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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Long Gone Days

It must be something which is growing on me, probably because of I’m getting older. Starting into my sixties for good last year, things and perspectives seem to change. And when a neighbour borrow us a bunch of vintage National Geographic Magazines I cannot but devour them like a hungry lion.
The magazines span from 1947 to 1968.
Soviet Russia – long gone
The Sami People in the far north of Finland remain

The youngest one from 1968 I looked at first, contains an article about Finland, a country our family got a special interest for in 1969.
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I was 17 years old at the time and had enjoyed a correspondence with a girl from Finland. It all came through my middle school where they had introduced us to an international correspondence exchange with youth from all over the world. (Today they send students as exchange students to other countries) I had put my name in and weeks later I received a letter written in a somewhat less than perfect German. In fact we all had a lot of fun with it. Her name was Laila. She had a twin sister named Liisa. You notice the double i’s?  It’s a typical spelling in the Finnish language, which by the way is almost in comprehendible for foreigners. They were twins and not easy to tell apart.


Guess who’s that…

Anyway, as the correspondence developed my parents had the idea of visiting Finland and In the summer of 1969, the idea became reality. Our 12’ travel trailer was packed and we took a ferry from Kiel, Germany to Gothenburg, Sweden. From there we traveled all the way around the Baltic Sea, stopped at the Polar Circle in the Finnish town of Rovaniemi, then turned south again right into the heart of Finland where my corresponding girl friend was living way out on the country side with her uncle, an aunt and her twin sister Liisa. The sisters were so much like each other that we never knew who was who.

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Laila in their row boat on Syväri lake                     The twins, their uncle and my parents

They lived on a little farm by a lake called Syväri, and it was the most idyllic looking place one can imagine. It seemed time had stopped here 20 years earlier. They had no fridge, no bathroom and no modern kitchen. Food was kept in an underground cellar outside of the house, and they had an outhouse for a bathroom. They were incredibly happy people. They taught us a lot about their simple way of life.
Me, Liisa (or was it Laila?) and my brother

When they had a laundry day they fired up a big iron pot down by the lake. That’s where the laundry was cooked and stirred with a giant paddle. Afterwards they took it all out on the little dock and rinsed the laundry in the lake. Then it was hung to dry in the warm breeze of the Finnish summer. They had a rowboat and I remember I took Laila out on the lake. She showed me small islands and I think we had a great time. Finnish children learned German in school. They leaned English as well. Finland had  a good educational system in place.

One day we took the girls to the nearest city – Kuopio. They had hardly ever been there. They were dressed up for the occasion.

One thing you will always find on Finnish properties is a SAUNA.  The Taskinens had one too. My parents tried it and got out again like red lobsters. When we drove around the country side on a Saturday afternoon, we saw many small little houses (saunas) with steam rising out of  every crack.

After 2 weeks we had to leave. We went to Helsinki, or Helsingfors as it is called in Swedish, then went to Turku and from there back to Stockholm and finally to the ferry in Gothenburg.

I can say that this journey back in 1969 was the most important one I have ever been on. It made me an RVer and it made me understand that the simple ways of living are the best. It had filled me with a longing to live in a northern hemisphere and it sure was the reason why I ended up in Norway in 1977 and later in Canada.

Sadly, I lost contact with the girls and their family. I went back on my own in 1974 but when arriving at their place it looked deserted. Times change and sometimes these changes are not good. I don’t know what happened to that little family, I hope it wasn’t something bad.


  1. an interesting story from long ago memories, thanks for sharing.

  2. So glad you shared this story and pictures with us. You were quite the dashing young man.

  3. Books,smell or picture can bring back memories and put us on a trip back in time.
    I hope that we will not come to times where we go to a doctor and he gives us an injection that will make us think that we "were" there...


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