Finland Day 11 & More: Pen-friends, a Castle, Giant Forests, Graves and FAMILY!

This post completes my the report of my trip to Finland. To say that it has been the trip of a lifetime is an understatement. It has been truly extraordinary in so many ways, and while I’m still jetlagged, and haven’t caught up on work that piled up while I was away yet … I’m sure I’ll be back sometime, but not next week.

Anyway, after coming back from the island yesterday it was nice to have a quiet start to Sunday enjoying the sunshine and watching the squirrels in the trees while I had breakfast … before heading out for the afternoon and evening where I got to see a whole heap more of Finland. Seriously, how big is this country? It really is tiny on a map, but obviously is bigger than it seems!

a lovely way to start the day

such a lovely way to start the day


and it’s even better while watching the squirrels

Sunday 9 July 2017 – Today was yet another exciting day in Finland (they all seem to be) … as it’s the day that I met my pen-friend, Heli for the very first time in person. But more than just a pen-friend, she’s my 4th cousin once removed. So she’s family! We started writing many years ago (ok, ok, quite a few years ago. Back in the day when letter writing was actually a thing, and it didn’t cost a fortune to post a letter either). Anyway, we arranged to meet up, and she and her partner took me to see a whole lot of Finland for the day. It was a wonderful day with great company, and great sights along the way.

First stop was Häme Castle at Hämeenlinna and this is one of Finland’s medieval royal castles. It is believed to have been built at the end of the 13th century. We’re talking the late Middle Ages era – that’s about 500 years before the First Fleet arrived in Australia! It’s not just OLD, it’s seriously ANCIENT.

Häme Castle

Häme Castle, yes it’s BIG!

Häme Castle

got my guidebooks (the English version ones), now I’m good to go

Häme Castle

a small portion of the central tower of Häme Castle

Anyway back to the castle which is a museum now, and it showcases hundreds (if not thousands) of artifacts that they’ve found on the castle grounds, one of them is an chess set. And I found this description (fortunately in English) about chess very interesting …

CHESS – A Knight also need brains!
This chessboard is a replica of a game found in Häme Castle. The original chessboard and chessmen are on display on the third floor of the castle. Chess was one of the chivalry skills a knight was expected to master in order to become a true knight The game of chess was like medieval society in miniature. The king and the queen represented the monarchy, and all the other members of society had to defend them.

And if you ever want to try on a suit of armour, Häme Castle is the place to go. I didn’t, but I’m kind of regretting it now, as how many other opportunities to do so am I likely to get? Maybe I’ll have to do it next time.

suit of armour

how about a suit of armour?

Häme Castle

another part of Häme Castle

The next stop was Aulangon Puistometsä, which translated means the Aulanko Park Forest, and this is truly spectacular. They say that Finland is a land of forests and lakes, which is what I saw when I flew in. And it’s also what you see from the tower at Aulangon.

the tower at Aulanko Park Forest

the tower at Aulanko Park Forest, built in the early 1900s

the view at the tower at Aulanko Park Forest

the view …

the view at Aulanko Park Forest

and even more view!

tall trees at Aulanko Park Forest

looking down on the giant trees in the forest, from the tower

After that, we drove to Hausjärvi to meet Heli’s parents and have a lovely afternoon tea, as well as visit the local cemetery since there’s a whole bunch of reli’s buried there too.

Hausjärvi cemetery

the cemetery at Hausjärvi

One interesting grave we found was for Salomon Backberg (b. 1792, d. 1868). He is a brother to my 4x great grandpa Joseph Backberg. And it seems that Salomon was the master builder of the local church at Hausjärvi, and because of that, he has a grave very close to the church itself. Sadly I didn’t get a good photo of the headstone due to the sun shining at that time of day, still it was great to see.

Salomon Backberg, Hausjärvi cemetery

headstone of Salomon Backberg at Hausjärvi cemetery, says Rakennusmestari (meaning master builder)

Hausjärvi church

the Hausjärvi church he built

So after a day castles, forests, cemeteries, afternoon teas, and lots of travelling … the end of the day came and it was time to go home (my Finnish home).

And I think the busy days are catching up with me, and it’s probably just as well that I didn’t have any real plans for Monday or Tuesday. Monday was mostly resting, and Tuesday was a day to pack up, then head off the the airport and head on home. Sadly all good things come to an end, my trip to Finland too.

But to all the cousins who I stayed with, and others I met with while in Finland … THANKYOU, THANKYOU, THANKYOU for making me so very welcome, and making me feel like a part of your family. As well as taking the time to show me your beautiful country. Big HUGS to you all!! And I look forward to catching up with you all again next time …

To those following along, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little about Finland as much as I did.

And here’s just a few family photos to finish of my collection.

selfie with cousins

a selfie with my cousins

selfie with cousins

and another

selfie with cousins

and another …

selfie with cousins

you guessed it, another selfie with a cousin and her partner

selfie with cousins

yay … more cousins

selfie with cousins

so pleased that I finally got to meet Laila … another cousin

airport photo

saying farewell at the airport 🙁 … till next time

Finland Day 9 (Part 2) and Day 10: The Finnish Islands

After visiting Fiskars and seeing the stunning scenery on the drive down to the south of Finland (see my previous post), I wondered if anything could be more beautiful. The answer to this is YES!

Friday 7 July 2017 – Continuing Friday’s happenings … cousins of mine have a Summerhouse on Lilla Kuggskäret island, which is just one of the thousands of islands just off the south coast of Finland (who knew that Finland had islands eh?). This region they call the Finnish archipelago. Anyway Lilla Kuggskäret is a smallish island in comparison to some, but in saying that there’s oodles of room to roam and enjoy.

This is my cousins very OWN private island, and I was fortunate enough that they invited myself and some other cousins to visit and share their little piece of paradise. For this I say thankyou, thankyou, THANKYOU. It was magical.

Lilla Kuggskäret

the little red marker shows where Lilla Kuggskäret island is

After a boatride out the island we got to see why they visit as often as they can. The peacefulness is unbelievable. While the island is in the sea (I believe it’s the Baltic Sea), it is as calm as a lake, so you don’t have any crashing waves. In fact, apart from when boats went past, there really wasn’t even any ripples, it really was that calm.

Lilla Kuggskäret

messy hair after the boatride – but it’s totally worth it!

Lilla Kuggskäret

the view … what’s not to love?

swans at Lilla Kuggskäret island

and there are heaps of swans around

After unpacking and having some lunch, we visited a nearby island (Hitis) and checked out the Hiittinen church and cemetery, because that’s what I do! and in fact it’s one of the oldest churches in Finland, and has an amazing story behind it. You can read about that here (note: if you open it in Chrome, it translates to English).

Hiittinen church and cemetery

the Hiittinen cemetery

And the weather was absolutely perfect for a late BBQ tea (also known as dinner), and we watched the sun go down at about 10.30pm, and the moon rise. Note: the sun rises again at about 3.30am … hence I didn’t get any sunrises.

Lilla Kuggskäret island

the sun is going down

Lilla Kuggskäret island

… nearly set

moonshine at Lilla Kuggskäret island

and now the moon is up and shining …

Saturday 8 July 2017 – Saturday was another perfect day to explore and that’s what we did. I was up first, and enjoyed the sights, sounds and serenity that Lilla Kuggskäret offers … including sitting out on the deck with my genie mags!

quality reading

quality reading

more swans at Lilla Kuggskäret

I spotted more swans

We visited the Viking Centre at nearby Rosala island. This gives a history of all things Viking related and was fascinating to see. And yes, Rosala and the nearby islands were used by Vikings about 1000 years ago … it’s hard to imagine, but very cool!And since Mr Lonetester has more Scandinavian blood in him, that I do, and he has no known Scandinavian direct history, but oodles of Scottish, there seems a reasonable likelihood that he descends from the Vikings which made it all the more interesting.

the Viking Centre at Rosala island

the Viking Centre at Rosala island

restaurant at the Viking Centre, Rosala island

love these doors to the Viking restaurant (previously old sleeping quarters)

Viking boat

Vikings had style for sure

Rosala Island

Rosala island seems like a different pace of life

sign on Rosala island

This was on Rosala island, but not part of the Viking centre. It seems obvious enough – drive off the island, you’ll be in the sea!

And then it was time to say farewell, and head back to the mainland and home (well, my holiday home).

Lilla Kuggskäret

bye bye Lilla Kuggskäret, such a beautiful place to visit

I’ve packed a lot into my holiday, but there’s just a couple of days left. And next up … a surprise catchup, which was years in the making!

Finland Day 9 (Part 1): Fiskars, Scissors, Roller Skiing and Deer

As I write this, my holiday to Finland is over and I’m already back home (although still not in the right timezone yet). And yes it truly was the trip of a lifetime … the people, the places, the family and the cemeteries … so many memories (and photos) that I’ll treasure. And for the most part the weather was very kind to us, despite it being the coldest Finnish Summer ever.

I did manage to get some reporting of my trip done while I was over there, but now have a backlog to catch up on. So bear with me while I get to these over the coming days.

Friday 7 July 2017 – After the excitement of researching at the archives and walking Helsinki, checking out all the awesome old buildings (ok, ok, not all of them), it was time to have some quiet time … but relax time had to wait, as today we were up and off early to check out the some of the south of Finland. First stop was a town called Fiskars.

map showing Fiskars and Helsinki

map showing Fiskars in relation to Helsinki

Some of you may well have heard of the Fiskars brand which is well known for scissors, knives, scrapbooking tools, kitchen utensils and even gardening tools. It turns out that the Fiskars company started from this tiny town in Finland.

The following is from Wikipedia

“Fiskars is a village in the town in western Uusimaa, Finland. The village of Fiskars developed around the ironworks founded by German-born Petter Thorwöste in 1649. The ironworks also produced copper. In 1822, John Jacob von Julin bought the ironworks and founded a fine production facility in 1830 and Finland’s first workshop in 1836. The history of the Fiskars company begins from the Fiskars Bruk, but the company no longer has active factories in the village.”

So the town is old, and is simply full of history. It would be very easy to spend a day here just wandering around, taking the tour. But alas we didn’t have the time … but maybe next time. But for details about the old buildings still in this town, click here.

Fiskars village, Finland

Fiskars is simply, so picturesque

Fiskars, Finland

the lake was so still, the reflection was a mirror image

the bridge at Fiskars, Finland

such a pretty bridge

the Manor House at Fiskars, Finland

the Stenhuset (stone house) or the Manor House is the main building of the Fiskars Ironworks. Built in 1816-1822, it originally provided both living quarters for the owner and an administrative center for the ironworks village. And if you look closely you’ll see two canons at the entrance … that’s one way to make a statement!

old building at Fiskars

love these tall, old buidings!

the duck sign at Fiskars

the ducks even get their own sign

The small town itself has a population of around 1000 people, and it is so incredibly picturesque, so picture postcard, it’s simply stunning. It seems that 10am is the normal opening time for shops in Finland, and that was the case in this town too. As we arrived before then it gave us a chance to wander around and look before having something for morning tea. By chance we happened to visit the same time that there was an antique market fair on in town, we did a quick look, but sadly couldn’t spend all day there, as we had elsewhere to go. Also I really didn’t leave much room in my luggage to buy too much.

the markets at Fiskars, July 2017

ooh markets!!

marinated garlic

marinated garlic anyone?

old books

ooh old books … that’s more my style

the old telephone booth at Fiskars

the old telephone booth

Fiskars shop

then we shopped at the “Fiskars Shop”

Fiskars gardening tools

Fiskars gardening tools

Fiskars kithenware

even kitchware

Fiskars Scissors

and of course the world famous Fiskars scissors

After our visit to Fiskars, we (and by we, I mean my Finnish cousins and myself) continued our way down south to the boat harbour for our visit to Lilla Kuggskäret island. As everything was totally new to me, I kept my eyes open to see what I could see along the way. And I saw stunning bright yellow canola fields, and many other green crops, a roller skiier (yes, apparently it is a thing), some deer (which they call Bambi), and a local vegetable grower who had orange, (and I mean truly orange) tomatoes, which were the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. But still no moose though!

roller skiiing

yes, he’s roller skiing

deer in Finand

oh my gosh, 3 deer! Two “Bambi’s” and their mother (sorry for the bad photo, but it was taken from a moving car)

orange tomatoes

the orange tomatoes I tasted were so sweet … I wonder if we even have them in Australia?

Next up … our trip to the island Summerhouse, at Lilla Kuggskäret.

Finland Days 7 and 8: Research Fun, Libraries and Touristing

The last two days have made up for my lazy days at the Summerhouse, as I reckon I’ve walked every street in the centre of Helsinki. Some probably twice. And my Fitbit can prove it.

Anyway I was fortunate enough that another Finnish cousin of mine was happy to play tour guide for Wednesday and Thursday, and as a bonus as he’s also into research and libraries took me to all the fun places, as well as a heap more.

Wednesday 5 July 2017
Wednesday was pretty much a visit-libraries-and-research-day. I think I went to three libraries, one museum, and the National Archives of Finland. Sound fun doesn’t it … well it does if you’re into that type of thing.

Fortunately for me my tour guide cousin, also played interpreter when we were at the archives. I can read names, but don’t understand the record that I’m looking at otherwise. Anyway it was a great day at the archives as we found a death duty record for my 4x great grandma, Ulrika Winter! Who would have thought, eh? But oh so very cool!!

the National Library of Finland in Helsinki

the National Library of Finland in Helsinki

the Helsinki City Library

the new staircase in the old Helsinki City Library

National Library of Finland (previously the University Library)

another library called the National Library of Finland (previously known as the University Library)

the National Archives of Finland in Helsinki

the all important National Archives building

the National Archives of Finland in Helsinki

proof I found the place …

the National Archives of Finland in Helsinki


the National Archives of Finland in Helsinki

we looked through beautiful old books from the 1800s

the National Archives of Finland in Helsinki

great great great great grandma Ulrika’s death duty record

the Lutheran Church in Helsinki

the Lutheran Church looked spectacular against the stormy clouds

Thursday 6 July 2017
This was set aside to be another another research day, but rather than heading back to the archives, my cousin and I spent a couple of hours comparing information, before heading off for a day of touristing. First stop was Suomenlinna (previously named Sveaborg which is the Swedish name for it). Founded in 1748 when Sweden owned Finland, this sea fortress which is built on a group of islands was so they could defend themselves against Russia. Soumenlinna is is now UNESCO World Heritage Listed and is really something to see. The scale of it is phenomenal, and it is all so well built that even after hundreds of years the buildings are still standing. Below are a few photos I took, but you can find a heap more here.

a birdseye view of Suomelinna

this birdseye view of Suomenlinna gives you an idea of how big the place is


one of the outside walls of the fort


the walls are about 1-2 metres thick, with holes for cannons or guns


a bridge from one island to another at Suomenlinna

After our ferry ride back to Helsinki city we wandered around, and suprise, suprise I found more to photograph.

view of Helsinki from the ferry

view of Helsinki from the ferry

the Finnish President's palace

the Finnish President’s palace

aLove Lock bridge in Helsinki

a Love Lock bridge in Helsinki, for more info on these you can read about them here

old cigar factory

this building was a cigar factory that my great great grandpa worked

Another place we visited was the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum. This is a collection of traditional old original buildings from all around Finland, brought together so you can see the different styles, all in one place. And we drove past the Sibelius Monument, my photo is lousy, but wikipedia has a heap of info about it, and a better pic.

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

one of the traditional old houses

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

this is a treehouse style hut is used to as a place to store meat so bears can’t get it

Seurasaari Open-Air Museum

a traditional Finnish windmill

Sibelius Monument

Sibelius Monument, made in honour of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius

And the day ended with fresh, hot homemade cinnamon and vegemite (yes, vegemite) scrolls!

cinnamon scrolls

cinnamon and vegemite scrolls

Next up … another we’re off to another Summerhouse.