We have had such a lovely time in Finland. The entire two weeks were spent enjoying the best food, drink, scenery, company & conversation. We camped. We rode bikes in the archipelago between Finland and Sweden. When my leg began to hurt, we were rescued by a wonderful couple who are destined to become longtime friends. They hosted us, fed us, and helped us rent a 1600cc motorbike. We skinny dipped in pristine lakes amongst wild moose and deer. We drank apple cider and ate delicious dark rye bread, Karelian pies with egg butter, baby carrots in cream thickened with spelt and tempered with a pinch of brown sugar, new potatoes drenched in butter with dill, sea salt and black pepper, blueberry rhubarb pie, squeaky cheese with cloudberry jam, and fresh salads with grilled haloumi cheese and dried berries. We had fresh chanterelles from the forests of nearby Estonia. Our fingers are stained red from strawberries both wild and cultivated. We enjoyed countless fresh peas, popping them straight from the pods into our mouths, while sitting on the edge of the Baltic sea, or in a green park in Helsinki, or in a lake, on an island. We had coffee and cardamom rolls while waiting out a thunderstorm in the town of Navu. We devoured top notch Thai food on a tiny island, after a blissful private sauna that included lots of scrubbing and cans of cider that stayed surprisingly cold in the 90°C air, at a place called Bjorkslund's Batslip. We went to a 15 year old girl's communion party, where we were invited to the neighbor's wine cellar to drink a delicious bottle of Spanish Albarino wine. We had a picnic on the fortress island of Suomenlina, watching cruise ships navigate treacherous & narrow straights.
And we window shopped... because Finland is not only one of the prettiest places I have ever been, but also one of the most expensive. If not for the open hearted generosity of the people we met and are visiting, we'd be deep, deep into the black. But do not despair, budget travelers! If you are willing to camp, picnic, and get off the beaten path, you too can have a blissful, vegetarian and affordable adventure in this often overlooked wonderland. And if you open yourself up to the people you meet, you'll find some of the warmest, friendliest people ever.
My shortlist of tips for the shoestring veggie-voyager coming to Finland: bring a tent, sleeping gear, leatherman, swimsuit, sunblock, wind breaker, and mosquito repellant. If you plan to visit saunas, bring body products like scrubbers, moisturizers (oils) and exfoliants to enhance your experience. Be willing to eat rye, dairy and eggs, as there is butter, cheese, rye or eggs in most of the vegetarian options. If you are vegan, get ready for lots of fresh, raw veggies and fruits. Many people we met were either vegetarian or pescatarian, and most people are very concerned with the origins of their food and with the current Monsanto/GMO crisis. Restaurants are very expensive; you'll spend 15-20 euros easily per person. Apple cider is more common than beer. Luomo means organic. Pretty much every one speaks English, so you'll have no trouble communicating if you don't speak Finnish. In the summer there are tiny wild strawberries that taste like candy growing in the countryside. I could go on and on... But that should cover the basics.
When I get back home, and have a real keyboard (using slide mode on a tablet here...) I'll start posting some recipes. But if you want a taste of a Finland summer, here's a suggested menu for you!
Boil a couple of pounds of baby potatoes in some water with a few generous pinches of sea salt. Drain. Serve while still hot, with fresh butter, dill, black pepper and sea salt. Allow your guests to dress their own! If you can get some fresh chanterelle mushrooms, simply saute them in butter with a pinch of salt. Serve this with fresh peas still in the pod, hot toasted rye bread, more butter, and bottles of cold hard apple cider. Enjoy a big salad with tender new lettuce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Dessert could be a bowl of ripe strawberries, fresh whipped cream, and some good dark chocolate. Simple, easy, elegant and YUM!
Until next time, hugs to you all.