Have you ever felt that you want something done, but are afraid to do it?
Ever experienced that sense of not being good enough to own the best of what life can give? Or maybe you’ve had that sensation of feeling guilty after having a little too much of the pleasurable life? Life sometimes works that way. One moment it gives you all the struggles, but then in a split of a second, it gives you everything you want. It’s a roller coaster ride, complete with the ups and downs as well as the twists and turns that make you dizzy and scared.
But despite all these, we still survive because that’s what human nature is. We endure and persist in order to exist because we believe that everything is possible. All our dreams can come true even when it seems impossible at some point. Life can indeed be so hard sometimes, but above all these things, there is always a reward for a job well done. This could be in an intangible form, like your family’s love and support, or maybe concrete thing, like having to travel and enjoy the sceneries of some countries other than our own. And when this finally happens, grab it and make the most out of it, because as they always say, “Opportunity knocks only once.”
Begin your much-deserved reward in Finland, situated in the Fennoscandian region of northern Europe, together with the Scandinavian Peninsula, Karelia, and Kola Peninsula. The origin of the country’s name is still debated up until today, but many scholars believe that the word Finland first emerged from three rune-stones found in Sweden and Gotland. With the engravings finlonti and finlandi, it is assumed that the inscriptions are related to the tribal people of Finns from AD 98. The country’s capital is Helsinki and is considered as the center of tourism, owing to the different landmarks that can be found within.
Probably the best place to get acquainted with what Finland has offer, Helsinki is filled with various attractions that tell its country’s rich history and unparalleled personality. Situated on the southern part of Finland, the metropolis was first named Helsinge fors, which means “The Helsing rapids”. The name soon evolved from Helsinge or Helsing to its current name Helsinki.
Lying along the Gulf of Finland, the city takes pride of its picturesque waterfront that appeals to many local and foreign visitors. This strategic location is one of the reasons why it was called “Daughter of the Baltic”.
As you roam around the city, you will see how the past meets the present through its many structures. Modernity is greatly incorporated with the old Scandinavian architectures and designs, especially those of which are found in the old downtown near the Arabianranta area.
Just by walking along its roads and passageways, you can already feel that your Finnish vacation is well worth it. Taking in the cold breeze from the marina is a treat in itself. But, the unique sights and adventure do not stop there. The harbor also offers motorboat rides to give passengers a panoramic view of the metropolis.
After soaking yourself with enough salty air and water in the north harbor, take a trip to two of Finland’s most iconic monuments, said to be built in honour of very influential people.
First up is the Sibelius Monument of the Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö. The structure was erected to commemorate Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who is known for outlandish but beautiful musical pieces that have played a vital part in establishing the country’s national identity.
Designed by sculptor Eila Hiltunen, the art work is greatly popular among travellers for its unusual wave-like shape made up of more than 600 hollow steel pipes and weighing over 24 tons. The memorial was opened for public viewing on September 7, 1967, and now has smaller replicas in the United Nations offices in Paris and New York. And while you’re at Töölö, take the chance to walk around the Töölönlahti Bay, a park well known for its quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
The next stop is Helsinki Cathedral, which is built during the1800s as a majestic tribute for Tsar Nicholas I, the Grand Duke of Finland. Designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, the cathedral’s neoclassical façade consists of a large green dome that is surrounded by four smaller ones, as well as white pillars similar to the Greek Parthenon. Once known as Saint Nicholas’ Church, this edifice was constructed on the same site of the Ulrika Eleonora Church and has witnessed renovations and developments throughout the years.
Best seen during the night, the cathedral also boasts of the statue of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Surrounding the church are old and new market squares as well as the Helsinki City Hall, which is also open for tourists to visit and explore.
From water to land and back again
Moving from the monuments, have a different kind of picnic in the Ruoholahti Canal, situated in the Länsisatama locality and Kampinmalmi district. Spend the day sitting along the banks while eating a sumptuous meal. One can see some office buildings surrounding the canal, like the High Tech Centre (HTC) designed by Kai Wartiainen in 2001. Shoreline restaurants serving a variety of Finnish delicacies can also be seen along the banks.
Also a must-see attraction is the sea fortresses of Suomenlinna. Once used as a military base during the wars, the fortifications consists of six islands namely Kustaanmiekka, Susisaari, Iso-Mustasaari, Pikku-Mustasaari, Länsi-Mustasaari, and Långören. It was once called Sveaborg (or the Fortress of Svea and Viapori), but the Finns decided to rename into Suomenlinna, which means Castle of Finland.
With its main purpose of protecting the main land from the Russian invasion, it is shocking to know that the area is now a favorite spot for picnics and family outings especially during the summer. Structures such as the Vesikko (a Finnish Submarine used during the war), the Naval Academy, and some residential areas can also be seen in the islands, making it more interesting and appealing to a lot of travellers from around the globe.
Christmas is in the air
Treat yourself to an early Christmas present in the Finnish National Theatre, located north of the Helsinki Central Railway Station. Founded and designed in 1872 by Onni Tarjanne, the playhouse is considered as the oldest one in Finland that still uses the Finnish language. Inside, you will see the main stage called Suuri näyttämö, including three smaller stages named as the Pieni näyttämö, Willensauna Stage, and Omapohja studio.
A Restaurant-club entertainment area has also been opened inside the theater for late night escapades filled with music, drama, and poetry. Also a unique feature in front of the building is the statue of the famous Finnish romantic writer Aleksis Kivi.
For your early Christmas shopping, head to the Stockmann, a popular department store that offers a variety of branded products from fashion to food. Established by Georg Franz Stockmann, it is considered as the biggest department store in Finland. Some of the features found inside the building include the Stockan Kello or Stocky’s Clock, which is visible from the main entrance, and the Stockmann Herkku, a food and beverage section known for its delicious selections.
And if you’re hungry for more authentic Finnish experiences, take a cab to the Rovaniemi or more popularly known as Santa Claus’ hometown. Cross out some items from your Christmas wish list as the place offers a variety of recreational opportunities, shops, boutiques, and restaurants that answer your wants and needs. Attractions in the area include the Lappia House, the town hall, and the Jätkänkynttilä Bridge that crosses the Kemijoki Rivet. The Rovaniemi also takes pride in its ever famous Santa Claus Village, situated at the Arctic Circle, as well as the Santa Park, which masses of people visit during the yuletide season. If you’re lucky, you can even witness dazzling displays of the Aurora Borealis from here.
Impossible made possible
When we were still growing up, we often hear people, especially our parents, telling us that everything we want is possible and that our dreams are just a few feet away. All we have to do is to grab it and relish what we have. But, as we grow older, our confidence wavers. Life throws us so many challenges that we become scared of facing our problems and we try to escape from them. Doubts and insecurities soon hinder us from accomplishing what we want.
But as what Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” All we have to do is believe in ourselves and do everything to make the impossible possible. Or maybe, what I’m trying to say is: MAKE IT HAPPEN. Then, you’ll know that a reward lies at the end, waiting for you to grab and make the best of it.
Seize your dreams. Start it with Finland.