In “Covid Winter”, when I was basically locked inside, my mind started to wander. Dream big. Of trips, countries yet to explore, new experiences, adventures. But of course, non of this was possible, if it wasn’t for a job.
Have you ever heard of Vuokatti? It’s a small town in the middle of Finnland, and I never heard of it before, neither. But then maybe you have heard of the EYOF, the European Youth Olympic Festival, kind of Olympic Games for young Europeans. So from 19.-26.3.2022, this sports event took place in Vuokatti. I applied – and was accepted!
But before going to Vuokatti, I decided to spend some time in Helsinki. And to be honest, I didn’t expect much. But then it was love at first sight. Maybe because the weather was sunny, maybe because I met some lovely people, maybe because I had delicious Finnish food, maybe it’s just that Helsinki was overall very nice to me 🙂 *read more about my trip to Helsinki here*
The next big adventure on my trip was a 6h train ride through Finnish nature, heading to Kajaani where I was picked up by another EYOF volunteer.
As team attaché for team Austria I got an important role in the event itself, but as the job description says, it’s mainly important for the Austrian Olympic Team.
After putting up lots of red-white-red Austrian flags in and around the Austrian teams apartments for the olympic feeling, I was invited to join them and walk with the team and wave the flag at the opening ceremony. I have to admit, I’ve never felt patriotic about my home country. But that evening, I sure did!
So besides helping team Austria in solving problems, I got to watch allots of sports & competitions and most importantly: I got to live & experience the Finnish way of live. But even better, I got to share these experiences with wonderful people from all over the world, people I can now call friends!
So before traveling to Finnland, I made my “Finnish bucket list“:
- Cross Country Skiing ✔️
- Ice fishing
- Ice bathing ✔️
- Sauna ✔️
- Northern Lights ✔️
The only thing on my list I didn’t end of doing was ice fishing. But I have to admit I can think of many things that sound more appealing to me, so I’m fine with that. Besides, I did lots of other cool Finnish things I didn’t think of before:
- eat Finnish food (I had creamy salmon soup, mammi, reindeer, elk and bear – even though I guess most Finns never eat bear in the live, but hey, I have!)
- sing karaoke („Den glider in!“ Finns will understand ;))
Of course, when in Finnland, you also want to go and see the northern lights, so we tried that on the first night with clear sky: we just went for a walk to a frozen lake nearby and tried to find a good spot. Walking around, we found a fireplace with a little hut and lots of firewood. So we started a fire (without any matches, just to mention! Call us survivors!) and warmed ourselves there while telling horror stories. And just when we decided to call it, the sky seemed kind of greenish. Our imagination must go crazy, we thought. But then, the green came brighter and sharper. IT WAS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! How cool was that!
We repeated the northern lights hunt at the fire place almost every evening, with always other people joining. Every evening was special and a highlight of each day.
The other really cool thing I tried was cross country skiing: Siiri opted to be my private instructor and Roy and Angela decided to join us.
So first: those skis are so light and thin! But they do whatever they want. Luckily, there are those tracks and they stay in their track most of the time. But not all the time!!! And then I just have no clue how one is supposed to control them! But being a fairly good alpine skier and ice skater, my body kind of knew what to do and after some shaky first laps, we decided to go and follow a track to wherever it would lead. Once we gained some confidence, we really got to enjoy the beauty of Finnlands nature as the tracks led us through the forest, along some lakes, up and down some hills (SO scary!!)
And I even got to keep my skis overnight, so instead of a 40minutes walk home, I decided to take my skis and go the Finnish way. And then ski back to work the next morning.
When you enjoy every moment and there’s constantly something going on, time flies. So the EYOF came to an end too soon and it was time to say good bye 🙁
My flight back was from Rovaniemi, in Lapland, the north of Finnland. I spent a couple of days in a nice guest house there, mainly relaxing and enjoying myself. Visiting Santa Claus Village, crossing the polar circle, watching the sunset and more northern lights, having a barbecue in the wild and of course, lots of exploring by foot.
Probably the first thing most people think of when they think about what to do in Finnland, especially Lapland is a husky sledge ride. I never was sure whether to add this to my bucket list as the prices scared me off. But then, I fell really bad on my coccyx when trying to cross country ski in Vuokatti. So bad, I still have problems with sitting. I don’t even want to think about a bumpy sledge ride! So I decided to skip the tourist trap and go for some more cross country skiing instead (falling again, of course!)
And the nice thing is: Now I have a reason to go back!