There were some moments this Christmas that are burnt into my consciousness for eternity. One was the frozen sea and the wonderful summer house of my hosts, and the other was a walk that I went on with the dogs on Christmas Day.
The frozen sea was one of my previously envisioned travel pictures. Even before I left Germany, I told friends and acquaintances that I would like to see the frozen sea in my lifetime and that me going to travel the world, was a way to make sure this would happen. I felt that I would get lucky in Finland without knowing anything about the country and the climatic conditions. The sea in Finland is in fact frozen quite often but by no means every year or in every place. If the sea had not been frozen in Kalajoki, I don't know if I could have seen it before arriving in Greenland. And who knows if I'll make it to Greenland? Until then, it's still quite far. I stood on the ice on shaky legs, with a wide grin, surrounded by my AuPairBoys and my Finns just behind me in the beautiful summer house. The blue ice glittered in the golden light. The small summer house sat directly on the beach, and there was a fire waiting inside. It was nothing more, quite simple. But for me, it was more atmospheric than I could've ever imagined.
If I have to explain why I consider these moments to be worthy of being told, I find no satisfactory answer. Perhaps it's the feeling of comfort, of security, which I leave behind on my journey so regularly. Perhaps these moments are intensified because I feel them so rarely. Maybe. I don't know.
At Christmas, my host mum and her mother were standing in the kitchen to prepare the food. To contribute to the success of the day, I took the dogs out. They had been fighting all day, and they weren't tired of proving to each other who was the strongest. From time to time, they broke into deafening quarrels, which not only strained my nerves. I tried to give them a little workout and meant to return after twenty minutes. I looked forward to it. I would be able to enjoy a few minutes in the freshly fallen snow. I had made my plans without acknowledging the five-inch-thick layer of ice hidden underneath the fresh snow. It was incredibly slippery. As an inexperienced dog-guide with two animals, I caused a few entanglements with the dogs leashes.
I ventured ahead, following a straight bike path into the forest. Everything was white. From time to time a few needles appeared from the white-covered tree tops. I ran past small wooden sheds, the walls of which were large pieces of ancient, grey, irregular, and half-weathered planks. I walked on untouched snow covers, past huge wooden houses, with a whole series of cars standing in the driveway and barking dogs behind fences. In the distance, I imagined hearing a hunting horn accompanied by dogs barking (wich is very unlikely, since the Finns, do not hunt with horns). Slowly the sun started to disappear behind the trees, and I decided to return home.
It was easier said than done. Once again I had underestimated the snow. In the meantime, it had made the crossroads unrecognisable to the eyes of a city girl like me. To this day I don't know where I went wrong on my straight path into the forest. I would arrive on the other side of town a good hour later and thanks to my phone navigation without my personal Finnish taxi service.
I walked through the seemingly endless forest. The dogs looked at me completely unimpressed and slightly disparaging. I came through small settlements, past large garages, old and new, large and small houses. Sometimes I returned for long stretches of the way because the path suddenly turned in the opposite direction. At dusk, the families in the settlements began to put torches into the driveways. As in the afternoon in the cemetery, there was a row of lights fighting the darkness and the coldness of the snow. Candles are always beautiful and atmospheric, but outside, at night, in the fresh air, in the cold it's even more enchanting. In addition to the Christmas lights in the trees and on shrubs, the arcs of lights in the windows and the cars, this was a charming picture. In this scenery, I saw families come together. The old people came in new vehicles and the young people in old ones. Some of them brought their dogs with them, and everyone greeted each other with a storm of kisses, hugs and handshakes. From the outside one could follow the people in the brightly lit windows.
All in all, I felt like I walked through a (perfect) opening shot of a French family drama, set in Finland. I say French because I don't want to evoke the image of an American idyll, in which an elaborately painted American woman throws herself into the arms of an American man after overcoming a series of incredibly basic and self-made problems (beware of clichés). I prefer the French variation in which the mother has cuckolded the over-domineering patriarch for years, and the two ungrateful children, besides complicated and unhappy marriages, affairs with babysitters and incestuous tendencies, spill all secrets in passionate tirades. Just for the joy of hurting each other. A more realistic family idyll.
When I finally found my way back to the house, the sun had sunk, my back was sweaty, my cheeks bright red and I, ready for the sofa. However, the sofa had to wait, as my worried Finns sent me directly into the sauna. The first always running sauna of my life (always on, you can jump in spontaneously at any time). I talk about this because the sauna was warm, but not hot and I understood something fundamental about saunas in Finland. It's not a sweat chamber like in Germany. One does not torture oneself with the hopes that one sweats a little, there is no competition and no comparing. I got really cold feet. Only with the infusions, it became comfortable, wet and warm. It's also not a simple steam bath. The steam is damn hot. The first time, my nasal mucous membranes felt like they burned and crumbled inside. Simultaneously, the hot water vapours lay around my body like a weightless blanket. It's a lovely sensation, much like soaking in a bathtub.