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.

Finland Day 6: Countryside, a Cemetery and Pizza

I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I arrived. My trip seems to be going so fast, but in some ways it also seems longer, as I’ve done so much … and I have almost another week to go.

Tuesday 4 July 2017
Today was a packup-and-leave-Heinola day, but rather than heading straight home, my cousins took me to another beautiful cemetery. They know me so well already! Anyway it was here at the town of Hämeenkoski I got to see my 4x great grandpa’s grave. This place is about a 1 1/2 hour drive north of Helsinki. So that was another very exciting day.

Bell tower at Hämeenkoski church

the bell tower at Hämeenkoski church, Finland

cemetery at Hämeenkoski

cemetery at Hämeenkoski

Nils Winter's grave at Hämeenkoski

Nils Winter’s grave at Hämeenkoski is in such a lovely place

Nils Winter's grave at Hämeenkoski

Nils Winter’s grave. He died 30 August 1864

Hämeenkoski cemetery

this was a lovely family grave/crypt at the Hämeenkoski cemetery, not my family though

The journey to and from the cemetery really was beautiful, as we went through the most spectacular countryside.

And as you do, on lazy country drives, we found strawberry farm and got the tastiest strawberries EVER.

Finnish countryside

isn’t it lovely!

Finnish countryside

almost like a postcard

Finnish countryside

everything is still so green in their summertime

My cousins and I had pizza for tea, and I must say their “small” pizza is huge. I would expect that in America as everything there is supersize, but not Finland. Anyway it was very tasty, but waaaay to much. Oh and here’s a Finnish thing, when you buy a pizza it’s not pre-cut into slices for you. If you want that done it costs more.

pizza in Finland

a giant “small” pizza

Tomorrow I head to the archives for some research …

Finland Day 4 and 5: Summerhouse, Games and Long Nights

My adventures in Finland continue and the last couple of days were spent at Heinola, at my reli’s summerhouse. This is just over an hour away from where they live… so it’s not far, but it truly is a whole different world, and not just the scenery but also the house and everything in it. It kind of reminds me of my grandma’s place which was filled with everything from a past era, it’s like walking into an antique store. Old knick knacks, old tools, old everything, even an outdoor toilet … but that’s part of the charm of it.

In Finland it is a common thing for families to have a summerhouse. It’s school holidays in Finland at the moment and those who work tend to take their holidays during summer if they can, and then all head off to the summerhouse. Some might get there a for a few days, others the entire holiday period.

Apart from the noise from roadworks that are happening nearby at the moment, it is incredibly tranquil, and you could totally lose track of day and time very easily. And remember it doesn’t even get vaguely dark until maybe 10.30pm … so you really can stay up all night, outside playing games, or whatever.

Sunday 2 July 2017 to Monday 3 July 2017
I won’t go into detail of the past few days, but with the nice weather we had breakfasts outside, went in their sauna (by the way the correct pronunciation of it is sow-nah, not sor-nah), playing games, reading, learning more family history, checking out the town centre, including the bird rescue centre and more. It’s been relaxing and fun, and I’ve taken hundreds of photos. Below are just a few.

great weather in Finland

the weather was lovely


Heinola, we’re in the right place

the summerhouse

the summerhouse at Heinola

the drop toilet

the old drop toilet, fortunately there is an indoor one too

the lake at Heinola

the lake


this is the view I woke up to

breakfast outdoors

enjoying breakfast outside

sunset at Heinola

you can see the glow of the sunset on the trees – this was taken about 10.30pm while we sat outside

genealogy time

I did some genealogy-ing

Flags … now let me tell you about flags. It seems that every house in Finland has a flagpole. And in the old days, people put a flag up (like the long one below) to show that they were home, and take it down when they weren’t. This isn’t done so much these days, due to crime. Still, it’s a nice idea.

Also the proper rectangular Finnish flag can only be put up on celebrations. As my visiting was classed as a celebration they decided to put it up, and got me to help. 🙂  Also there are rules regarding the official flag, it’s never allowed to touch the ground, and you can only have it up during certain hours. I don’t know if Australia has any such rules, as I don’t know of anyone who has a flagpole.

Finnish flag

the long Finnish flag

putting up the Finnish flag

I got to help putting up the “official” Finnish flag

Finnish flag

it’s up and flying

Games … I was introduced to the game of “kubb“. This is an old viking game, and uses pieces of wood which have to be knocked down. I can’t think of anything really equivalent to say what it’s like, but here’s a link for more about it. I also got to play my first part-Engish part-Finnish game of Scrabble. I made words in English, and my playing partners chose either English or Finnish. It was a whole heap of fun for all of us, even if I did lose. 🙂


it was a very interesting game

Custom … here’s a Finnish custom, they all take their shoes off to go into houses (it doesn’t matter if it is their own place, or elsewhere they are visiting, it’s still shoes off). This wasn’t a custom I knew about before, and I do keep forgetting.

shoes off

shoes get taken off at the door

Heinola was beautiful place to visit, so quiet and relaxing, and I’m so pleased my cousins took me to visit the place. Tomorrow it’s time to pack up and head home. But there’s more holiday still to come …

Note: The only downside of the summerhouse is that Finland’s entire mosquito population found me, so I’m thinking a hazmat suit would be the way to go next time.

Finland Day 2 and 3: Churches, Cemeteries, a Mental Hospital and Family

My adventures in Finland continue and cover churches, cemeteries, a mental hospital and family. Sounds like an interesting mix. Right?

Friday 30 June 2017
The day was cool and cloudy, and rain was forecast, still my cousin took me touristing again. This time to the Rock Church in Helsinki. I found this listed on a number of “things you must do in Finland” lists, so asked if we could go there. The Rock Church is a modern church, built in the 1960s that has been built into rock and largely underground. I know my photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a link to find out more about it. It is a big tourist attraction, and yes it even costs to enter (3 Euros/person).

Rock Church, Helsinki, FInland

the entrance to the church

Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland

the view from the balcony

Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland

looking up

Rock Church, Helsinki, Finland

the top of the dome roof from the outside

Next stop was the Helsinki cemetery. I visited this cemetery a couple of years ago and was shown some relatives graves then, so it was an interesting challenge to see if we could locate them again from memory. Yay for us, we did, though we pretty much walked the entire cemetery looking for them. But since it’s a spectacular cemetery, and the rain held off it was lovely to just wander. I know a cemetery wouldn’t be on most tourist’s itinerary, but you know it’s what us genie folk LOVE, so I was pleased that we got there.

squirrel in Finland

look who I found in the cemtery

Helsinki Cemetery

Otto and Hedvig, my 2x great grandparents


Helsinki Cemetery

Gustaf is my 3x great grandpa

Helsinki Cemetery

Gustaf’s wife, Ulrika is there too, but in a separate grave

candle lantern on grave

having candle lanterns on graves is a common thing in Finland

Helsinki cemetery

isn’t this grave pretty

Helsinki Cemetery

more pretty graves …

Helsinki Cemetery

this was interesting, grave plaques or markers with lanterns

Following on from visiting a church and a cemetery, my cousin took me to a mental hospital which is now partly a cafe … you’d never guess it from outside would you?

former mental hospital in Helsinki

now a cafe, but formerly a mental hospital in Helsinki

Saturday 1 July 2017
Yesterday was seeing the ancestors, today was seeing the cousins. Today was an ‘at home’ day, so I don’t have any interesting place pictures to show you. But we did have cousins come and visit and with quiche, rhubarb pie, Tim Tams and Fruchocs (chocolate covered apricots), chatter, photos and family history … it was a great afternoon.

Winter cousins


Winter cousins

and I said we needed a group selfie

Tomorrow we head off to the Summer house.