With an abundance of untamed land, the cost of it has stayed relatively affordable in the rural areas of the Northern countries. This, together with rapid urbanization, has resulted in steadily growing enthusiasm in summer cottages as second homes over the past century for Finns, Norwegians and Swedes. Finns have their mökki, Norwegians their hytte and the Swedes their sommarstuga – all related in their role as a way to recharge and relax in a more remote hideaway. Relocating to the cottage during vacations and weekends is a treasured ritual; a way to escape the everyday routines of urban life by being closer to nature and enjoying a more traditional way of living. Cabins are still built and kept in a relatively basic form with many not having running water or electricity. To keep the feeling authentic to heritage and roots, cottages are decorated with nostalgic Finnish design details and a minimalistic aesthetic. A substantial amount of Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as large-scale urbanization is a relatively recent phenomenon. This has in turn resulted in a cottage tradition that is entwined with the national identity. The amount of summer places has surpassed half a million, which for a population of 5.5 million, is a considerable number taking into account that many of the places are shared with family and relatives.
If you visit Finland’s capital Helsinki in July, the city will seem hollow of locals, as most people will have retreated to their summer places. For some, staying at the often quite stripped-down cabin is about spending time with family and friends, while for others it is more of a chance to catch some meditative time alone. Yet, no matter what your preferences, it is nature that plays the key role in this primitive habit. Sauna, swimming and being outdoors are all part of the experience that is about reconnecting with one’s roots and soaking in the splendor of the wild and the free usually at a close proximity to one of the thousands of lakes or the extensive coastline. For Northern people there is almost something sacred in the feeling of aliveness and oneness with nature that can be experienced during a late night sauna in the soft, pink light of the midnight sun followed by a dip or two into a silent lake that greets you with its smooth, sweet water; or in basking in the heat of the bright July sun, stretched out on the raw but hot skerries hugged by a glistening Baltic Sea.
However, being close to nature is not reserved for those who have access to summer cabins. The Northern countries are cherished for their awe-inspiring national parks; immense areas of pure wilderness covered by forests and lakes. Finland has just established - as a celebration of its 100th year of independence - its 40th national park in Hossa, close to the southeast border of Lapland. There you can walk around for hours in silence comforted by the bright spruce-pine forests and shimmering, fish-filled waters. Hossa also encompasses dark primeval forests, the rugged canyon river of Julma-Ölkky and cave paintings dating back almost 4000 years. The national parks are charming representations of the coexistence of man and nature; they are places where you can experience a time stopping silence, magical hiking trails, peaceful kayaking, wondrous wildlife and cozy pockets for setting up a tent. And much to the visitors’ joy, everyone can enjoy these mosaics of green and blue freely thanks to the Right of Public Access.