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