I’ve managed to see a fair bit of Europe by now including Austria, Slovenia and even Scotland but nowhere is like Finland. Here are just a few things I learned during my recent trip to Helsinki: 1) There are more saunas in the country than there are people. 2) Despite what the BBC would have you believe this is not the happiest place in the world, everyone is in fact, bloody miserable. 3) The Finish love a cruise, and I mean LOVE them. 4) If you think Sweden was expensive (and I can assure you it is) then hold on to your hats because Finland is summet else. And finally 5) if you go all the way to Finland and don’t swim in a sea pool then we can no longer be friends.
I know, some of these things may have shocked and astonished you, I understand. For the next part of our Brexit tour The Family P. traveled through Denmark, up to Sweden and on to Helsinki but for various reasons, I’ll be bringing this trip to you in reverse order. So lets cover Finland with reference to the assertions I made in my opening paragraph.
Firstly there are more saunas than people in Finland. Absolutely true, but lets put a bit of context on that for you. Firstly, saunas are never a one person experience. Therefore, a family of four must have, on average four saunas in their house. What?! OK, so it’s a country with a total population that’s about a quarter of London but still, that sounds mental. That is of course, until you go there. There are saunas everywhere – it’s a national obsession. Saunas in the ferry, saunas on the seaside, saunas in restaurants, fancy a sauna on top of a massive ferris wheel? No problem, Finland is the place for you. To the Fins, saunas can solve almost any problem known to man; whatever your issue, just whip your pants off and get yourself in the steam room along fifteen total strangers, that will sort you out.
And you know what? I’m down with that, nothing equalizes people better than being stark bollock nekkid and having a good old chat about why the British love the NHS despite its being chronically underfunded whilst serving an aging population which doesn’t want to pay more tax and who keep electing politicians who promise that everything will be fixed if we all just work harder. Ahh, good memories.
So the Fins are the happiest people on earth are they? Well perhaps someone should tell them that because everyone I spoke to was so miserable that coaxing them out of their shell was like playing a game of darts with a raw sausage. The only exception to this was when they are sitting in a sauna, at which time everyone becomes disconcertingly talkative, and naked. Please refer back to point number one above for details of this.
Having said all of that, we didn’t meet Annika and Janne in a sauna and we were all fully clothed. We struck up a conversation on the ferry and before long we were getting along like a house on fire, we bought them coffee and they offered to take us to a sauna. Like I said, it’s a Finish thing. They did however, confirm that the BBC had managed to somehow capture a completely unrecognizable character trait because as a general rule, Finland has a population of grumpy, dour and otherwise beautifully irritable people, so, you can understand why I felt at home. It’s got something to do with it being dark for six months of the year which would put anyone off being too pleased all of the time.
As I mentioned, we met Annika and Janne on the ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki and it was here that I learned of the Fins other love. I booked this ferry in the summer of 2017. It was a cheap ticket reminiscent of a short jaunt from Dover to Calais and I felt that I would be subject to the same disappointing formica tabled, wipeclean lino upholstered chair/lounger combo that I, and many others before me, have experienced. Not so my friends. This was a goddamn cruise ship. Three decks of entertainment and shopping, three more of accommodation, a cinema, a casino, bars, restaurants, a kids club and of course, a sauna because well, just because. I even took a video of one of the three live music venues playing no less than five acts through the night.
But what did they think of Brexit? Without putting too fine a point on it, they were against. I don’t think they’ll mind me paraphrasing their view as ‘it’s the most idiotic think Britain has ever done.’ Which is quite surprising really when you cast your mind back to some of the many idiotic things that this small island has managed to achieve over its’ illustrious history.
Scandinavia is pretty expensive, there’s no doubt about that and Finland is right up there in emptying your wallet. The currency is Euro so you do get a fairly good understanding of the huge amount of cash you’re shelling out. Prices across the board are at the “Top End London” level, so even for the most basic of things you pay top whack; expect a coke to set you back about £4 for example. Finnish vodka on the other hand seems suspiciously cheap; we were picking up a shot on the ferry for just over £1.50, mind you any country this close to Russia is going to like it’s vodka.
We spent our time in Finland sauna spotting and trying to forget how much we were spending but our new friends Annika and Janne recommended that we swim in the sea. I’msorrywhatdidyousay? Swim? In the sea? There is bloody pack ice floating past the docks for crying out loud! But then, I’ve never been to Finland before and they do have actual ladders down into the sea pools for such things… I had my budgie smugglers on before I had the chance to change my mind but one foot in and I’ve never felt cold like it. As the iced water lapped at my scrotonic limit I realised that it was now or never, would I be able to live with myself knowing that I could of, but didn’t, attempt to cryogenically freeze my future offspring DIY style? I went for it.
As did, it must be said, Mrs P who usually approaches such things in a far more sensible way than I do. Full immersion was performed by both of us and the experience ranks up there with one the best I’ve ever had, I was tingling for hours! OK, so it’s no surprise discovery of a self-pleasuring anonymous Australian, but it’s pretty close. Honestly, if you ever get the opportunity, I implore you to grab it, it’s cold but you’ll feel AMAZING afterwards. Just don’t spend too long down there, OK?
The #2MenEUTour Big Brexit Tour journey so far: