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Summary: Finland is in northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia, and is mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills. The Finns have made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy roughly equal with the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.
Time Zone: DST +0300 UTC
Languages: Finnish, Swedish
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: Finland has a cold temperate climate that is potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of the moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, the Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes.
Helsinki: The town of Helsinki was founded by decree of King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden in 1550 as a new trading post in southern Finland. The cultural and economic center of the country, it offers 18th century churches, the Senaatintori (Senate Square), familiar from movies for Gorky Park and Reds, and quiet parks and lakes near the fountain of the 1952 Olympic village.
Suomenlinna Island: Built in 1747, this island fortress once had a population greater than Helsinki herself, and still serves tourists with the Nordic Art Centre, as well as art galleries, restaurants, and cafes. Find the Ehrensv?d Museum, one of the best museums in the region and in a great environment to explore and hike, making it a good day trip. Visitors come through the Gulf of Finland on ferries from nearby Helsinki.
Saunas: Saunas are a surprisingly large part of social entertainment in a resort or visiting a friend. Interstingly enough, the World Sauna Championship is held annually in Heinola.
Midsummer's Day: An interesting part of this festival involves tar: a large bonfire is made on the beach over a pit made of tar. Locals will dance, eat sausages, drink vodka, and a week later, they collect the tar and from it, they make soap, candy, and tar for the roads.
Traffic Signals: Signals tend to be thoroughly respected. It is not unusual to be stuck at a light at 3am, with pedestrians that will not cross, even though the streets are empty.
When To Visit: Being at such a high latitude, July is the best time to visit and have a taste of Finnish culture, while experiencing the mildest time of year. Midsummer festivals will capture your interest, while jazz and opera festivals will keep you entertained.
Food: Finnish food is inspired by Sweden, France, and Russia, and includes basics like fresh salmon and smoked reindeer steak. An interesting local drink is the tart cloudberry wine.
Tipping: It is usually not necessary to tip, as a service charge is included in the bill for hotels, restaurants and other services. Exceptions are normally specified.