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.
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.
And then the most amazing thing happened. I came across a village of mini houses, set amongst the trees.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
City Cottage – Inside a modern-day example of one of these summer cottages
Little House on the Baltic – the story of the owners