Woke up early with great anticipation for our walking tour of Helsinki. We were met promptly at the cathedral by our guide Ansie (forgive my Americanized spelling!). Ansie greeted each one of us in the group. According to Ansie, Helsinki does not get many tourists due to its physical location being far away from the rest of the European nation and its close proximity to Russia. (Www.walkingtourshelsinki.com)
Our tour began promptly at noon from the Cathedral. Ansie said that as a whole, most Finns are not religious. 78% being Lutheran, 1% Russian orthodox, and 26% have separated from the church. Since most Finns do not support the church, 1.5% of each paycheck goes directly to the church. Some Finns have chosen to separate from the church by going online to separatechurch.com and declaring their separation. By doing so, it allows them to keep the 1.5% on their check!!
One perk Finns do enjoy is the law that says an employee must receive 5 weeks vacation each year. They work approximately 6 hours per day allowing for time off for other activities as well as family time. It is mandatory to receive 2 days off per month.
Speaking of perks, the Finns are the originators of the sauna. There is one sauna for every two Finns. Not only is the sauna beneficial for ones health, it is also used for socialization aspects. It is not uncommon to visit the sauna, drink a beer or two, and talk. Ansie said the Finns love getting naked in the sauna and it is quite normal. He said it is one of the few places say a common person can be sitting across from a CEO or someone important, and yet when naked in the sauna you are their equal.
Speaking of naked, we visited a statue known as the naked lady!
This statue is a symbol of Helsinki. Back when Helsinki had a conservative government theirs statue was commissioned from an artist. However the government decided they did not want to pay for it after all. So the artist pointed the lady’s ass facing towards city hall!! Quite a clever artist!!
Russia and Finland share a 150km border between the 2 countries. Russia takes care of the border. Ansie said men only are required to serve , 6, 9, or 12 months in the Finnish army. This is determined by an aptitude test. Finns are very peaceful people and do not get involved in war. They are confident they can beat the Russians as they already have twice before. Upon completion of your service, you are free to resume normal life. Some join the U.N. And go serve in the Peace Corp.
While eating lunch, I gave this further thought. In the U.S. We are always putting our nose in other countries business and fighting their battles. This creates great strain on the country and forces us to have allies as well as enemies. And let’s not forget the economical strain and resources it takes to manage an army and fight. My curiosity go the best of me so I struck up a conversation with a couple next to me. They explained that Finland continues to remain politically neutral and mind their own business. The woman said they are always conscious of “big brother” (Russia) watching them. For this reason they do not wish to makes friends with other countries because it does not put them in a favorable light with Russia. They depend on Russia for oil, wood, gas and electricity. The Fnns need Russia, but Russia does not no them for anything. As a matter of fact, the Finns are upset that The U.S. Is bringing troops to Finland next week for training. They feel this will put them in a bad light to Russia as if they were trying to become an ally, while they wish to remain neutral. As this couple were leaving, the man said to me he had one piece of advice “never trust a Russian!”
At the close of my day, I felt knowledgable about the people and their beliefs. Finns are a very mild mannered, kind people and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit!
Next stop Reykjavik Iceland! Safe journey,