Hungary Unlocked

We asked our Hungarian representative, Éva, to give us the inside scoop on her home country. This is Hungary: Unlocked!

How to say hello

Szia!

 

How to say goodbye

Viszlát!

 

How to say thank you

Köszönöm

 

Currency used

Forint ( 1 Euro = 305 HUF)

 

Favorite national foods

Start your adventure in the Big Food Hall with a lángos (fresh, deep fried flat bread), then try a stew (pork/chicken/beef/fish) made with red paprika powder. (Did you know that goulash, a popular stew in many countries, was originally a soup?) Enjoy with some wine from any of the five  big vineyards of the country.

Finish your meal with a piece of Dobos torte, a sponge cake with five layers and caramel topping and a glass of the world famous Tokaj white dessert wine.

 

Best months to visit

Every month is a great month to visit Hungary! Here are some highlights:

March-June

July-August

  • Visit Balaton, the biggest lake in Central Europe. With its warm, shallow, and clean water, it’s a paradise for sailors, swimmers, and especially for families with kids.
  • Sziget Festival, a week-long music festival.
  • Celebrate Constitution Day (August 20th) with the locals and enjoy a spectacular 30-minute firework display over the Danube.

September-November

  • Visit Hortobágy National Park for its rare plants.
  • In the southern city of Pécs, Hungary’s 5th largest city, you can visit the source of the colored tiles that adorn many of the art nouveau buildings in Budapest, then do some winery hopping.
  • Autumn is the best time for visiting one of Hungary’s many, many museums; you will always find an exciting exhibition.

December-February

  • Watch and learn the basics of some Hungarian folk dances at one of the many dance houses.
  • Discover the fascinating art nouveau buildings of Budapest.
  • Have you ever had a bath in a cave spa? If not, then visit Miskolctapolca!

The best way to get around

Between cities you would want to use trains or a car. In Budapest you can use the public transport system, one of the most reliable services in Europe. You can also enjoy walking or cycling to many locations.

Local customs

Hungarians shake hands when they meet someone for the first time. If they are seeing someone whom they’ve already met, which might for some people include contact via email and/or Skype (for example planning a Home Exchange visit), they often kiss each other on both cheeks.

Hungarians are very hospitable and like indulging their guests and friends. Do not be surprised when entering a household if you are offered (and feel obliged to drink) a small glass of Pálinka (fruit brandy) or Unicum (a bitter tasting aperitif made of 40 herbs) even before a meal. Unless you are a serious teetotaler, take this as a gesture of hospitality – it will help your digestion, too!

A novel to read or a film to watch to learn more about Hungary

A film about our 20th century history called Sunshine, directed by István Szabó, depicts Hungary from generation to generation leading up to 1989.

Local websites for discounts in restaurants, theatre, cinema, etc.

The Budapest Card offers discounts on attractions, public transportation, tours, museums, and baths.

The best kept secret about Hungary

Hungary is a great place for water lovers of all kinds! Besides spas, Hungary has many opportunities for enjoying natural water adventures: Lake Balaton, the Danube River, Lake Fertő, and the Tisza River just to name a few. Most natural waters are warm enough to swim in from the end of May to September thanks to the warm summer climate. All towns on rivers and lakes will have a local rent-a-boat shop that offers dinghy boats, water-bicycles, or even small sport sailboats. You can even explore downtown Budapest on a rented canoe.

The most unique thing about Hungary

There are over 1,000 natural wells in Hungary providing thermal water of over 30°C (86°F) and about 150 hot water medical baths. You can swim in Héviz Lake with water lilies around you or play a game of chess in a open pool at Széchenyi Bath while snow falls around you and the waters cure your ills.

If it is a Friday or a Saturday, on your way back you can stop by a Turkish bath called Rudas that’s open from 10PM to 4AM.

Common misconceptions about Hungary

Many people think that Hungary is a flat country. In fact we have wonderful forests and hills to hike, and all are very well marked. You can walk the entire length of the country on the National Blue Trail, and you can get local hiking maps for any area you visit.

Hungary’s best free activities

Margaret Island in Budapest is a great place to do all kinds of leisure activities. Besides walking around under beautiful trees, medieval ruins, and gardens, you can jog around the island or take a swim in an open-air pool or have a picnic in the island park in the heart of the city. For families, there is a water park with different sized pools, a small zoo, a musical water fountain, and the whole family can rent a bringo (a four-wheel bicycle).

Odds and ends

Hungarians are very good hosts and although our language is difficult, it is quite easy to be a tourist here; a lot of people speak at least a little bit of German or English!

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Our members exchange homes of all shapes and sizes, from cozy apartments to sprawling estates and everything in between. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the most design-centric listings on HomeExchange.com. Which one is your favorite?

1. Paris, France

Paris

The owners of this Parisian spot are a photographer and a street artist, so it’s no wonder the space is infused throughout with unique, creative touches.

 

2. Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden

This beautifully modern, kid-friendly home is close to the sea and the city, surrounded by nature. – and has an indoor swing!

 

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam 2

This organic-modern home was built with sustainability in mind. From the view out the living room window, you might think you’re floating above the water. You’re not … but you’re close!

 

4. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen

This airy Copenhagen home was built in 1931 by a famous Danish architect. Can you imagine cooking in that bright, beautiful kitchen?

 

5. Houston, TX, USA

Houston

Step inside this ultra-modern Houston, Texas home and you might think you’ve been transported to the hippest hotel in town. But with enough room to sleep 8 and easy access to downtown Houston, it leaves hotels in the dust.

 

6. San Francisco, CA, USA

San Francisco

San Francisco is a vibrant city full of culture, amazing food, and endless activities. But be honest: would you ever want to leave that soaking tub?

 

7. Edinburgh, UK

edinburgh

Ann Street, on which this home is located, has been called “the most attractive street in Britain” and this just might be its prettiest house. Yes, you can sit in those chairs. No, you may not take them home with you.

 

8. London, UK

london

If you didn’t know better, you might think that you had stepped into a loft in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. But this converted factory is located right in the middle of London – and has 360 degree views to prove it!

 

9. Barcelona, Spain

barcelona

There’s just something about this minimalist industrial loft that gets our creative juices flowing. If you’re looking for a place to work on your memoirs, this just might be the place for you!

 

10. St. Paul, MN, USA 

St Paul

Did you just fall into the pages of a design magazine? This 1907 Dutch Colonial home was lovingly and impeccably remodeled over the course of two years, and you won’t want to leave.

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Take flight with these top film and music festivals from around the globe. There’s something for every film and music type from the sleepy-town adventurer (see Telluride Film Festival) to the eclectic music enthusiast (check out the Mysteryland in The Netherlands). Wherever you want to go in the coming months, there are amazing places to see and explore.


 

Film Festivals

1. Los Angeles, California

Hollywood Film Festival
From the land of movie magic, there’s a plethora of film festivals throughout the year. The Hollywood Film Festival, October 16-19, 2014, showcases independent, socially conscious filmmakers. Connect with the filmmakers who are using their work to help change lives. Last year the film Autumn Blood directed by Markus Blunder won Best Narrative Feature and went on to win three more awards. This year is bound to showcase even more talent than last year. See where to stay in Los Angeles.

2. Venice, Italy

Venice Film Festival
August 27 – September 6, 2014 find yourself in scenic Venice, Italy at the Venice International Film Festival. In its 71st year, the festival spans across four theaters in Venice Lido (take a boat there if you like). The films in this competition come from some of the rising stars in the international film industry. In 2013, actress Elena Cotta won the Pasinetti Award for Best Actress for her role in Via Castellana Bandiera and was also nominated for a Golden Globe. See who will top the lists internationally at this year’s festival. Find a home in Venice.

 

3. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago International Film Festival
Many are familiar with the New York and Toronto Film Festivals, however, the Chicago International Film Festival, October 9-23, 2014, is a festival to be noted. This rising film festival in the heart of the Midwest is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In 2013, there were over 140 filmmakers presenting, including director Jerome Bonnell of the award-winning film “Just a Sigh”. Go meet the filmmakers and watch hundreds of full and short-length films while enjoying the diverse sites of Chicago. Stay in Chicago.

 

4. London, England

London Film Festival
One of the biggest film festivals is the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival taking place October 8-19, 2014. Line up to see the stars and filmmakers make their grand entrance on the red carpet and then be the first to see amazing movies (like last year’s big winner Ilo Ilo written and directed by Anthony Chen which went on to receive 20 more awards and 10 nominations). With over 300 films from around the world, you’re bound to discover new filmmakers and actors as well as see some of your favorites. Check out where to stay in London.

 

5. Telluride, Colorado

Telluride
The Telluride Film Festival, August 29-September 1, 2014, is in its 37th year and gives you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the show. Held in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, you will feel at home. Some folks have even remarked it felt like summer camp for cinephiles. This year Guest Directors, Guy Maddin and Kim Morgan, will be selecting a series of films to present at the festival. Find a home in Telluride.

 

Music Festivals

6. Pula, Croatia

Outlook Festival
For those of you who are big EDM fans, Outlook Festival in Pula, Croatia is a must! From September 3-7, 2014, check out the latest music and shows with over 300 artists, 12 stages in a 2,000 year old amphitheatre. There are even over 40 boat parties. This year’s star-studded line up includes Ms. Lauryn Hill, Busta Rymes, Dub FX and Barrington Levy. Find yourself at home in Pula.

 

7. Amsterdam, Netherlands


Experiencing music is the theme at Mysteryland the electronic music cultural and arts festival in Haarlemmermeer. It’s happening August 23 for only 11 intense hours. On the main stage, you’ll see Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Nervo (plus many more on other stages). Meet open-minded travelers and explore music in a wide variety of shows, stages and life-altering, musical experiences. Only 30 minutes from Amsterdam, you’ll be sure to find a great place to stay. Stay in Amsterdam.

 

8. Monterey, California

Monterey Jazz Festival
Relax by the ocean in Monterey and attend the Monterey Jazz Festival. From September 19-21, 2014 explore the breadth and depth of this American style of music. After 57 years, this festival has it all with over 500 artists performing nonstop on 8 stages as well as amazing food. See Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper Experiment, Booker T. Jones and Cecile McLorin Salvant at the Arena. There’s even more brilliant talent throughout this event. This is hands down one of the best jazz festivals. Find a home in Monterey.

9. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Rock In Rio
A socially conscious music festival, Rock in Rio is celebrating 29 years as a leader in changing how we interact with music from September 12-14. It’s easy to get swept away in the hundreds of thousands of event goers as well as get entranced by big name performers, like Beyoncé, David Guietta and Ivete Sangalo, that all descend onto beautiful Rio. Get a great place to stay in Rio.

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Guest Post by Hollee Thornton

Everyone knows that saving money on accommodation is one motivating factor of home exchange. However, there are many more free perks that have me convinced home exchanging is the most enjoyable way for our family to travel. Many of them, money cannot buy.

1. Bikes

Renting bikes is possible in most big cities, but it can be a costly addition to your holiday budget. I always ask my exchange partner about bicycles and scooters when arranging an exchange. In Amsterdam, we enjoyed exploring the countryside and charming little villages on bicycles provided by our exchange partners. Because we sought out a family with children of similar ages it made bicycle sizes comparable, too. Exploring an area on foot and by bicycle is the best way to slow down and see the details.

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2. Cooking Classes

During our home exchange in Milan, we exchanged emails with our host family and when I mentioned admiring the huge, beautiful artichokes at the local market and wanting to learn to cook them. My exchange partner offered me a free Italian cooking class, including a house specialty that had been passed down through the family for generations. The night before we left, we enjoyed a really wonderful evening of cooking together, dinner, and conversation.

3. Pet Testing

Testing, you ask? Testing is our code for pet sitting. This perk may have saved us a lot more money and frustration than I can begin to imagine. For several years my children have begged me for a pet, but moving halfway around the world and traveling regularly does not make pet ownership something that I would jump into lightly. A small and simple pet like a guinea pig has been worthy of consideration, so when we were offered an exchange in Paris that included pet sitting 2 guinea pigs, we were excited. The children loved playing with the animals but realized that caring for them was a lot more work than they imagined. Having a pet on vacation provided the invaluable experience of learning what it is like to have one everyday.

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4. Info in a language we understand

Everywhere we have exchanged, our partners have given us lots of valuable local information that we had never run across in our brief research about the respective cities, like how to buy the transit tickets at the tobacco shops in Milan, baby-animal-visiting day at a neighboring farm in Amsterdam, and the multitude of free street performances that are always entertaining at Pompidou in Paris. Even if we had, struggling with translation often limits what kinds of activities we participate in while on vacation. Lucky for us, our partners have always made it so easy for us to ask questions and learn more about the specialties of their countries.

5. Kids’ toys for downtime

When searching for an exchange partner, we try to find families that match our children’s ages and interests. Anytime we have exchanged with families it is always a bonus to have toys and books waiting at the new home. Our kids love trying out new and different toys and books and have learned how to respect and take care of other people’s belongings.

6. Generous tokens of hospitality 

Another bonus of exchanges are the sweet welcome and thank you surprises we find waiting for us on both ends. Often there are homemade house specialties, fresh flowers, or small regional treasures waiting at our vacation home as a personal token of welcome and gratitude. My children love finding these when we arrive in a new home and when we get back to our home. These are perks that don’t come from typical travel accommodations.

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7. Food

Home exchange saves us both time and frustration when it comes to mealtime. For our family, having a kitchen to prepare breakfast in as soon as our young children wake up is a huge convenience . It also comes in very handy when dealing with the dietary restrictions and challenges that come with “eating out” for every meal.

8. The Sharing Economy

Sharing in the collaborative consumption movement is an easy way I can feel better about conserving resources. We love to entertain and introduce people to the exciting and beautiful country in which we live, whether hosting friends or hosting exchange partners.  These experiences help us to feel more connected to people from all around the world – learning to love and understand other cultures helps us be better global citizens.

9. Authenticity 

My home exchanges have always led to a more authentic travel experience; one in which I feel like I am experiencing what it is like to live in a new place, rather than the “canned” tourist experience that comes with more typical accommodations like hotels.

10. Trust

My attitude regarding mankind is that most people are good. In a day and age where we experience crime and fear as a regular part of life, home exchanging has provided opportunities for my trust in strangers to evolve. The mutual risk provides some level of assurance, but at the end of the day it really is all about trust. And with every positive exchange, my faith in the goodness of humanity increases. I echo the comments of Emily Kasriel: “Trust usually develops over time with repeated encounters, but when you enter into the house-swapping game it is immediate and quite intense – though brief and not usually repeated. What is interesting is the ease with which we felt able to trust this digitally mediated encounter.”

Want to exchange with Hollee? Check out her listing here!

What extra benefits have you found on a home exchange? Tell us in the comments!

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Win the #VIKey Dream Vacation

We all have a daily escape, a little moment we take for ourselves. For some it’s morning coffee, for others it’s an afternoon hike or watching the sun go down. HomeExchange.com and Lufthansa want to turn your daily escape into the trip of a lifetime with our #VIKey contest! Prizes include two round-trip Lufthansa Business Class tickets and luxury accommodations at the destination of your choice courtesy of HomeExchange.com. All it takes is one photo.

How To Participate

Snap a photo of your daily escape (check out some recent entries below for inspiration), then visit www.VeryImportantKey.com to enter. Then be sure to share your entry with your friends and ask them to vote for your photo! Easy, right?

Prizes

The grand prize, the #VIKey Dream Vacation, includes two round-trip Lufthansa Business Class tickets, luxury accommodations at the destination of your choice, and some perks, surprises, and local experiences along the way! We can’t wait to see your photos.

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Guest Post by Cailin O’Neil


When creating your HomeExchange.com listing, you really need to sell the great things about your home to get as many offers as possible. Great descriptions and photos of your property can go a long way, but including a listing video is even better. Making a video of your home isn’t quite as easy as just taking a few photos, but it can really help your home stand out. Here are a few key tips to remember when making a video of your home.

1. Clean up. 

Before making a listing video, make sure your house is clean. Having a messy house is not appealing to people that might want to stay at your home. Get rid of clutter and tidy up the place. If your home is full of really personal items and lots of family photos, you might want to hide them for the video and for when the guests arrive, just to make the property feel more like home for the people visiting.

2. Make sure it’s well lit.

One of the most important tips that I can suggest is filming with good lighting. If you can film during the daytime when there is a lot of natural light, open all of the curtains and let it flow in. If you do film at night, make sure you turn on all of the lights to show off the house. You might even consider bringing lights in from other rooms to make the room you are filming brighter, and move them around the house with you as you film.

3. Film the entire house.

When filming, make sure you capture your entire home. Film the outside, and the front and back yard if you have one. Even if you live in an apartment or condo building, film a little bit of the outside and entryway so people know what to expect. Don’t forget to include things like the bathrooms and the laundry room in your listing video; the details can really count and make a difference.

4. Keep the camera steady.

If possible, film your home using a tripod to try and keep the image as still as possible. Not only will this make your video look more professional but it will also be easier to watch. If you don’t have a tripod, try to borrow one from a friend, see if your local camera store rents them, or try using a table or chair to place your camera on to help keep it steady. Try to avoid using pans as moving the camera too much can make people dizzy. Instead of pans, try using wide shots and multiple angles to make sure you get all of the room you are filming covered.

5. Add a welcoming touch.

Think about what you would want to see in another Member’s listing video. Add a personal and welcoming touch and make your home inviting, like fresh flowers on the table or a jar of cookies in the kitchen. Dress up your home to make it look as comfortable and inviting for potential exchange partners.

Follow these five simple tips for making a video of your home and the exchange offers will be pouring in before you know it!

About the Author

cailin in indonesiaCailin O’Neil is a solo travel, video, and food blogger that spends as much time traveling around the world volunteering on game reserves in South Africa as tasting odd fruits in Malaysia and eating the finest cheeses in Italy. To find out more about her and her travels, visit www.TravelYourself.ca.

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HomeExchange.com member Francesca has stayed in exchange homes for some of the world’s biggest festivals. We asked her to share some of what she’s learned along the way!

How many exchanges have you done?

Ten: Valencia for Fallas, Guadalupe, Lima, Buenos Aires twice, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador De Bahia for Carnival, Bail, and twice to Paris.

 

What’s something that surprised you about the Carnival in Brazil?

I traveled to Carnival in February of this year and learned that the celebration is different from town to town! Salvador is divided in three: In Pelourinho, the old town, there are more African sound live performances. In La Barra and Campo Grande, it’s more pop music and people dancing and drinking. The number of people in La Barra surprised me… maybe too many if you’re not drunk! Once in La Barra was ok, but I prefer to atmosphere of Pelourinho.


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Tell us about the Fallas de Valencia.

I was there in 2010, and I really appreciated the satirical aspect of the figures, but I was so surprised that they spend a whole year building them and then they burn them in one night!

 

Do you have any tips on how to plan a home exchange to a major event?

If it’s a very important event, start planning more than 3 months in advance! Look for the best location (I try to stay as central as I can) but keep an eye on the security aspect; for example, in Salvador de Bahia it’s not a good idea stay too close to the carnival. It’s too loud with too many people!



What are the advantages of doing a home exchange for a major event?

Obviously there is a savings aspect. During big events, even low quality lodging is very expensive. Doing home exchange can save you a lot of money that you can use for something more fun. You’ll also have a safe, nice, and cozy base to relax after parties.

 

Why do you think people in Rio, Salvador Bahia, Valencia, etc accept exchange offers during major events?

During that time, their location is very appealing… they have even more opportunity to exchange their flat with another that they really want to visit!

 

Want to exchange with Francesca? Check out her listing!

Finland Unlocked

Finland is a country that’s equal parts beautiful and unique. We asked Perttu, our Finnish representative, to give us some local tips and inside info about his home country. This is Finland: Unlocked!

How to say hello

Hei or Terve

How to say goodbye

Näkemiin or hei-hei

How to say thank you

Kiitos

Currency used

Euro (EUR)
 

Favorite national foods

Traditional foods include game food like deer, moose, and bear, and small game such as hare, duck, and grouse, served with forest berries and mushrooms. You’ll also find cold smoked salmon or salmon served raw with lemon juice on Ruisleipä, a dark and fiber-rich bread. As a dessert, you may get Leipäjuusto (“bread cheese”), a fresh cow’s milk cheese.

On the wild side you may want to try Salmiakki, a salty black liquorice, our unofficial national candy.

 

Best month(s) to visit

Summertime from June to mid-August. Late June is the best for midnight sun.

December and January in Lapland are best for polar nights and March for sunny skiing. Remember to look for the aurora borealis (the northern lights).

 

Best way to get around

Trains or car between cities, which can be very far apart.

A bicycle is handy in many cities, and there are a lot of bicycle roads everywhere.

 

Local customs

Finnish are known for small talk … or rather a complete lack of it. Don’t take it personally if your neighbors don’t contact you during your home exchange in Finland; they’re just trying to give you the best kind of hospitality they know of by not disturbing you during your vacation.

We respect equal rules for everyone, no matter how “important” you are. If there is a rule you will obey it. If there is a queue, you stay in queue. Finland is the most equal country in the world. There aren’t even separate words in the Finnish language for “he” and “she.”

And saunas … most everything you’ve heard is probably true!

Yes, every house and apartment has a sauna. Yes, for centuries Finnish women gave birth in saunas. Yes, it’s common to beat yourself with birch branches in saunas. Yes, one-year-old children go to the sauna. Yes, you drink (a lot of) beer in saunas. Yes, many students  go to the co-ed sauna together, completely naked. Yes, most workplaces have saunas. Yes, many important business agreements used to be made  in saunas. Yes, the first thing Finnish UN peacekeepers build even in hot countries is a sauna … you get the picture!

And as a last free tip, always take your shoes off when you go to someone’s house.

 

A novel/film/song to learn more about Finland

Film director Aki Kaurismäki is a known interpreter of Finnish mentality. Watch “The Man Without a Past” (2002) to get preview of Finnish melancholic humor.

 

Local websites or inside info for discounts in restaurants, theatre, cinema, etc.

Use Groupon.fi to find deals.

 

Lesser-known towns or villages which are worth a visit

The Savonlinna region is a great area in the middle of the thousands lakes of Finland. It is also known for its opera festivals. Kalajoki is a small marine town at the west coast with a great beach.

 

The best kept secrets about Finland

187,888 lakes and 475,051 cabins most next to a lake. Find your own secret lake!

 

The most unique thing about Finland

There are a lot of unique world championships in Finland:

  1. Air guitar world championships at Oulu
  2. Wife carrying world championships at Sonkajärvi
  3. Swamp football world championships at Hyrynsalmi
  4. Winter swimming world champion
  5. Summer ice fishing world championships (without any ice) at Pudasjärvi
  6. Iron bar walking world championships (don’t ask) at Tammela
  7. Rubber boot throwing world championships at Savonlinna
  8. Toilet paper throwing world championships at Kokemäki
  9. Mosquito killing world championship
  10. Sauna world championships at Heinola

 

Common misconceptions about Finland

People think that the water in the sea and lakes is cold in the summer, but it’s actually warm enough for a swim.

 

Finland’s best free activities

  • Spend a day at the Suomenlinna sea fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on a group of islands off the coast of Helsinki.
  • For children, there are a lot of free playgrounds and nice beaches with clean water to swim. Visit one of the nice parks and have a picnic.
  • Many museums and galleries have special times for free visits.
  • If you like hiking, you can camp freely anywhere and collect forest berries freely. Just make sure you are at least 200 meters from nearest houses.
  • There are still some free public saunas in some cities.

 

Odds and ends

Somehow, this small country has ended up being one of the best in many areas of quality of life. It is the world’s safest, one of the cleanest, least corrupt, and best educated with free healthcare, free education, etc. It is a country where everything just works smoothly, and a nice country for a carefree vacation.

Finland has always had a special role between east and west. It has its own language, mixture of culture, and people there have a really special way of seeing life.

 

Thanks, Perttu!

 

Original photo: Flickr / visitfinland