No togs allowed

When we first moved to Finland we were invited to spend a weekend at a hotel & spa in Imatra. Reading the website before we went I was shocked to read this notice:

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“Oh no,” I said to Jonny. “I know we have to go nude in the sauna but in the pools as well??” Which led to a hilarious discussion about how we would look partaking in the following activities naked:

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I phoned my Finnish sister-in-law who explained that swimsuits are allowed (or togs as we call them in New Zealand), but swim shorts are not.

We understand that board shorts or street wear are not allowed, but swim shorts? As in shorts especially designed for swimming?

In New Zealand and Australia, the alternative – Speedos – are respected swimwear for training, sports events and lifesavers but otherwise most men will opt to wear something bigger to avoid risking ridicule from their friends.

For example, when ex-Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was captured wearing Speedos (or budgie smugglers as they call them) the newspapers had a field day.

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We forgot about this ban on swimming shorts until Miko started swimming lessons recently. When he and Jonathan both turned up in swim shorts they were stopped short by the lifeguard.


Jonny’s preferred style of swim wear

Turns out even swimming shorts on a four-year old are not allowed.


Before they could proceed they each had to choose a pair of swim briefs from a communal basket and put them on before joining the class.


Jonny’s enforced style of swim wear

While I found this highly amusing Jonathan wasn’t so sure. If anything it kept his career as the accompanying parent at swim class very brief indeed.



People Soup

On a beautiful sunny day recently a friend and I decided to take our boys to the Olympic Swimming Stadium. Upon arrival we found our idea was not terribly unique, as the queue snaked out the door.


Once inside we had the choice of four pools – the main pool, a diving pool, a children’s pool & the wading pool.


We opted for the wading pool, which meant we could watch the boys without being in the water the whole time. There’s also a playground and a water slide, which you pay a small fee to use.


The diving pool was busy and an announcement was made over the loud speaker each time the highest platforms were opened for use.


The pools were originally built for the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to the war.The building was completed in time for Helsinki to host the 1952 Summer Olympics and the pools are now open each year from May – September.

I love the way the natural landscape has been kept, with rocks and trees providing places to lie and shelter.


During the war the pools were used to store root vegetables and herring. Here’s hoping that sunny day wasn’t a red herring as we haven’t had such a warm day since.

With up to 5000 people visiting on a good day however, it’s not food you’ll be finding but the phenomenon of a warm crowded swimming pool that I call people soup.

Helsinki Swimming Stadium  ( Uimastadion )

Bringing Cricket to Finland

Trip Advisor is a good way to find things to do in your city. I recommend it even if you have lived somewhere for a long time. A recent browse led me to Pihlajasaari (Rowan Island) – a small island 3km off the coast of Helsinki.


After fearing summer would never come, July has been amazing and it was on a very sunny day that Miko and I walked to Ruoholahti and caught the boat across. They seem to leave every 15 minutes in summer. The return fare is 6 euro and as usual, children under seven travel free.


Pihlajasaari is actually made up of two islands connected by a footbridge. It has an area of about 26 hectares in total and has no permanent residents, although you can camp on the eastern island. There is also a restaurant and a sauna you can hire.


Back on the main beach there’s a gorgeous row of wooden changing sheds. Pihlajasaari is also home to a unisex nudist beach, one of only two in the whole country. That beach apparently has very little sand though and is not suitable for swimming….


The view back to Helsinki is of Länsisatama (West Harbour) where some of the big cruise ships to Tallinn and St Petersburg berth. It’s quite astonishing to be relaxing on the beach, hear a loud noise and then see a huge 3000-passenger ferry the size of a large building come sliding into view.


Miko slept for two hours in the stroller so I enjoyed the luxury of reading my book before he joined me in the water. It’s quite different to the beaches we are used to, as although it is the sea, it is not very salty at all, there is no surf and swimming is hardly affected by the tides.


As we got off the boat on the way home Miko dropped his cricket bat about 10 feet down into the water. I was ready to kiss it goodbye but a small rescue effort was deployed which ended up involving a man in a fishing boat coming across and hauling it out for us. A small cheer went up from the crowd that had gathered, which was really nice considering some may have not even known what a cricket bat was!