An amazing discovery in the Finnish forest

I went on an island adventure the other day. Well, I walked to Lauttasaari, an island about 3km from the city centre and connected by a wide bridge.  The sea looked amazing as I crossed over, the mild temperatures evident in the partially frozen water.

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Home to just over 20,000 residents and the Finnish Sauna Society, Lauttasaari is about 4km square in size. I walked around one side and back along the coast relishing the rarely shining sun.

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And then the most amazing thing happened. I came across a village of mini houses, set amongst the trees.

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I was stunned. Painted in different colours these tiny houses were set evenly apart and looked well-loved but as though all the residents had simply up and left.

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I marvelled at how tiny they were, just a minute’s walk from the beach and it was surprising to see that some even had chimneys!

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They are of course kesämökit (summer cottages), a huge part of Finnish life. Helsinki city empties over summer as nearly every Finnish family heads to theirs. Even with the long winters, on average Finns use their summer cottages 80 days of the year. 

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It’s amazing to see photos of the same cottages in summer here – the difference in the landscape is incredible and you’ll even see this cottage with the same dress hanging in the window.

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Apparently in the 1920s, the City of Helsinki offered poorer residents tents so they could experience summer vacations. Soon people began to ask to be allowed to build something sturdier and in 1946 an architect created a single design for the cottages, which were allowed to be 12 square metres in size. The residents own the cottage, there is no electricity, water is only turned on in summer and there are shared outdoor toilets (Source: Green Hearts).

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We’ve yet to experience a holiday in a kesämökki and I can’t wait to see inside – although these tiny cottages are not typical of most summer cottages in Finland. But I’ll be sure to visit again in summer when the leaves and grass have grown back and they are once again full of life.

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City Cottage – Inside a modern-day example of one of these summer cottages

Little House on the Baltic – the story of the owners

The Essentials of Cottage Life – Visit Finland

17 thoughts on “An amazing discovery in the Finnish forest

  1. Hei Mel, you’ve got to go to Kivinokka which is the best one, and its on the metro too. Apparently the city is going to do some crappy development and destroy a lot of them? best part of Helsinki I reckon. Peace in the east.

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      • The City of Helsinki calls ’em “summer cottages” in English but more appropriately “summer huts” in Finnish and Swedish (kesämaja/sommarhydda).

        http://www.hel.fi/www/Helsinki/en/culture/leisure/cottages

        “Allotment areas and allotment gardens are for general recreational use, where walking is allowed in paths and other public areas. The allotments and cottages, including their gardens, are nevertheless private area belonging to the tenants, and their privacy must be respected.

        In the cottage areas, walking outside of routes is also allowed. A cottage does not include a private garden, and the area is not meant for cultivation.”

        Kivinokka was mentioned above. My favourite is Lammassaari.
        http://www.gardenia-helsinki.fi/viikkinature/placestovisit.htm

        Also check out Kumpula and Vallila allotment gardens (located close to each other):
        http://www.kumpulanspy.fi/saapuminen/
        http://www.vallilanspy.net/?p=kartta

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumpula_Allotment_Garden
        http://www.museo-opas.fi/en/museum/vallilan-siirtolapuutarhamuseo

        They are public parks; open for public daily throughout the summer.

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      • Thank you. Kesämökki wasn’t sitting quite right with me so that’s really helpful. I might have to go on a tour of all the different spots! I didn’t get very close to them but have to admit Id love to peek in the windows.

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      • The difference(s) in the meaning of a ‘summer cottage’ and an ‘allotment cottage’ is not very clear (even to a native speaker of Finnish like me), given that the function of the two types of cottages is very similar: to allow city dwellers to experience nature. So, you weren’t really in the wrong calling them summer cottages 🙂 Btw, just out of interest, how’s your Finnish?

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      • Thanks. My finnish is coming along but pretty basic. I’m just in semester 2 of lessons. I can talk about the weather, the months & say ‘Kissa hyppää hyllyltä nojatuolille.’ I know mostly food words & punaviini of course. How’s your Japanese? I found being able to read katakana very useful

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      • Please don’t ask! 😀 The concept ‘My Japanese’ doesn’t exist. I mean, I can just about say the essentials like ‘Good morning’ ‘A glass of white/red wine please’ ‘Is this fish?’ ‘Where’s the toilet’ but talking about a cat jumping from a shelf onto an arm chair is beyond me 😀 However, I’ll start weekly classes within the next week or so, so in about a year I might be able to describe cats’ behaviour to a Japanese person. 😀

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      • Well, brightoneagle, the allotment cottages are within city limits arranged in a village of sorts. They are necessarily a social affair if anyone is staying nearby at the same time. The allotment itself is just big enough for you to put a table and chairs there and grow some vegetables, etc., but that’s about it. Compare that to a real summer cottage on a lakeside or at seaside with sauna, etc., where you really get to wash all unwanted interactions and disturbances out of your hair unless you get saddled with an obnoxious neighbour.

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  2. Pingback: An Insider’s Guide to Helsinki | Hey Helsinki

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