“It’s a nice day for a white wedding.” BILLY IDOL
The second part of our Finnish adventure and the primary reason for our trip was the wedding of our very good friends in central Finland. A four-hour road trip from Helsinki, we squashed our now grown-up family of five into the car and set off on the journey through miles and miles of forests to reach our destination near the town of Jyväskylä. A quick pit stop at a Finnish services gave us our first taste of the language barrier, who knew it was so tricky to get still water even with my best water without bubbles impressions.
Our destination, Taulun Kartano the country hotel resort (www.tripadvisor.fi)
We arrived safe and sound at our destination, the resort of Taulun Kartano (Taulu Manor) in the village of Kankainen (the other half was driving so this needed to be clarified!!). Talk about one extreme to another as we went from the ultra modern GLO Hotel in Helsinki (see previous post Helsinki in Pictures) to Villa Kangastus (aka the cabin on the lake) located by Lake Little Kankainen off the beaten track deep in the Finnish forest.
The interior of Villa Kangastus
Super spooky by night but beautifully picturesque by day, especially when covered in a blanket of snow, we certainly felt we were getting the traditional Finnish experience. The other half went all ‘man make fire’ on us and was out chopping wood and then built a fantastic roaring fire to heat the cabin. The teenager was quite freaked out by the cabin on the lake and the references to a horror story of a similar name!
Although very basic (one shower between five was interesting especially if you went last!) it had its own a small sauna and the country hotel set across many different buildings and acres of land is a nostalgia nod to Finland’s past with modern touches. Luckily one of those modern touches was ultra speedy wi-fi that was provided for the kids, who am I kidding I was actually pretty pleased about that too! The country hotel was originally an old officer’s residence from 1849 and then a farm that has a long history and now the resort specialises in sustainable tourism and has adopted ethical and ecologically sustainable practices in the spirit of days gone by.
First to arrive so first in the tub, family Brett.
The pre-wedding eve was spent partaking in the traditional Finnish activity of saunas and outdoor hot tubs at a gathering hosted by the bride and groom at the resort’s Country Spa on the shore of Lake Hautajärvi. The idea of relaxing in the hot tub and warm glow of the smoke sauna enticed a few guests to don their swimwear and partake. The sauna and adjoining croft was surrounded by the tranquillity of nature in the forest and the damp atmosphere of the wood aroma sauna enhanced the natural forest experience.
The traditional rustic interior of Pihlajapello Croft
Traditional Finnish countryside food was served in the adjacent rustic Pihlajapello Croft, an old chimney-less cabin built-in the 1860s with dark walls that reveal the history of a real chimney-less cabin, all very Grizzly Adams! A fellow guest built a roaring fire (I’m sure the flip chart wasn’t needed anyway!) and we relaxed with good food and beverages and mingled with the couples friends and family, a perfect wintry evening in the forest. Of course if you have men/boys in a hot tub and sauna scenario you add in beers and drinking games you get the enviable naked runs to the lake and back, boys will be boys!
The Pihlajapello Croft and Country Spa set on the lake shore
On the wedding morning we woke up to snow falling and a blanket of white covering the cabin and forest, so pretty and so lovely too for the bride who got her wish for a white wedding.
A traditional Finnish breakfast in the main hotel was followed by a frantic family of five suiting and booting with lots of extra layers (thermal tights, boots, scarves, gloves, coats, umbrellas) for the arctic like conditions before we joined the coach party for the trip to the church in nearby Jyväskylä.
A nervous groom waited with his two best men, his brother and oldest school friend at the alter for his beautiful bride who arrived perfectly on time on the arm of her father with an abundance of bridesmaids of all ages. The Finnish wedding service was similar to its British counterpart just without the vows and hymns. The priest, a friend of the bride from her school days, did a sterling job delivering the sermon in both his native Finnish and English.
We all converged outside for a brief time (it was freezing hence the lack of photos as I was too cold to have my gloves off to use the camera) and blew the bubbles provided on the happy couple. We returned via the coach for the first part of the celebrations, drinks and canapés before taking our places in the main reception venue.
The wedding celebration location
A Finnish wedding breakfast feast followed alongside lots of the usual traditions with a few added local and cultural additions, speeches were said, singing was performed, a special Mr & Mrs game played, cake cutting, bouquet throwing, garter tossing and a live band and disco got everyone up on the floor. All the gorgeous table decorations and place settings, the superb wedding bingo game (in both languages), the gingerbread house and sweetie table were made by the talented crafty bride and her family. Lots of fun was had in the props area as you can see from the photos ;-). The free-flowing bar (always a good idea at the time) provided some added entertainment with drinking games aplenty and a few faces looking a little green at breakfast the next day and some people missing altogether!! All in all a beautiful wedding and a fantastic couple of days, we met some fab people and it great to be part of the celebrations.
We dragged two very hungover quiet sons out of bed to set off on the long snowy drive back to Helsinki with the most beautiful dramatic skies en route. We stayed overnight at the GLO hotel situated in airport departures (so cool for early morning flights) and left super early the next morning, two of us to London and three back to Dubai. A great trip to beautiful country, thank you Finland we enjoyed our stay.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014. All rights reserved