I came to Waasa for the first time in April this year and it was all frozen. Although it was not snowing anymore and the temperatures had risen to 15ºC, the layer of ice on the sea was so thick that it was possible to step on it. “Nah, this is no longer thick… during winter time it is possible to go to Sweden, which is 60km away, using ice skates, something a local wise person once said to me which did make me think.
Waasa is a little peninsula surrounded by hundreds of little islands up north in the Finnish Scandinavia. During the first few days I was hypnotised with this beautiful image of the iced sea, iced land, iced woods, ice fishing with the classical round hole and ice bathing after sauna.
I thought it will last forever… but after a few days that, -at least in my eyes-, thethick lay started to crack and melt right in front of me, with rhythm and blues, very slowly but, at the same time, incredibly fast. It took an imperceptible time to become water. Squared kilometres of ice disappeared.
The land showed up again after the long winter. It was so soaked, so brown, so sticky, so difficult to walk through. Some days later a kind of a death straw-coloured grass appeared together with thousands of puddles and swamps. And then, they came too. Whooper swans, seagulls, ducks and many other flocks of unknown birds synchronising impossible figures.
One day, from dawn til dusk, it all turned into intense green. There was grass everywhere, the sand on the beach was dried and the paths on the woods were walkable. The long day of the bright summer started at the end of June and lasted for almost two full moons.
During this period of light the sunset was at midnightand sunrise around three in the morning, but it was hard to see the difference. It was perfectly clear all day long. Not a sign of darkness. Not even any stars. Sleeping over the first bright nights was challenging but exiting at the same time.
The temperatures went up quickly during July, so I could swim smoothly on the green-browned aromatic baltic water. Hiking through the endless fir tree woods, getting lost in orienteering competitions, experiencing the not anymore spartan summer cottages and, of course, the sauna. Again and again.
This wooden box is a sacred place in Finland. It is basically a way to purify and relax mind and body, but it is also an experience, a culture spread through generations. Maybe because it is warm and easy to clean, the sauna has been used as a delivery room and even a surgery. Nowadays it marks the moment to talk about the important things, because everything seems easier inside this room. There are hundreds of paintings, stories, legends about it… but then there is that “much more” component that you could only understand if you try it. Hot outdoor sauna, sea bath and nice company. You will never forget that.
Some weeks ago the night came back and with her the autumn appeared bouncing yellow leaves down from the trees. The new born baby swans are ready to go south and other little birds are preparing as well for the trip. It is time to get ready for the snow and the long night that is about to come.