Finland is a land of islands and has more than any other country in the world. Nearly seventy per cent of its area is populated by forests and roughly ten per cent is covered by water. This makes Finland a haven to fishermen, cross-country skiers and mountain-bikers. During the relatively short summer months, people like to unwind at traditional wooden cottages, passing the time with some fishing or leisurely swimming before partaking in a sauna, and even a glass of kossu (Finnish vodka).
Finland's culture has developed in the shadow of a tug-of-war between Sweden and Russia. Its language is Finno-Ugric and its culture has been shaped by Baltic, German and Finnish people. It has approximately 1.6 million saunas, and this pastime along with being the birthplace of Nokia, are two of Finland's finest gifts to world culture and human progression. Finns love to party and this comes to the fore during the country's midsummer festivals. Most large towns have nightclubs where live bands and DJ's can be enjoyed. In country villages, traditional country dancing is also still popular today.
Food and Drink
Fish, especially Salmon, is a huge part of Finnish cuisine. It is cooked fresh, but also smoked or picked, then eaten cold. Lunch is the main meal of the day and bear meat is often on the menu and plates of diners. In Lapland, it is also traditional to eat sautéed Reindeer. In the summer and autumn, berries and wild-growing mushrooms appear, and the menus of gourmet restaurants fizz with delicate examples of these. Finland produces delicious desserts and drinks more coffee than anywhere else in the world. After a meat-laden main meal, the two can be perfectly combined. Pullat (sweet cardamom-flavoured buns) are traditionally eaten with coffee. Other widely consumed drinks include spiced mulled wines and mixed fruit soda.
Finland's first dwellers were the Sami (Lapp) people. When Finnish speakers migrated in the first millennium B.C. the Sami moved to the arctic regions. In 1157, after frequent attacks on the Scandinavian coast, the Swedish King, Eric IX conquered Finland. He converted the country to Christianity and declared it part of the Swedish Kingdom. From the very early eighteen century, Russian was its official language, and this continued for over one hundred years. In 1917, Finland revolted. Independence was declared in December 1917. Nearly four decades later, Finland and Russia signed a treaty committing to a collaborative and cooperative future. In February 1944, a Social Democrat named Martti Ahtisaari, won the country's first direct presidential election. Finland joined the European Union in January 1995 and was one of Eleven European counties, who in 1999 began using the Euro.