Today was great! We spent most of the day with Riina's family. It was nice to finally meet everyone.
We got up and went to breakfast in the hotel. The breakfast buffets in these tourist hotels are really something else. They have a huge selection of food so any tourist can find something familiar. A typical Finnish breakfast might be bread from rye or barley, meat like fish or ham, a mild cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, all assembled like an open face sandwich, and fruit. Oatmeal or rice porridge might also be eaten.
On our way to the car we looked across the road and got a glimpse of a ski jumping ramp. I don't think the photos truly show how high it was. I have a new respect for ski jumpers.
It took us about 4 hours to drive from Jyväskylä to Tyrnävä. I think I forgot to mention that the distance between Helsinki and Tyrnävä is about 600 kilometres, or 370 miles. The road was mostly a two lane highway, with occasional stretches of four lane divided motorway or an additional passing lane. The speed limit ranged from 80 km/hr (50 mph) to 120 km/hr (75 mph), with the most common being 100 km/hr (62mph). The terrain is flat, and a mix of forest and some small- scale agriculture. There's lots of hay grown for animal feed. In the area around Tyrnävä there are many potato farms. Lupines of purple, pink, and white line the roadsides. If you've ever been to northern Minnesota, I think most of Finland looks the same.
If you're curious as to what's in bloom now, we've seen lots of lilac bushes. In the Stockholm and Helsinki areas they're done blooming, but they're in full bloom up north. Also in Oulu we saw peonies just starting to bloom and bleeding heart was blooming, too. It seems to be a cool summer here. High temps are in the low 60s.
So, we drove to Riina's home which is out in the country near the town of Tyrnävä, arriving at 1 p.m. They have a small farmhouse, several outbuildings, 4 horses, 3 dogs and 3 cats. Riina's dad Hese is a teacher and Riina's mom Tuula is self employed as an occupational therapist. We were warmly greeted by Riina's parents in the yard, then went inside where Riina's oldest sister Aija, her boyfriend Janne, and their baby Viivi, were waiting for us. Janne is a chef and had cooked a wonderful traditional northern Finland meal for us. Poronkäristys, or stewed reindeer, was accompanied by mashed potatoes, lingonberries, and picked cucumbers. We also had Finnish rye bread, a bread from barley, and another bread.
The reindeer was wonderful! It had a mild flavor, not gamey like I expected. I asked if the reindeer were wild or farmed. I understood that the reindeer are rounded up from the wild and then some are selected to be meat, so kind of wild and kind of farmed. While we were finishing our dinner, Riina's middle sister Ella and her boyfriend Toni came to the house. They quickly ate and then we had dessert and coffee. Aija made a wonderful strawberry cake, as it is the season for fresh Finnish strawberries. We also had leipäjuusto, a baked cheese dish eaten with cloudberry jam or crowberry jam. I liked this, too. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Finns drink lots of coffee. The cup arrives about 2/3 full because most people seem to add a liberal amount of milk.
The little girl Viivi is adorable! She's about 20 months old and is very chatty. Riina's family taught her to say 'hello', 'my name is Viivi', and 'bye bye'. She's a very busy little girl with a pleasant disposition. After dessert Aija and Ella took Viivi out to see the horses. We stayed inside and talked.
I think by this time it was 5-ish. Because the farmhouse is small, Riina, Karl and I are staying at the apartment of Riina's grandparents in central Oulu . The grandparents are at their summer cottage in southern Finland. We got settled in and then went for a walk around Oulu. Ainola ParkHupisaaret is only a few blocks from the apartment. Apparently we missed quite a bit of rain because there was a lot of flooding in the area. On our way back to the apartment we stopped by a grocery and bought fixings for sandwiches.
After a quick dinner we watched some TV and Karl and Riina took saunas. The apartment has an electric sauna! And the TV in both Finland and Sweden shows American and British programs in English with Finnish (or Swedish) subtitles. Of course there are shows in Finnish, but I found it interesting to find English language programming so easily.
Photos can be seen here.