I thought for this post I would introduce you to some of my favourite spots I’ve discovered in my new hometown, Oulu. I still find it crazy how the time has flown by and I’ve now been living here for just over a month and starting to feel like I’m getting to know everywhere and easing into my new way of life. I thought would show you my stomping ground with some of the parts of Oulu that I’ve been exploring the last few weeks.
Oulu is the fifth biggest city in Finland, and just over 600km north of Helsinki, the capital. It’s regarded as Finland’s tech capital and is the hometown of the famous Nokia phones. It’s also a coastal town that in the summer is bustling with tourists who make the long venture up north!
As we are so far north and only a few hundred kilometres from the Arctic Circle, we currently experience very short days where the sun will not fully rise before 10am and then will set about 4pm. It’s a huge contrast to Scotland where it is sometimes a bit grey but still light outside. The second factor that’s been a real shock to the system is the cold. This is very hard to explain to people, but the last week has been pretty difficult. It’s been a low of -20 during the day and then we’ve also experienced -30 with the coastal wind chill being added. It’s a huge shock to the system and something you’ve really got to watch in case you get caught out, i.e. don’t walk outside with wet hair…
The thing I find amazing in Finland is life goes on regardless of the weather. They’re a lot hardier than the Scottish for sure!
These shorter days mean that when I get time off from university classes I’ve been very keen to do as much exploring as possible. These are few of my favourite spots I’ve recently discovered.
// Nallikari Beach //
Yes, Finland does have beaches and Oulu isn’t an exception to this. 1.5km from the city centre is Nallikari beach. This is a natural beach that I’ve been told in the summer is a haven for locals and tourists with swimmers commonly taking the plunge into the water.
However, we can only dream of summer but with it being so cold outside instead we can walk over the seawater. This is a crazy experience and really disconcerting as you feel like the ice should crack underneath you!
Really good place to see the sunrise and set, if you feel like braving the extreme cold!
// Oulu Energia Areena //
The second place I’ve been sending time in is the local Ice hockey stadium. Ice Hockey is regarded as one of the national sports of Finland and Oulu is a city that follows and plays it passionately. With me now living in Finland I decided to bite the bullet and experience what a real game of ice hockey looks like.
For those who don’t know ice hockey is pretty much a full contact game where two teams try to score points against one another. In the UK there isn’t so much contact but over here both teams will go flat out with each other to try score more points.
The other difference between the Finnish and the Scottish is that ice hockey is played wherever there is ice. There are outdoor stadiums and pitches where games are commonly played during the week by older men.
It’s been awesome to start following and try to make sense of the fast-paced games.
// Finnish Saunas //
This is something I was told about before I came to Finland and rightly so. The Finnish sauna culture is world renowned and is thought of as one of the keys to the Finnish longer and healthier life. In Finland saunas out number cars and it’s thought that each Finnish house will have one fitted. Having lived in Scotland my whole life I have to admit the only time I’ve experienced a sauna was in the local 5-star hotel!
Since coming to Oulu I’ve become an almost weekly sauna visitor and it’s now one of my favourite ways to chill out and relax. Saunas are a way of life here and people use them to discuss the day’s happenings, business and even politics, with most government buildings even having one fitted.
So, what is involved in a traditional Finnish sauna you ask? Having first showered to rise off before entering, you then sit in the sauna where temperatures are typically between 80 and 90 odd degrees! You do this till you feel on fire, then – and this is where it gets interesting – usually jump straight into snow, or if you feel particularly Finnish, plunge yourself into the freezing cold water of an ice hole and have a swim. You then run straight back into the sauna and warm up. This process is usually repeated three times. So far I’ve found showering off afterwards and then warming up with hot coffee is the best way to revive myself!
It’s been awesome to experience this truly unique culture, however I wouldn’t say the ice hole swimming will be happening again any time soon!
As always, thank you guys for reading and until the next post stay safe and keep exploring.