We come from a small country, me and Ellis. It’s almost comically small. Driving from one side to the other only takes a couple of hours and so every distance we have to travel for things like work, visiting family, seeing a band, seems long. Sometimes excruciatingly so. An hours commute to work? You have to be kidding me! Driving nearly two hours to get to Ellis’ parents? Pull someone else’s leg! I mean, they have a swimming pool and all, but is it worth the trip? Think again.
But that comically small country, it’s crowded. I mean, put us all on a big pile and you get…well, I don’t know and I don’t think we should try. But there’s a lot of us, Dutch folks.
The Scandinavian countries we’ve been traveling through, they have always felt bigger to me. That’s probably because they are, but also, it felt like there should be more of ‘them’. The Netherlands have 17 million people squeezed into this tiny piece of land? Then surely there’ll be millions and millions more of them. So when we drove into Finland last week I expected to find some people.
Well, if you haven’t caught up to where I’m going with this: there’s nearly no one here. You can drive for miles and miles and not find a single soul. So I did some hard online research, opened Wikipedia and read…5,5 million people. That’s not even a third of home. What do they do with all this extra land? Is it just no man’s land? Acres of untouched, raw, natural beauty?
Well, it’s some of that. But we also found something else. We found a national obsession at the end of each road, the edge of every lake and at the foot of every hill. It’s summer homes. Endless and endless numbers of summer homes. And yes, they all—truly all—have a sauna.
Finland is the land of everyman’s right, and it seems everyman’s right is to own a summer home.