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Kippis! The strange history of Finland’s love affair with alcohol

Finlandia Vodka, photo by Vicente Villamón

 

Finns have always had an unusual relationship with alcohol. As far back as the 18th century, the French enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu referred to Finns as heavy drinkers. Doubtlessly, this contributed to prohibition introduced by Sweden in 1756. Prohibition ended under Russian Imperial rule, but it was still against the law to make moonshine at home. However, lobbying for complete prohibition remained popular among all kinds of busybodies.

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16 photos that show just how much Helsinki has changed in the last 100 years

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You only have to wander around Helsinki on a summer’s day to see why it’s regularly listed as one of the world’s most livable cities. But it hasn’t always been that way. When King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden founded it in 1550 it was so unpopular he had to order the burghers of Rauma, Ulvila, Porvoo and Tammisaari to move there. The city didn’t grow much for the next few hundred years either. Even when it was finally declared the capital in 1812 the population was still less than 5000. At the same time, London was home to 1.2 million people. So, it’s really only since the start of the 20th century that Helsinki has become the city we all know and love. To celebrate this magnificent transformation, and to enjoy the fact we live in the Helsinki of the future, let’s take a peak at Helsinki of the past, courtesy of some marvellous pictures by photographers such as Ismo Hölttö and Jouko Leskinen.  Read more

6 sports popular in Finland that hardly anyone else plays

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Finland is a country that likes to celebrate its uniqueness. Whether in its language or its culture, it doesn’t take much to find things that make it different from every other country on earth. Consequently, it should come as no surprise to discover that Finland likes to tread its own path in the field of sport too. Whether sports Finns have invented or sports that Finns love to play, there are plenty of examples of activities that are uniquely Nordic in nature. Here are six of the best.

1. Wife-carrying

Wife-carrying (Finnish: Eukonkanto) is a contest where male competitors race while carrying a female teammate. Legend has it the sport originated with Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, a notorious robber of the late 1800s. Rosvo-Ronkainen and his gang of thieves were accused of stealing food and women from villages where he lived by running away with them as fast as possible. In the modern version, the man has to carry the woman through different obstacles, and the fastest man wins. The Wife-Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland since 1992. And the first prize for this uber-macho sport? The wife’s weight in beer! We’re sure Rosvo-Ronkainen would have approved.




eukonkanto

2. Pesäpallo

Pesäpallo, also referred to as “Finnish baseball” is a fast moving bat-and-ball sport.  It was created in the 1920s by Lauri “Tahko” Pihkala, a right-wing activist, who supported eugenics as a means to improve the military prowess of the Finnish people. Pesäpallo was a demonstration sport at the 1952 Summer Olympics, held in Helsinki, but has since never featured. Similar to baseball, the point of Pesäpallo is that the offence tries to score by hitting the ball successfully with as much power as possible, and running through bases, while the defense tries to get the runner out.

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3. Ringette

Although originally created in Canada, Finland is one of only four countries that play Ringette. The sport is usually played on an ice rink, mostly by females, and requires the use of ice skates. The sport is similar to ice hockey, but in Ringette the players use straight sticks, and instead of a puck they use a rubber ring. The game was first introduced to Finland in 1979 by Juhani Wahlsten. Wahlsten created teams in Turku and, consequently, Finland’s first ringette club was Ringetteläisiä Turun Siniset.




ringette

4. Wellie Throwing

Wellie throwing (Finnish: saappaanheitto) originated in Upperthong, UK. Now every year the world championships is held in the small Yorkshire village, where it’s said the sport originated after a pint of ale was spilt into a local resident’s welly and someone was challenged to see how far they could throw it. Finland is one of just four countries, the others being Poland, Germany, and New Zealand, that’s taken wellie throwing to heart. The aim of the game is simple. To throw the welly as far as you can.

saappaanheitto

5. Sauna bathing

Since we’re talking about Finnish sports, it’s inevitable to mention sauna will get a mention. The World Sauna Championship was held annually in Heinola, Finland from 1999 to 2010. The rules of the contest were straightforward: The winner was the last person to stay in the sauna and walk out without any help. The starting temperature in the sauna was 110 degrees Celsius, and half a liter of water was poured on the stove every 30 seconds. So yes, the competitors definitely risked their health going into the competition. So much so, that in 2010 one finalist sadly died. After this, the organizers announced that the competition would be cancelled indefinitely. Needless to say, don’t try this at home people!




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6. Mölkky

Mölkky is a Finnish throwing game where the players use a wooden pin to try to knock over other wooden pins that are marked with numbers from one to twelve. Invented by Tuoterengas company in 1996, it’s reminiscent of kyykkä, a centuries-old throwing game with Karelian roots. Knocking over a pin scores the amount of points marked on the pin. The first one who reaches exactly 50 points wins the game, and scoring more than that will set the player’s score back by 25 points. Trust us when we say it sounds easier than it is!

mölkky

These our super six favourite Finnish sports, but what about yours. Let us know them in the comments below.




Quiz time: Which famous Finnish Olympian are you?

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Finland’s history books are filled with inspiring and talented Finnish Olympians who are known around the world for their accomplishments. Ever wondered which of these sporting titans is most like you? Take our latest quiz to find out!




Now you know which of history’s greats you’re similar too, why not got and check out some their wisest words at the 22 most motivating quotes from history’s greatest athletes and coaches. 




Midsummer madness: 12 retro juhannus photos that show how Finns partied in the past

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Empty streets, silent cities, closed shops — wait, what kind of holiday is this Juhannus?!

The utter deadness of Finnish cities at Juhannus, or Midsummer, often leaves unsuspecting foreigners baffled. Unlike the raucous celebrations of Vappu in Finnish city centers, Midsummer is all about escaping the hectic city lifestyle. Most Finns flock to the peace and quiet of their summer cottages in the countryside to celebrate one of Finland’s biggest holidays.

Midsummer is a celebration of the summer solstice, which in Finland and other northern locations is a special sight to behold. The days are at their longest point in the year, and the famous “Midnight Sun” of the north is at its most spectacular.




These days, Midsummer in Finland is held on the Saturday closest to the solstice. Celebrations begin on Midsummer Eve, with the majority of city dwellers travelling to the countryside to kick back and relax Juhannus-style. Grilling, dancing, bonfires, maypoles decorated with flowers, and of course drinking are all on the itinerary.

Wondering how old-school Finns celebrated Midsummer? Take a look at a few fabulous photos we found of Finns doing it up big for the summer solstice!

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Game on! The 9 most important Finnish video games in history

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These days, Finland rules when it comes to mobile games. And yet, many people are surprised to learn that Finland’s gaming culture it a lot older than they think. In fact, the history of Finnish gaming, and the roots of today’s success can be traced all the way back to the early 80s.

With the introduction of home computers, many tech-savvy Finns found a new hobby in creating games for the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64. Programming for these computers was easy, and unlike the games of today which require huge teams, a single person was able to create gaming magic. Counterfeits of popular games were common, but there was plenty of originality and experimentation to be found in games of this era.

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The spirit of individual experimentation evolved into a thriving demoscene, which laid the groundwork for commercial success. Many of Finland’s rising stars, such as Terramarque and Bloodhouse, got their start in the tight-knit demoscene. Once Nokia’s mobile devices hit the scene in the late 90s, Finland’s position within the game industry rose exponentially, and the rest is history.

But, which were the games that helped put Finland on the map? Let’s take a trip down gaming memory lane and have a look.




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In pictures: A short history of the fabulously fun Finnish holiday Vappu

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It’s time for one of Finland’s most loved holidays: Vappu!

Vappu, the Finnish version of Walpurgis Night and May Day, is a huge carnival-style festival that welcomes the coming of spring and warmer weather. Finns take to the streets and parks on the evening of April 30th to celebrate, drink, eat and socialize. For foreign visitors, it’s something of an unexpected sight to see hundreds (even thousands) of Finns kicking back in the park with alcohol and picnics, surrounded by colorful balloons and wearing what appear to be sailor caps.

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