While teaching in Jyväskylä, I posted a few Facebook notes that I’d like to keep [slightly revised] here…
Just got back from Finnish Summer Eve at Varjola, a lovely forested place by a lake where we enjoyed sausages, chatted for hours, and savored the Finnish tradition of broiling in a smoke-scented sauna before leaping into the ice-cold lake - repeating back and forth, back and forth.
Many thanks to Risto Korkia-Aho for bringing me a huge sprig of birch branches for exfoliation and adding a charming scent to the moist furnace of the sauna. Special thanks also to Chuck Stevens for sharing a memorable cigar and conversation with me! Coming back, an extra treat: being serenaded by our Argentine students’ seemingly endless (but undoubtedly charming) repertoire of chants and songs.
After reviewing the great recommendations offered by my pals here in Finland, I decided to rent a car and head east toward Punkaharju and Savonlinna: lots of winding birch tree-lined roads, red farmhouses, and tranquil lakes.
At night I stayed at a former primary school turned into an apartment complex. It seems that the village didn't have enough kids to support the school. But the apartments are quite lovely. It's especially nice that I had an entire wing to myself - and a sauna they let me use for free. How nice to feel the cool evening air coming through an open window.
Later on, I visited Kuopio market square and enjoyed cruising the curvy roads past red cabins and butter flowers and sparkling lakes.
One Last Trip
After visiting Rovaniemi: So, I've got the whole house to myself, but not the whole country. Turns out the nearest sauna is part of the house but accessible only through an external door. So I tossed on my "action pants" (don't ask) and a t-shirt and made my way to wood-paneled steamy oblivion, pouring water onto rocks to send paroxysms of steam into my lungs. About a half-hour later, wrapping up with a chilly shower, I said to myself, "Hey, I'm alone in Finland, surrounded by dandelion-covered fields and verdant forests. I don't need clothes to walk back!" So I started to open the door when my better judgment reminded me, "Wear a towel. Just in case." I'm glad I did because no more than ten steps later, I heard Pekka's cheery voice: "Was sauna good?" Well, let's put it this way. The sauna was almost a little too good, actually! Tomorrow begins the next leg of the journey, joining Jenny in Tel Aviv. I'll reflect more on this experience later but, suffice to say, I love this Finland and will be thrilled to return one day!