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Travels in Finland (with a bit of sisu* thrown in)

20th December 2018

The Honest Tribe by Max Boyle, travels in Finland.

Travels in Finland

The Honest Tribe certainly introduces the reader to Finland and its ways. The country is quite an unusual choice for a travel memoir and offers something different and engaging.

The author took a couple of trips to the country at different times of the year and brings his experiences and musings all together in this travelogue around the southern part of the country. No swish hotels for him but lodges and hostels which no doubt gave a more authentic feel for the country. Much of his travel is by local bus.

He actually sets off on his journeys from Estonia, and lands in Finland ready to explore the culture and life. It seems quite a sober culture (not, of course in terms of alcohol consumption) but his early and overwhelming observation seems to be that many places are closed when you might expect them to be open.

He also has in hand a copy of a diagram (from the book “Finland, Cultural Lone Wolf” (2005) by Richard D Lewis – here on the left) citing the qualities of the typical Finn. He then goes on to stick the diagram under the noses of some of the people he encounters, to ascertain what they think of the list of epithets describing the Finns. *Sisu is the recognisable favourite (at the top of the triangle), a never-give-up attitude. Of course, as I write this post in Britain, at the end of 2018, it seems a perfect description of the present incumbent of no.10 Downing Street and clearly she has this dogged determination honed by the Finns running through her veins. Honesty too (oh, I could continue the political debate here, but I shall not labour the point) is very much one of the Finnish values – you might drop a wallet in the street and be pretty certain it will be returned to you.

The author’s travels take him to all kinds of places which he describes with aplomb and colour. The proof-reading, with the complex Finnish names, must have been a real nightmare!  The islands of Suomenlinna are on every tourist’s itinerary, or at least they should be. Turku is well-known as the a**hole of Finland, but no-one can quite say why; a quick visit to Tempppeliaukio church and environs, and on to Seinäjoki, where they don’t seem bothered to court tourists. You can find out what the Lockster Dreadshop is in Tampere and discover that Ostrobothnia is the Wild West of the country (where they think “big” apparently) and learn that heavy metal is overall very popular in the country.

This is an interesting amble around the country of Finland. Without necessarily knowing the age of the writer (he does mention on a few occasions his age bracket), one could nevertheless make an accurate guess based on the writing style. Blighty…ship-shape and Bristol fashion… to be summoned thither… are, to my mind, turns of phrase that feel just a tad old-fashioned. Added to which there are descriptions aplenty of the pert (mostly) young women he encounters on his travels, again something that a male traveller of a certain age might flag. You will also find out that his point of reference for most things is Huddersfield.

This is an entertaining and informed memoir which will be of interest for anyone wishing to find out more about Finland.

“The world could learn much from Finland and would in many cases do well to emulate its people…” He is clear, however, that Finland is not easy on the pocket!

Tea with tar, anyone?

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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