Capital | Helsinki
Population | 5,255,068 (July 2010 est.)
Area | 337,030 SQ KM
Official Language | Finnish, Swedish
Holidays | Independence Day, 6 December (1917)
Currency | euros
Time Zone | UTC + 2
Best Time to Visit | May to September to avoid the cold and dark
Connecting with the Culture | Walking around the harbourside fish market in Helsinki – where one can find everything from salmon and sausages to handicrafts and all manner of reindeer-related souvenirs. Spending time among the ramparts of the historic fortress on Suomenlinna Island. Boating around the islands of Ekenas Archipelago National Park. Staying overnight in one of Hanko’s charming Russian villas. Seeing the aurora borealis – nature’s Arctic light show.
Read | anything by Aleksis Kivi, who founded modern Finnish literature with Seven Brothers, a story of brothers who try to escape civilization in favor of the forest.
Listen | to Finnish jazz musician Raoul Bjorkenheim
Watch | Aki Kaurismaki’s The Man Without a Past, the story of a man who loses his memory and becomes homeless.
Eat | snow goose, reindeer stew or glow fired salmon
Drink | salmiekkikoshka (a home-made spirit combining dissolved liquorice or peppermint flavored sweets with the abrasive kokenkova (vodka)
In a Word | sisu (often translated as ‘guts’, epitomizing Finnish reliance)
Characteristics | Fish; beating oneself with a fragrant branch of birch leaves in a sauna; the aurora borealis; reindeers
Surprises | The world’s largest smoke sauna in Kuopio; the world’s most popular surf instrumentalists are Finnish band Laika and the Cosmonauts