In May of 2012, after completing spring semester at Whittier College where I teach psychology, I spent two weeks in Finland.  I visited my daughter in Helsinki, who was there a month interviewing musicians for her book on musical creativity.  While she was busy with her research, I explored many museums, attended some concerts, and took daytrips to Turku and Porvoo.  She and I heard additional concerts, had dinners together, looked at wedding dresses, and with Finnish relatives attended a "140 year" birthday party, a lunch, and an opera.  We also visited Finland's Open Air Museum, and took a ferry across the Baltic Sea to explore Tallin in Estonia, the 50th country I have visited on six continents around the world.

            I will describe my experiences and things I have learned.  I will also identify 47 photos that I have posted at



            In important ways, Finland's history reflects its location.  It is in the northernmost part of Europe, with Sweden on its western border and Russia on its eastern border, across the Baltic Sea from Estonia [PHOTO 1].  One fourth of Finland is above the Artic Circle.  During the winter in Helsinki there is as little as four hours of daylight, and in the summer there is as little as two hours of darkness.  When I was there in May, it was still light at 11 PM [PHOTO 2].

            At the National Museum of Finland I learned that during the last Ice Age, northern Europe was under 3 km (1.8 miles) of ice. When the glaciers retreated about 8000 BCE, many lakes were left in the area of Finland, and it became forested.  Hunter-gatherers moved into the area to seek elk, bear, beaver, fish, and seals.  Over the centuries additional groups came from the west, east, and south bringing Stone Age, pottery, and metalworking cultures.  Agriculture was slower to develop than elsewhere, which I presume was because there was little arable land and hunting was rich.

            Finland was outside the Roman Empire, but was influenced by migrations in Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries CE. The Finnish language is not Indo-European, but is related to Hungarian, Estonian, and several languages of minority groups in northern Russia and along the Volga River near the Ural Mountains.

            Trade with other areas increased dramatically during the Viking Age (800-1025), and nation states were forming to the west.  During the Northern Crusades (1025-1300), Danish and Swedish kings, and German military orders, sent troops to Northern Europe to convert pagans to Christianity.  In 1155 Swedes took control of Finland and retained control for seven centuries.  During the Reformation in the 1520s, the King of Sweden confiscated church land to pay state debts, and Western Finland was gradually converted to Lutheran Protestantism.  

            During the Middle Ages, the clergy were the most powerful social class, but they lost influence after the Reformation.  There were few nobility in Finland, and the burghers (merchants) gained power with economic development. Over 90% of the population was peasants.

            As a result of war between Sweden and Russia, Finland became a Grand Duchy of Russia in 1809 for a century.  During the 1800s there was increasing nationalism that I learned about in other museums and will describe below.  After the Russian Revolution in 1917, there was a brief Civil War in Finland between Reds who wanted to remain part of the Russian Empire and Whites who wanted to be independent.  The Whites won, with support from Germany, and Finland became an independent country in 1919.

            Today Finland is a modern industrialized country, with luxury apartments (PHOTO 3] and one of the highest rated standard of living in the world.  It's most important exports are electronics.  Until the iPhone, Nokia was the leading manufacturer of cellphones.  When I was in Argentina with a class on Managing Multinational Organizations in January, we visited Nokia there and learned that Nokia is having trouble competing with smartphones, so it is pursuing the low-end market in developing countries.



            In the Ateneum Art Museum I saw paintings by Akseli Gallen-Kallela that were inspired by the Kalevala.  The Kalevala is the national epic poem that describes the origins of the Finnish peoples.  It was compiled by Elias Lšnnrot from oral folklore and mythology in 1835 and revised in 1849.  It promoted Finnish nationalism by providing a symbol of Finnish identity.  Gallen-Kallela's paintings helped portray the symbolism without having to read thousands of verses.  Later my daughter took me to a bookstore and found a book with a prose version of the stories in English that I bought.

            Another day my daughter and I visited Gallen-Kallela's home in a neighboring town, which had a sauna down by the shoreline [PHOTO 4].  Traditionally, a Finnish sauna had a wood stove that heated rocks and water thrown on the rocks would produce steam.  Finns would go into the sauna naked to sweat, then jump into a cold lake or bay to cool off.  Modern saunas have electric heat, like the one at a swimming hall that my daughter and I visited.  After getting naked and showering, you go into the sauna, then shower, then put on your bathing suit and go into the swimming pool.  I did this, but didn't stay in the sauna very long since it was so hot!

            In Gallen-Kallela's house I saw his bronze engraving of a scene from the Kalevala [PHOTO 5]. I also learned that he drew the illustrations for the first novel in Finnish published in 1870, called The Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi, about the misadventures of common folk.  This was significant for national identity since previous literature in Finland was written in Swedish.  I was intrigued and ordered an English translation of the novel from Amazon. 

            Today Finnish and Swedish are the national languages of Finland, and most signs everywhere are in both languages [PHOTO 6].  I can figure out a few words in Swedish since it is similar to Danish and related to German, which I have studied, but I am clueless about Finnish since it is not related to other western European languages!

            About 92% of the people have Finnish as their native language, and 5% have Swedish.  Students are required to learn both languages in school, but some question the need to learn Swedish. All students learn English as well, and some advertising is in English [PHOTO 7].  Museums have descriptions in Finnish and Swedish, and sometimes English too. 

            When I visited the psychology department at the University of Helsinki, I talked with some postdocs about their research, and one was studying people of Finnish heritage who had lived in Russia then immigrated to Finland.  They considered themselves Finnish, but because they spoke Russian, they faced discrimination in Finland.



            I saw additional art in the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, which showcased Finnish comics that had been translated into other languages, and at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum that had old European portraits.  Photos about films made in Helsinki in the 1930s were displayed in the Helsinki City Museum, instead of a narrative of the history of the city that I was expectiing.  But I especially enjoyed the recent photographs of ordinary people around the train station by Hans von Schantz at the Finnish Museum of Photography. 

            At the Museum of Technology, which had a picturesque spiral staircase in an old pump house [PHOTO 8], I learned that Helsinki was founded in 1550 on the River Vantaa [PHOTO 9], with a mill and a shipyard. It was established by Sweden to compete for trade with Tallinn, which was across the Baltic Sea in Estonia under Russian control.  A sawmill was established in 1736 and timber became a leading export.  The economy was stimulated when brickyards were needed for the building of the Suomenlinna Fortress in 1748.  The fortress was built on several islands by the Swedes to stall expansionism by Russia.  My daughter and I took a boat trip to explore the ruins of the fortress [PHOTO 10], and got caught in the rain there!

            The importance of the Shoreline around Helsinki was discussed in an exhibit at the Architecture Museum.  Previously there were buffer zones between housing developments and natural shorelines due to the belief that cities and nature were incompatible.  But now shoreline development is part of housing planning in the belief that people want visual and physical access to the sea.  The museum also had an interesting display of changing styles in architecture and urban planning during each decade from 1900 to 1970.  It stressed the impact of the Depression and war on the availability of materials for housing construction and home furnishings.

            The Museum of Cultures had artifacts that Finnish researchers, missionaries, and others had brought back from travels around the world.  They included items from other Finno-Ugric peoples, Central Asia, China, and Alaska.  The Mission Museum also displayed items that Finnish missionaries brought back from Africa and China.  It had an interesting exhibit about water in Africa, explaining that there is little irrigation, so various techniques have been developed for capturing rainwater.

            The Natural History Museum had a great exhibit comparing skeletons of various animals and humans, showing similarities and differences in adaptation to various environments [PHOTO 11].  There also was an exhibit about the history of life on earth.  It was in Finnish and Swedish, but there was a pamphlet describing the exhibit in English that was excellent.

            I learned about the history of trams in Helsinki at the Tram Museum.  They were almost removed in the 1960s, but fortunately were not.  They are still an important part of a public transportation network including trams, buses, and commuter trains that makes the Helsinki area very accessible without a car [PHOTO 12]. Los Angeles had an extensive system of trams until the 1930s when the car, tire, and gasoline companies conspired to have them removed.



            I took a two-hour train ride to Turku. It is a seaport in the southwest corner of Finland that has been important for trade with Sweden. The city had removed its trams decades ago, so I took a taxi to visit the Turku castle [PHOTO 13}.  It had models showing how the castle had been originally built in the 14th century then rebuilt with many improvements and additions.  Most interesting was some graffiti on a wall with drawings dated 1584 [PHOTO 14].  It surprisingly had an exhibit on the history of strategy games including cards, board games, and computer games with various game consoles.

            I walked to the nearby Maritime Museum, thinking it would give me a history of the importance of shipping.  But most of the museum was in a huge warehouse that had many artifacts and little narrative, which was not in English.  There were a few ships anchored next to the museum, and one was open which was a cruise ship built in the 1950s.  It reminded me of the newer ship on which I travelled around the world teaching on Semester at Sea during spring semester of 2002.

            I had a long walk back to the city center, where I visited the Turku Cathedral and happened to hear the last part of a high school choir rehearsing for a concert later that evening [PHOTO 15].  It was interesting to discover that the altar in the Turku and other Lutheran cathedrals had a painting of Christ instead of a simple Cross [PHOTO 16]. On the train back I passed some farms and many forests [PHOTO 17].



            Another day I took a one-hour bus ride to the picturesque city of Porvoo.  In the Market Square by the train station I saw some musicians playing Andean music, and asked one if he was from Ecuador or Peru.  My daughter had done research on musicians in Ecuador and the positive economic impact of playing for tourists abroad, and I had attended a conference in Peru.  I liked their playing and bought a CD even though I have a lot of Andean music at home.

            I visited the Runeberg Sculpture Collection that had several sculptures by Walter Runeberg that I liked.  Nearby was the home of his father Johan Ludvig Runeberg who is considered the Finish National Poet. His poems dealt with life in rural Finland, although they were written in Swedish back in the 1800s. 

            I did a walking tour of the Old Town, and visited the museum in the Old Town Hall [PHOTO 18].  It had some old furniture, but not the narrative of history that I was expecting.  I crossed the river, which was lined with old red warehouses that had been remodeled [PHOTO 19], and walked up the hill to a cemetery, which had Orthodox Crosses on the graves [PHOTO 20].   One tombstone had a sculpture of angels that I recognized from a museum.  Back on the other side was the Porvoo Cathedral with an ornate pulpit and interesting balconies [PHOTO 21]. I wandered among the quaint old houses [PHOTO 22] before taking the bus back to Helsinki.



            My maternal grandmother was Finnish, and had told me about a cousin of hers in Finland.  I had taken my family to visit him and his wife in January of 1992 after spending Fall semester at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen.  He was a teacher and violinmaker in Tampere, and through him we met his daughter and her husband who were medical doctors at the University of

Helsinki.  The latter hosted my daughter when she first arrived in Finland to do

research on Finnish folk music for her doctoral dissertation in Ethnomusicology at UCLA a decade ago. During my current visit, my daughter and I attended their "140 year" birthday party celebrating both of their 70 years of age, at their house in the woods by the Bay.  At the party, I met other relatives, neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

            A week later my daughter and I had a late lunch with some of our relatives, and they shared genealogy records listing some of our Finnish ancestors back to the 1600s! The last names indicated that at least one was from a village of Romani.  The Romani are better known as Gypsies, since people in 15th century England thought they were from Egypt, but actually they are from the subcontinent of India. Since the Romani were discriminated against in Finland (and everywhere else they wandered), this had been a big Family Secret, hidden by changing the family's last name.  But I find it fascinating since it links me to people across the world.  All humans are closely related genetically, and so-called races are social constructions, as illustrated in a cool series of posters from that I display at Whittier College during Diverse Identities Month each spring.

            After lunch my daughter and I went to the opera [PHOTO 23] with our birthday cousins. The opera, called Puhdistus (Purge in English), was about the Soviet Occupation of Estonia.  It was sung mostly in Finnish but there was a display screen above the stage with song text in Finnish, Swedish, and English.



            On a Saturday, my daughter took a break from her research, and we rode a ferry across the Baltic Sea to Tallinn.  We took a taxi out to the Estonian Open Air Museum, where we explored buildings brought from farms and fishing villages to depict life in the 18th century  [PHOTO 24].  I had previously explored similar museums in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, other countries in Europe, and six places in Japan, and I enjoy them very much.  What were most interesting about the Estonian farms were barns that housed both families and animals.  Some had a wall separating the two areas, while others had a house with a ceiling within the barn [PHOTO 25]. The doorways and ceilings were low to conserve heat. 

            To get back to Tallinn, we walked 2 km (1.2 miles) to a bus stop to catch a bus.   I explored the Museum of Occupations while my daughter went to a cafe to edit chapter drafts for a book she is co-editing.  The museum had artifacts and videos about foreign occupations of Estonia during 1939-1991.  In 1939 the USSR signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, and forced a Pact of Mutual Assistance on Estonia leading to Soviet annexation in 1940.  When war broke out between Germany and the USSR in 1940, Nazi troops occupied Estonia.  After World War II ended, Soviet troops returned and Estonia again became a Republic of the USSR.  There were mass deportations to Siberia of those opposed to the Soviets.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Estonia declared its independence from the Soviet Union in August of 1991, along with the two other Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania. 

            My family was on a study tour of the USSR conducted by the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in the fall of 1991.  We flew to Moscow, took the train to Riga in Latvia, and took the train to St. Petersburg.  We were in Riga just two months after it gained its independence from the USSR, where the people were in a celebratory mood in contrast to the depressed mood we saw in Moscow.

            My daughter and I explored Tallinn's Old Town, which is one of the best-preserved towns in Europe.  It has a town square [PHOTO 26], and narrow streets among centuries-old buildings [PHOTO 27], and tall city walls [PHOTO 28].  I explored the Estonian History Museum while my daughter did more editing in a sidewalk cafe.  I learned that Estonia has been occupied by foreign powers during most of the past 800 years.  The northern area was conquered by the Danish King during the Northern Crusades of the 13th century, and the southern area was controlled by Bishops and a German military order.  After the unsuccessful St. George's Night Uprising against foreign rule in 1343, the Danish King sold the northern area to the Germans.  After the Livonian war in the 1500s, the northern area was controlled by Sweden and the southern area by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  During the Great Northern War in 1710 Estonia was incorporated into the Russian Empire.  During World War I, Estonia declared its independence in 1918, which only lasted until 1940 when the Soviets occupied it again.



            My daughter and I also visited the Seurasaari Open Air Museum on an island on the northwest side of Helsinki.  It was similar to the one in Estonia, but most farms had the house separate from the barn.  While most houses had fireplaces with chimneys for heat and cooking in the winter [PHOTO 29], older cottages did not have chimneys but just a hole for smoke to escape [PHOTO 30].  Some houses had a sauna [PHOTO 31].  And some houses had a teepee made of poles nearby [PHOTO 32] that was used for cooking in the summer [PHOTO 33]. There were windmills similar to those in the Netherlands [PHOTO 34].

            My daughter and I each had an apartment on the tenth floor of a building owned by the University of Helsinki for visiting international scholars.  Mine had just a bedroom and a bathroom, while hers had a bedroom, a bathroom, and a room with a kitchen, sofa, and desk.  We cooked some of our dinners there, and there was an area on the first floor that served breakfast for all the residents every day.

            A few blocks away was the Temppeliaukio Church whose walls were hewn out of rock [PHOTO 35].   When I first visited it, there was a free piano concert.  I went back another day to hear performances by young students of various ages who were taking lessons on violins and other strings or guitars.  The younger ones played several short pieces, while the older ones played longer more complex pieces.

            A little farther away was the Sibelius Monument [PHOTO 36] honoring the famous Finnish composer after whom the Sibelius Academy was named.   On the way to the train station I saw a father pushing a baby carriage [PHOTO 37], which I saw more frequently in Finland than I had seen elsewhere. 

            In Senate Square, a few blocks east of the train station, there was a huge Lutheran Cathedral on the hill [PHOTO 38].  Surrounding the square were stately old buildings [PHOTO 39].  Further East by the Bay was a Russian Orthodox Church on a hill [PHOTO 40].  It was very ornate inside [PHOTO 41].  Of particular interest were paintings in which silver overlay depicted clothing, with holes for faces to be seen underneath [PHOTO 42].  Also near the Bay was Market Square, which had stalls selling food and handicrafts [PHOTO 43], next to tourist boats for sightseeing or trips to the Suomenlinna fortress.

            My daughter and I had dinner in various kinds of restaurants around Helsinki.  Most interesting was a dinner with reindeer meat [PHOTO 44].  We also had dinner in a bar where we heard a musician perform whom she had interviewed.  In addition, we listened to a folk music performance at a party of the Folk Music Department at the Sibelius Academy, where my daughter had conducted research for her doctoral dissertation.

            Not far from our apartment building were three shops selling wedding gowns.  My daughter wanted to see what they had, since she is planning to get married in December.  She met her fiancŽ while teaching at the University College Cork in Ireland, though his family is also from Southern California.

            When my daughter was looking at red gowns in the first shop, I made the comment that they looked like prostitutes' dresses!  The sequins on the bright colors looked gaudy, and reminded me of Madams in western movies.  We discovered that the dresses were from the UK or New York, so there was no need to buy one there.

            Also near our apartment building was a beach.  The first time we walked there, the beach was empty since it was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) [PHOTO 45].   But on the day before I left Finland, it was 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), and the beach was full of young adults sunbathing and playing volleyball.  May was the start of spring in Finland, and during my visit flowers were blooming [PHOTO 46] and the trees were growing new leaves [PHOTO 47].

            On Sunday May 27 I flew from Helsinki to Paris, then from Paris to Los Angeles.  I had to pay 70 Euros (87 dollars) extra to get an exit row seat on the flight from Paris, but I had to have it or I would have been miserable due to my long legs.   Increasingly airlines are charging extra for exit rows and other more desirable seats.

            While I was recovering from jetlag and catching up with everything at home, my wife was preparing to fly to London on the following Sunday.  She will be visiting our daughter in Cambridge where our daughter returned to work on her book, visiting friends in Yorkshire, and then hiking with our daughter and her fiancŽ and others in Wales.