water in the lake we were rowing on is so clean you can drink straight from the source! 

Four people rowing across a lake in Finland

We got to the precipice of the rock formation just before the sun started to dip a bit, and we took in the warmed sunlit views while munching on the blueberries that surrounded us. The blueberry season was in full-swing when we got to Finland, and this was my first exposure to natural blueberries picked straight from the bush. In Finland, the blueberry is a bit different than the ones here in the States. If you squish the berry, a deep-hued red covers your hand. Here in the USA, a crushed blueberry is a white mushy substance.

Girl with red boots sitting beside a lake

A very blue lake with green trees lining it.
After we watched the sun go down we headed back down to the boat. It took a while. Not because of me hiking in my beach sandals, but because I distinctly lack the ability to walk past hoards of blueberries all around me. I must have stopped to pick berries a hundred times. At a certain point I didn’t even realize I was doing it anymore. Absolutely a kid at a candy shop. 

A handful of wild blueberries.

This is the main event. The part we had been building towards and waiting for all day: smoke sauna time! Well, I mean, first we had to clean out the silt from the smoke…but then…smoke sauna time! Nestled in at the foot of Heini’s grandparent’s property was a gem of a sauna built long ago by her great grandfather. Sauna’s usually burn down every 20-30 years because it’s essentially a wooden fire-house, but her great-grandfather was quite smart. Acquiring building permits in Finland is tricky, especially in their area being that it’s a National Park. So, he built this sauna’s basic framework out of concrete, and then lined THAT with wood. So, when it burns down, they simply need to repair, not rebuild. Brilliant!

A wooden smoke sauna exterior with three stools and cold drinks.

It was heavenly. Cleaning out the busyness of the mind is thoroughly done by sauna, because the heat is so immense and so tangible, you really can’t worry about other things. We headed back to wrap up the day with a fine meal, and call it a night! The visions of sitting out in front of this old sauna house, the crisp clean lines of the lake reflecting the tall trees towering above it, remain vividly embedded in my mind to this day. I hope it will always be so.