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Finland

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Finland

Finland
Finland

Definitely one of Europe's least understood countries, the Republic of Finland is also one of the continent's most enigmatic and unusual places to visit. Scrunched into the eastern pocket of Scandinavia and flanked to the east by the lengthy Russian border almost all the way to the Arctic Sea, this fascinating cultural anomaly stays the most unique of all the Scandinavian nations, having long cultivated a strong and distinctive sense of identity. Finland offers its citizens one of the world's most enviable standards of living, to say nothing of a stellar transport system, cradle-to-grave infrastructure and extremely safe cities and towns. Tack on to this a hip, happening and ridiculously walkable capital, and an enviable range of national parks, birch forests and pristine waterways - rivers that empty out into the Baltic and Bothnian seas, as well as nearly 200,000 inland lakes - and you can see why Finns have kept their fabulous country a secret.





Finland was long a pawn played between the rulers of the Swedish and Russian empires, but since its independence in 1917, the country has fully come into its own. That Finns speak a language unrelated to most European tongues has not made being accepted any easier, of course though their near native fluency in English understandably has.





Even so the Finns ties to their own history and traditions should not be underrated. This is by far the most ethnically homogenous nation in the EU, with very little foreign immigration though the countenance of the country is changing, especially in the capital. Since Finland was part of both Sweden and Russia for eons, it has only lately had the opportunity to play any decisive role in European matters - and it has risen to the occasion with strong social democratic principles, a superb welfare and social service system and an interest in the environment and sustainable industry that is decades ahead of many other nations. Though altogether Finns tend to be more taciturn, introverted and reserved than other Nordic peoples, once they invite you into their homes and their saunas you will find them to be extremely welcoming, good humored and great fun.

And even though Finland is one of Europes largest countries geographically, it maintains a reliable railway system that stretches from the far south all the way up to Rovaniemi in the Arctic north, covering most all major cities in between and when trains do not go to some of the smaller settlements, buses generally will. The many islands that make up Finlands archipelagoes, meanwhile, are linked by regular (and often free) ferries. The bulk of visitors are drawn to the major cities of Helsinki, Turku and Tampere all sizable settlements with a striking small-town charm. Still, it would be a shame to miss some of the more pastoral areas of the country many of them gorgeous, Arcadian little settlements - especially as Finlands sense of place in the modern world is strongly tied to the past of its rural villages. After the sauna and monster mask heavy metal bands, Finland is perhaps best known for its great outdoors : millions of acres of forests, plains, meadows, rivers, lakes, islands and beaches.










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