Helsinki, Finland: Jim and Susan in 1992, sitting at the statue & flowers in front of the White Cathedral

Country Information:

Finland gained independence in 1917. The capital is Helsinki. About 5.5 million people live here and the official language is Finnish (spoken by the majority of the population) along with Swedish. The main religion is Christianity, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Orthodox Church of Finland are the largest Christian communities. The top exports are metals, metal products, machinery, scientific instruments, electronics, shipbuilding items, pulp and paper, food, chemicals, clothing, and textiles. The time zone is 6 hours ahead of EST.

Jim’s Perspectives:

Have visited Finland twice, but most memorably was when I flew into Helsinki prior to visiting Moscow in the Soviet Union. The differences between the two countries couldn’t been more stark. My recollections of Helsinki are of walking around Market Square. Right in the center of the city on the Baltic, is where vendors sell street food, crafts, flowers, clothing, vegetables, and tons of souvenirs. This is a hustling and bustling city with people out on the streets, sipping on coffees, dressed in smart-casual clothes, and the architecture is fantastic. The USSR … on the other hand … dark and dim, no one smiling, and people waiting in line for hours for bread and fish.

Finland is known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes – but that is an understatement. Finland has more lakes than any country in the world: 187,888 lakes and 179,888 islands, both of which are world records. Finland is also an easy country for hikers and campers to travel in, as most of its lands can be camped in freely.

A cool fact about Finland is that, starting in 2010, it celebrates an annual Day of Failure every October 13th. The day celebrates bad news and unlucky events as a way of reflecting on what happened and what can be done better in the future.

Hey, did you know that Santa Claus lives in Finland?!  He’s known as the “Yule Goat” and live in house on top of the Arctic Circle, near a town called Rovaniemi. Santa receives about 700,000 letters every year from children across the world.


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