Jen’s Finland Journal

Johannesburg, MI

I have been back in the States for a week now, so I thought I would summarize my trip to Finland.

My notes from June 20:

On our flight back to the USA. We fly to Boston, where we will pick up Arvi and head for Michigan.

My reflections of our trip to Finland

I loved Finland. We really got in to learning about Finnish architecture and history by visiting museums, churches and graveyards.

The weather is perfect every day, sunny and 70s!

This makes me wonder if I would have loved it the same if I had been there during different weather conditions. I am guessing I wouldn’t have been quite as impressed. Sunshine just makes everything better.

Finland is lakes and islands.

Although I met some extroverts, possibly because they had been drinking, most Finnish people are not extroverted. I only know this by reading about them, since I didn’t talk to many. They like nature and their lake cottages. They give you space. Finnish people are very civilized and most speak at least three languages.

Finnish people generally drink beer, and like black licorice.

Being an introvert, I like Finnish people. A lot.

They should, however, put screens on their windows to let the breezes in while keeping the mosquitoes out. Only saw screens in Inari.

Helsinki– a big city with an airport that feels like small town.

Porvoo – delightful, but touristy town built on a hill. Reminded me of the small hillside towns in Italy, only these houses are built with wood.

Turku – this town rocks. Lots of old buildings and life in bars and restaurants along the Aura River.

Tampere – I’m afraid to go there during the day because it was so magical at twilight midnight. Loved the river flowing through the beautifully restored factory buildings.

Oulu – pretty nice. Best muikku at the open market, and great pannukakku.

Rovaniemi – gateway to the north. An easily walkable town with a great heavy metal bar. Surrounded by beautiful water.

Kemijärvi – quiet town on a beautiful lake.

Inari – a real northern town also surrounded by beautiful water. Good thing we got there before the mosquitoes arrived!

Jyväskylä – lively college town. Also easy to walk.

Lappeenranta – darn near Russia! Really became interested in the plight of Karelia, which I was unaware prior to my visit.

I miss Finland.

June 19, 2019

Lappeenranta, Finland

Our last day in Finland. We drove to Helsinki first thing, after checking to see if the Lappeenranta church was open (it wasn’t). Our goal for today was to eat muikku at the open market. Goal accomplished.

The seagulls were crazy at the open market and we were lucky we weren’t shat on. We walked Helsinki and tried to decide what else to do with our time. We visited the Helsinki architectural Museum and an Orthodox church. Then we went back to the regatta café for cinnamon rolls and drove to the airport.

Stayed in a hostel for my first time: Forenom. This hotel was a 20 minute walk to our gate at the airport. We turned in our rental car and walked halfway back to the hostel, then turned around and went to the airport for dinner.

June 18, 2019

Jyväskylä, Finland

An ambitious day: I wanted to go to Olavinlinna (fortress) and then make it to Lappeenranta in time to see two museums before their six o’clock closure. Mission accomplished, even with enjoying a nice lunch at Cafe Salma in Savonlinna.


Drove DNR (Darn Near Russia) around 3:20 PM. We probably could see it. I’ll check a map to see how close we actually were.

We stopped at a roadside stop because it was so close to Russia. I saw an entrance to a little park in the woods that had lots of quirky life-size statues of people that looked like claymation. There was a donation box to get in. We have no cash and the mosquitoes were chewing on me, so we left. I looked up the place, and it was very interesting. Look up Patsaspuisto Finland. This reclusive artist made all these concrete statues, 560 in all, and made gardens and arrangements of them. I wish we could have seen them all, but we wouldn’t have had time to do the Lappeenranta museums, so it all worked out for the better.

In Lappeenranta we saw a Karelian history museum and an art museum that featured the works of Väinö Rautio. Rautio experienced the Soviet takeover of his homeland and had to move to the neighboring town of Lappeenranta, which Finland won back. His poignant works show his feelings during that time.

We also did the obligatory visit to the town church and cemetery, where, again, many many soldiers who died in 1940-1945 were buried. I’ve seen four such cemeteries now, and in all of them someone has recently planted a flowering plant at each grave. We still have not found graves for any Lahnalas. I guess they all moved to the United States before all hell broke loose in Finland.

June 17, 2019

Jyväskylä, Finland

We slept in a little, as we had no real plans. That, and laundry took two hours and we were up till after 1 o’clock hanging up wet clothes. We drove down to the harbor to see what was happening. Had an open face salmon sandwich at a cute little restaurant on the harbor, and decided to make reservations for a dinner cruise. Then we walked way up the hill and into a tower to get a nice view of the city.

Dinner cruise was quite nice. we cruised down a very small portion of Päijänne, the longest lake in Finland. A small buffet was waiting for us as we boarded the boat. Many protein choices, the best being the smoked salmon and the cooked salmon with dill. They also had liverwurst meatballs and muikku.

Cottages on Lake Päijänne

There were four ladies on the cruise who took both a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine and were celebrating something. They were all dressed up. Two of them looked just like Tom’s sister Connie. I resorted to calling them The Connies, but wasn’t able to get a stealth picture of them for the record.

A note about bikes. There were bikers everywhere in Jyväskylä. We passed a scene where a car had just hit a biker and the driver was getting out to see if the biker was OK. The biker was conscious and I didn’t see any blood, so I think he’s OK, but these bikers sped past us all the time and were a constant cause of anxiety. Now, I love biking and support people biking instead of driving cars. But I think some of these bike riders were just speeding too fast in pedestrian areas.

June 16, 2019

Kontiomäki, Finland

Drove to Jyväskylä today.

Lupine line most of the roads.

Went to the Alvar Aalto museum. I was not so impressed with the museum. It talked about how important the pictures of architecture were, and didn’t give many facts about the buildings that are still standing, where they are, etc. They did say that Aalto designed this university building, across the street from the museum:

We checked into the apartment and were delightfully surprised, it is brand new, built in 2017. It has a large bathroom with washing machine and we were able to get our laundry done. Note to self: LG machines only have one short cycle and that cycle needs to be used if you ever want to get your laundry done in less than two hours!

We walked through the college area of town and had dinner. Many many people were out walking and eating at various restaurants in the area. Jyväskylä seems to be a happening kind of town.

June 15, 2019

Inari, Finland

Driving day

Spent an hour last night planning our last moves in Finland. Decided to skip a return through Rovaniemi and Oulu and head towards the lakes, which will take us two days.

We were in the car from 8:30 to 4:30. We got an Airbnb for the night in a small neighborhood in a somewhat rural location. Very old cottage which they are working on. Too bad the sauna isn’t finished yet! The bathroom and shower are brand new.

We stopped and investigated the locks once used for moving tar boats in Kajaani. It appears that two lakes connect at Kajaani and there is a dam and tar boat locks. Everyone in town was out around the water socializing in the beautiful evening. We got bit by mosquitoes.

June 14, 2019

Inari, Finland

Staying at Hotel Inari for a couple nights. Not impressive at arrival. The building looks like a dive, but is nice inside. The lakes and trees are beautiful.

This place is a lot like northern Michigan.

Went to Siida, the Sàmi museum. It had a great timeline which showed the last 10,000 years and what was happening with humanity, nature, and the local people. It also had an outdoor walk and lots of information about trapping animals in the Stone Age days and later. A very good museum.

Drove to Lemmenjoki. This is a national park between Inari and Norway. Hardly anyone was around. No visitor center, no crowds, no park rangers, just a couple signs and some trails. We took a 4 km trail and had a nice hike.

We saw reindeer in the road both on our way there and on our way back. Pretty cool.

Thank you Lonely Planet for recommending Aanaar, where I had whitefish with hollandaise sauce over carrots and puréed cauliflower with carrot and lemon foam. Exquisite!!

Visited the church. More victims of Soviet aggression buried there but not nearly as many.

June 13, 2019

Rovaniemi, Finland

Kim’s last day

Kim and I got all brave and went to the city sauna. It was closed for remodeling. Everything inside was taped up with plastic. We came back and took showers.

Tom found a nice restaurant called 21 and we had a nice lunch and then walked Rovaniemi some more.

Check out Kim’s salmon waffle

We visited the church and the cemetery there and saw where lots more people were buried who were victims of the Soviet attacks of 1939 and 1944.

We left Kim at the airport and drove to Inari, which so far looks like a pretty desolate town. It makes Michigan’s Upper Peninsula look wildly populated. The terrain is just like northern Michigan. Lots of wild blueberry bushes and a scrubby pine like the Jack Pine. A local told me the mosquitos will be out in full force in two weeks.

Bilberry foliage and pine trees
June 12, 2019

Rovaniemi, Finland

Kelsey‘s last day

Kelsey had a plan for her last day: visit two, possibly three museums, go see Santa Claus, and have a beer with the Fam before getting on her flight. Plan accomplished.

Picture of a picture of Santa Claus. There was a €30 charge to get your picture with him.

Happy Anniversary Tom & Jen

We drove to Kemijarvi and got some beautiful photos by the lake. Saw a cemetery at the church where many were buried in 1944, most likely a result of the Russian invasion in the Continuation War. Finally got some beer at a grocery store.

Walked Rovaniemi in the (bright) evening.

June 11, 2019

Oulu, Finland

Left the camping resort and headed to Rovaniemi.

First stop was Villa Hannala, where EVERYBODY goes to get salmon soup. It was surely the best salmon soup I will ever have.

On the way to Rovaniemi, we stopped in to a Stone Age museum called Kierikkikeskus. This was really a lot of fun. And a lot of mosquitoes, as we walked down a boardwalk to some huts and saw a young woman in Stone Age dress who showed us how to shoot a bow and make a stone necklace. And we practiced saying “Kierikkikeskus”.

We visited more mosquitoes and saw Devils holes.

In Rovaniemi we went to the Arctic Restaurant, very nice with traditional Finnish fare, such as salted reindeer, reindeer tongue, panfried reindeer, and chanterelle pasta.

For Kelsey‘s sake, since it was her last night in Finland, we went to a hard rock bar and had a lot of fun finding out the songs through Shazam. They even had free popcorn and served the local brewery beer, Karhu.

Overall, Rovaniemi was pretty quiet. I am told that this is the off-season because people come up here for winter sports.

I still can’t get over how bright it is at midnight. Seemed like four or five in the afternoon.

June 10, 2019

Oulu, Finland

We toured Oulu and found the famous outdoor market, which was a disappointment because half of the businesses were closed on Monday and the big indoor market was under reconstruction. Tom and I tasted muikku (vandace or smelt) from the market and had pannukakku made with smoked reindeer, onion and cheese. Both were wonderful.

Kim had a blueberry and white chocolate pannukakku

We spent the night at a camping resort which had both cottages and tent sites. Had our first sauna in Finland!

Midnight at Nallikari, near Oulu
June 9, 2019

Naantali, Finland

Walked Naantali then drove back to Turku. Looked at the castle then went to the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova (Old And New) museums. These museums took us through a common person’s life in medieval Turku, then an exhibit from a modern artist. Pretty cool.

Ate dinner at a silly Viking restaurant called Harald because it was the only place with beer open on Sunday. Then we were so pleased because the food was really delicious!

Got on the train to Oulu.

The train stopped at Tampere at 11:30 pm. Kim read in the Lonely Planet book that this town was worth visiting, so we walked into town late at night. It had a magical feeling as everything was lit at twilight and a river ran between beautifully restored textile and other factory buildings.

June 8, 2019

Turku, Finland

Drove the short route through the archipelago today. I think we crossed three ferries, one of which was an hour long ride with a midway stop. Arrived at our Airbnb in Naantali at 6 PM. A beautiful little old town on a harbor in the Baltic Sea.

Our hosts directed us to a restaurant on the water and we arrived to the water at the same time as the president of Finland got off his boat! Turns out Naantali is his summer home. The restaurant was right in front of his disembarkation. A choir sang as he disembarked. We had to find another place to eat.

June 7, 2019

Ilola, Finland

Spent the night near Porvoo. The next day, we walked through Porvoo again, where we ate Runeberg torte and then drove west to Turku. Enjoyed the Friday evening walk along the Aura River with everyone else from the city. The weather was perfect and everyone seemed happy.

Went to a brewery converted from an old school house. They turned the playground into a garden for enjoying beer. What a business these folks do, at least on a Friday evening when the weather is perfect.

June 6, 2019

Tallinn, Estonia

I really liked Tallinn. We fell asleep last night to the music of accordion and people having a good time. No trucks on the town square to wake us up early!

We took the ferry back and visited Suomenlinna, the island fortress built by the Swedish, when Finland was part of Sweden.

Then we went to Porvoo and found a nice little hotel out in the country to spend the night. This place is what I would expect of a Finnish place. Simple and stylish.

June 5, 2019

Helsinki, Finland

Took the Megastar ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. The Megastar is a beautifully appointed ferry built in 2017.

Found Tallinn to be a delightful town. It has an old section dating from the 1300s, and a rich history of trade and takeovers from the Russians, Germans and Soviets, before achieving independence again in 1991. Managed to visit two breweries and a traditional Estonian restaurant.

June 4, 2019

Helsinki, Finland

Finally met up with Kelsey in Helsinki late last night!

Toured Helsinki. A clean and safe city without much history. Visited two breweries and the bar in the tower.

June 3, 2019

London, England

Missed our connection to Helsinki. Got a later flight. Now we will arrive around 11 pm.

I can’t stand flying. I got maybe an hour of sleep. Now I must sit in Gatwick airport all day while it’s beautiful outside.

June 2, 2019

Cambridge, MA

Got a 30-day pass for the base! Now we will be able to pick Arvi up when we get back to Boston!

Got a refund for the second set of flight tickets!

Got in the plane!

Thank you to Tiffany for driving us to the airport and driving again to bring Kim’s ID to her!

June 1, 2019

Cambridge, MA

Cleanup day at Kim’s apartment. We cleaned the food from the refrigerator and all of the bottles of products from the bathroom.

We also went to the Air Force Base to see how storage was going to work there for Arvi. We found out we can come to the base at any time of day, so we decided to keep Arvi until tomorrow, when we would return it to storage and go to the airport.

We have a little glitch. Kim will not be with Tom and me when we return to the base from Finland, so she was going to get us a 30-day pass so that we could enter the base without her. Computers were down at the base, so we could only get a 3-day pass. Hopefully tomorrow when we return with Arvi the computers will be working again so we can get a 30-day pass.

Another glitch. We bought our flight tickets to Finland six months ago and never realized that both Kim and I paid for all the tickets. So we overpaid six months ago. Womp womp. We hope to speak to someone from Norwegian Air tomorrow and get some money back!

May 31, 2019

Cambridge, MA

HKS provided a brunch outdoors for all the graduates and their families. They had calzones where various fillings, like ham and egg or broccoli and egg. I thought they were really good. And a kale salad. In the evening we went out to a nice little Italian restaurant close by and then to a local bar, where many graduates were meeting up, but it was too loud to talk.

May 30, 2019

Cambridge, MA

Congratulations Kim!

Graduation ceremony! We watched the general ceremony, for the entire Harvard University, from screens at the HKS school. Then went to the HKS ceremony. Both ceremonies were outside – Harvard has tents set up all over the place. HKS provided a healthy lunch afterwards for all in attendance.

Met several of Kim‘s schoolmates, who have become very close friends with her over the last year. I will try to list all the countries from which we met people::


















Long Island






United Kingdom


May 29, 2019

Cambridge, MA

Woke up at Kim’s place, had some coffee and some NISU that was forgotten about in the freezer! Really enjoyed it broil-toasted with some Irish butter. Yum! The movers arrived and packed up Kim‘s apartment.

In the evening we went to a nice little French restaurant. It rained and rained.

May 28, 2019

Boston, MA

Woke up at Kim’s place, had some coffee, then went down to Starbucks for some breakfast. Attended the Harvard Kennedy School honors ceremony. It was over three hours long. Got back to Kim’s apartment and proceeded to do the same thing we did in Michigan five days ago: organize stuff. Some goes into storage for one year, some goes with Kim overseas and some goes to Finland.

May 27, 2019

Port Huron, MI

Kim, Brett, Tom and I departed for Boston, via the Bluewater Bridge in Port Huron and Canada.We dropped Brett off in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and made it to Boston around 7 PM. The weather was beautiful for traveling.

May 26, 2019

Johannesburg, MI

We have put away what we can and are going to begin our trip to Boston today. Allie departed with Kim’s car around noon.

First stop is Pat and Judy’s house near Port Huron. We will rise early from there and head for Boston.

Pat and Judy, Jim and Denise, and Ken and his three children were all there for a pizza party. Brett entertained the children with “Wheels On the Bus” and so on.

May 25, 2019

Johannesburg, MI

Logistics! Kim drove her car from Boston for Allie to use in Michigan while Kim is overseas for the next year. They are here with Brett, a friend of Kim, who had some free time and assisted Kim with the driving.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: