Finland has the best winter in the world, that is beyond any doubt. Few countries can boast of having an ice and snow season that in some regions last until May. But the truth is that the cold will soon be left behind and now that good weather is approaching, it is time to think again of one of the favorite activities of the Finns: enjoy their summer cottages.
Why Finns like so much to have a cabin in some remote place, preferably in the middle of a forest or near a lake, to which escape in search for silence and peace of mind?
In the 1960s sociologists from all over the world began to write about the escape from the countryside. However, in Finland nowadays foreigners may be surprised by the escape of the native population to the countryside, as the towns and cities empty at the weekends in summer.
According to an article included in the book Finland, a cultural encyclopedia published by the Finnish Literature Society, in the 19th century with the raise of the Romantic movement the countryside and nature began to be considered as a source of true experiences of beauty and authenticity.
For obvious climate reasons, in Finland it was necessary to experience this during summertime and by the end of the century the upper classes began to build villas in the countryside.
Ilkka Nummela, professor of History and author of the article, explains that during the years between both World Wars, the number of those villas quadrupled, as the upper classes of the towns acquired them. In practice, for civil servant families this soon meant that all members moved to the country for the summer holidays at the beginning of June and returned by the end of August.
A dream for families
After the Second World War, along with the intense urbanization experienced by the country, summer cottages became available to almost all the population. Of course those were more simple than villas, but they were built for similar purposes. And as car ownership increased too, cottages could be built on more distant locations and still be visited regularly.
According to this explanation provided by the Finnish Literature Society, already by the end of the 1990s one in four Finnish households had a summer cottage. And considerably more had experienced the summer cottage life through visiting those owned by relatives or friends. Finns have always preferred to own their cabins rather than renting them. The rental market is directed mainly to foreigners, primarily to German tourists.
Therefore, buying or building a summer cottage has been a dream for many Finnish families since the mid 20th century. And this "cottage fever is shared by all social groups, even farmers", remarks Ilkka Nummela in his article.
The first summer cottages built in the post war period were sparsely equipped. People had to carry their own water, electricity was rare and like in very old houses lavatory was built outside, somewhere where the garden ended. Finnish people enjoyed this sort of traditionalism, which Nummela explains that was reinforced by "eating potatoes from one's own garden and fish one had caught oneself".
Nowadays the equipment of these second homes has improved so much that many of them are not very different from actual homes in towns and cities. Hot running water, electricity, television and high-speed internet connections make possible to live in summer cottages all year around. Thus, more and more people who earn their livings in towns and cities spend an increasing part of the year in their own cottages.
This is also evident in the celebration of festivals like Christmas or mid-summer, which some families like to spend at the cottage, in a modest way, in accordance with the agrarian Finnish tradition.