Tag Archives: summer house

Still waiting for fish

While the rest of the European continent has been basking in very hot temperatures, Finland has experienced very cold weather. Some weeks ago the summer 2015 was the coldest summer since 1987, but according to the latest statistics we are now talking about the coldest summer since the sixties… and the summer is not over yet!

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake.

Gone fishing

Gone fishing.

To us staying at the summer house this has meant practically no fish. One week ago on Saturday my father was advised by a local fisherman that now may be time to start cast net fishing. According to the fisherman the wind was changing and should result in better catches. So, off my father went to drop the nets into the lake, but one week later we are still waiting for the big catch. The weather has been very strange and fish are definitely acting weirdly too. Fishing at midnight is only a beautiful memory. No fresh fish at our dining table this summer.

The rain comes

Life at the summer house can pretty much be summarized in two words: nature observation.

The rain comes when the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink.

As the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink, the rain comes.

Finnish lake at 10 o’clock in the evening!

Isn’t this the most beautiful lake view ever? The photo taken at Lake Lappajärvi, in the western part of Finland tonight at 10 o’clock! And the sun is still above the horizon….

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o'clock in the evening?

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o’clock in the evening?

Arrival at the summer house

It has been almost one week since I arrived at the summer house in Finland. The routine kicked in fast. The wake-up between 9 and 11 o’clock, porridge with berries while watching the lake view, walking the baby in the woods (she seems very impressed by the surrounding tall pines and spruces), cooking lunch, cutting wood, observing birds, arranging the boat garage, heating up the sauna and preparing dinner (often Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna).

I usually go to sauna around 9 o’clock in the evening, after putting my daughter to sleep, and return to the kitchen to cook while my parents have their turn at the sauna. The weather hasn’t been warm enough for drinking rosé wine at terrace but we have enjoyed red wine from Luberon and biodynamic red from Languedoc-Roussillon (Domaine Cazes, Cuvée Marie Gabrielle 2011). Life is sweet here and will only get sweeter when my husband arrives some time next time.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

It is 7 o’clock in the evening as I am typing this. Time to cut wood and heat up the sauna!

PS I will be here for several weeks, so stay tuned for more stories about the life at the Finnish summer house!

Lastly, Pearlspotting is on Facebook and on Instagram. If you prefer Twitter, you can find me here @Miia_Niskanen

See you soon!

November equals vendace in Finland

Even if November in Finland is considered by many the darkest thus depressing month of the year, it represents exciting times for those who love fishing. This is when a small lake fish called vendace approaches the shore to lay eggs, making it easy to catch it by nets.

In the western part of Finland where our summer house is located the vendace season usually begins around All Saints’ Day. Depending on the weather (how fast the lake freezes) the season lasts from one week to one month.  As this fall has been exceptionally warm, the season has had a rough start, resulting in less fish with less eggs. During a typical season, every other fish caught has eggs inside, whereas this November only one in ten has had eggs!

Fishing in Finland in November represents a delicate balance between nature and man.

Fishing in Finland in November represents a delicate balance between nature and man. Photo credit: Juho Niskanen

Catching the vendace is hard work. The nets need to be dropped in the lake in the late afternoon as the vendace approaches shallow waters after the sunset (remember that at this time of the year it gets dark before 4 p.m.). Those fish that are not trapped in the nets lay the eggs and leave for deeper waters after the midnight and at the crack of dawn the harvest can be collected. Careful weather observation is required because if the temperature rapidly falls at night, the lake starts freezing, making collecting nets impossible or at least difficult!

The vendace movements are not very well researched, but locals like my father who have been fishing for decades in the same place know their rhythm. By observing the weather, the lake and how it starts freezing they know more or less when the time is right to throw the nets to the lake. Despite the rather odd weather this fall (temperature fluctuation from below zero to 15 Celsius!) our summer house freezer is home to some one hundred or so vendace…

PS You may remember my post from last summer Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna? It is possible to catch vendace during the summer, too, but one requires special nets and needs to go farther away, to deeper waters. Naturally, the fish caught does not contain eggs.

The Summer House: Ten Days and Still Nostalgic

It has already been ten days since I returned to Paris but I am still nostalgic about Finland and the summer house. It feels that everyone I know is having the most amazing time by lake or sea, enjoying the heat wave and temperatures hovering around 30C, and I am “just in Paris”. It has upset me to receive text messages from my father saying that our lake (that is big and deep!) measures 27C. That is the usual temperature of the Mediterranean and not a lake half way between Helsinki and Lapland…!

So, now that you are convinced that weather-wise Finland is the new Côte d’Azur, you must be wondering what it is that makes me so nostalgic. Well, this is the list upon which I have been pondering. The accent will be on the summer house because this is where I spend my time when in Finland in summer.

When you get lucky with weather, this is what a Finnish lake looks like. Lovely, isn't it?

When you get lucky with weather, this is what a Finnish lake looks like. Lovely, isn’t it?

1. The most peaceful place on the planet

A Finnish summer house is probably the most calm and peaceful place on this planet if we ignore the poles, some Pacific islands and Greenland of course. The life revolves around breakfast, checking fishing nets, swimming, reading magazines, wood cutting, lunch, siesta, raking leaves, wood cutting (again), heating the sauna, preparing dinner, checking the nets (again), sauna, swimming and dinner. The daily life follows a routine, but a fun routine that calms even the most agitated urban dweller (like a Parisian!). In my book, the summer house is comparable to yoga retreats.

Life is sweet. My husband and my mother reading design magazines by our private beach.

Life is sweet. My husband and my mother reading design magazines on our private beach.

My father catching our daily staple.  Only us, the boat, the nets and some seagulls waiting to see if there is anything for them.

My father catching our daily staple (fish, you guessed right).
Only us, the boat, the nets and some seagulls waiting to see if there is anything for them.

2. Privacy

Summer houses, in most cases, come with a private beach. Our beach is relatively small, but it is ours. In addition to us, only birds use it sometimes.

We have some neighbors to the left side but to the right there are only willows. But even in more populated areas of Finland there never are too many people –after all there are only 18 inhabitants per square kilometer in Finland (for example, the UK has 265!).

A big lake just for you. Not many people around.

A big lake just for you. Not many people around.

Sometimes if we want even more privacy, we take the boat and visit one of the many islands of the lake to play Robinson Crusoe!

Island hopping. No parking fees, no traffic jam. In fact, nobody Still, nobody else around!

Island hopping. No parking fee, no traffic jam. In fact, nobody else around!

3. The nature

If you get tired of the lake, there is always forest nearby. We have some behind the summer house.

My mother says that there is nothing as beautiful as the Finnish forest, especially after rain, and I sort of have to agree with her. It is a different kind of beauty, the beauty I grew up with, so it is only natural I find it comforting… But who wouldn’t feel rejuvenated after watching these eighty-year old trees?

Some eighty-year old trees against the perfectly blue sky.

Some eighty-year old trees against the perfectly blue and white sky.

4. The weather

My French husband thinks we the Finns are obsessed with the weather, but I guess it is normal considering that there are pretty extreme and unpredictable weather conditions in Finland… For example, when my husband arrived at the summer house last summer the weather changed from semi-tropical 27C to miserable 8C….. Enough to put a Parisian in a bad mood!

This summer we were particularly lucky. The temperature in the shadow was consistently around 25C and sometimes a bit more. The lake measured 22C during my stay, which is a lot. We were very lucky and I would have liked to enjoy more of that wonderful weather. Since my departure it has gotten even hotter, and if I remember correctly this summer’s record in Finland has been 32.5C. That is a lot for such a northern country!

Repeating myself, I know, but when the sun shines this strongly at 9 o'clock in the evening, it is miraculous.

Repeating myself, I know, but when the sun shines this strongly at 9 o’clock in the evening, it is miraculous.

5. The amount of sunlight

Whenever I return to Finland in summer I am astonished by the amount of sunlight there is. Even when the sun sets, it stays so close to the horizon that one doesn’t know if the sun is about to rise again. It doesn’t get pitch black in Finland in summer, and well, it doesn’t really get dark at all! Finnish Lake at Midnight is quite something! I would say it is the eight natural wonder of the world.

At the summer house I go to sleep watching this view.

At the summer house I go to sleep watching this view.

I would usually go to bed around midnight (it is difficult to go to bed when the night has not arrived!) and I would be woken up three hours later by the sun’s rays… I actually never got up to take photos of the sunrises but I am sure this is the moment when the animals wake up, moose cross the fields and bears take a deep breath while turning to the other side.


Note: There are over 500,000 summer houses in Finland so one can imagine that each one of them has a life and a personality of its own. What I described above is a personal story about my relationship with our summer house. But why not to visit Finland and create your own love story?

…and if you liked this story, why not to check Pearlspotting on Instagram and Facebook, and Miia_Niskanen on Twitter? See you soon!

Finnish Lake at Midnight

I have been away from Finland for so long that I observe many aspects of life here as an outsider. One of the things I find particularly strange is the night, or should I say the lack of it. When the sun sets around 11.30 p.m. and rises just after 3 a.m. (as is the case this week), there simply isn’t enough time for the night to get dark. The sun stays close to the horizon, providing sunlight even when the sun is set. It can be very disturbing and during my first nights here, I kept waking up around 4 a.m. thinking the morning has arrived!Finland at midnightThis is the photo I took at midnight a few evenings ago. The nights have been getting shorter and darker since the Midsummer (The Midsummer Weekend in Finland) but still, one could read a newspaper outside without a lamp! This is obviously nothing out of ordinary to the majority of the Finns, but I find this astonishing and I keep taking photos. This is what living abroad does to you!

PS If you plan to visit Finland from May to August, think of bringing eye patches for sleeping. It may save your holidays….

Easy Tzatziki Fish

The main staple at the Finnish summer house is fish. Fish, and more fish. Pike, pike perch, white fish, trout, burbot, etc. There is probably as much of variety as there are ways of fishing!

At our summer house the nets are always in the lake. Depending on the weather we catch a lot or nothing. At the moment we have five nets in the water, all together 300 meters. This is quite a lot and requires visiting the nets twice a day. However, because of the unusually hot weather the catch has not been amazing, but nonetheless enough to feed us every day.oven-baked white fishYesterday I invented a new recipe, which is as simple as it gets, and really delicious at the same time. I used white fish (siika in Finnish) but you can use any other type of fish. Here you go:

-Place a pre-salted fish fillet on the baking tray (one fillet per person)
-If the fish is fresh, no oil is needed, but if you doubt, sprinkle a little bit on each fillet
-Sprinkle either “lemon pepper” (sitruunapippuri in Finland) or alternatively black pepper and lemon juice on each fillet
-Sprinkle a table spoon of Cretan tzatziki seasoning mix on each fillet (a very think layer!)
-Bake about 15-20 minutes in 225Cwhite fish, green salad, grilled fennelTo be enjoyed with green salad and grilled vegetables. I prepared grilled fennel, which was super good, but the only limit is your imagination!!

PS Pearlspotting is finally on Instagram! I have been posting several photos every day, so do follow me there too!

Finnish Summer House, 9 o’clock in the evening

The weather has been absolutely wonderful in the western part of Finland this week. Very warm (up to 30C!) and sunny, and almost no wind. Moreover, to my delight, the lake water measured 20C upon my arrival on Monday night. This is what I call a perfect Finnish summer holiday!

The sun sets after 11 p.m. at this time of the year, which means that the evenings are long and full of light. In these photos you can see what our summer house beach looked like tonight. I know I am subjective, but isn’t this just beautiful???!! It is quite rare to see the lake so calm.Finnish summer houseWhen we heat up the ordinary, “every day” sauna, we use this beach to go swimming. On the left we have an old, wooden boat garage.

This next photo is the view to the right; the side where the traditional smoke sauna is located. There is another access to the lake over that side. This is also where the willows (and the pikes!) are. For the first time this summer we installed a table and chairs on the grass –why not to have lunch under the sun! Finnish summer houseAt the time of writing this post it is 22 p.m. and the sun is still shining… I have been busy heating up the sauna and soon I will swim in the lake (on the left).

Which side of the shore would you prefer?

PS Pearlspotting is (finally!) on Instagram and I am posting many photos per day from the summer house.

Finland, here I come!

Due to some work commitments I have not been able to fix my travel dates until yesterday when I finally purchased tickets to visit Finland! Next Monday I fly the Finnish national carrier Finnair to Tampere (in the southern center part of Finland) via Helsinki, from where I will drive to the summer house with my parents. The summer house, the Finnish equivalent of paradise, here I come (am permitted to say paradise, because temperatures are supposed to climb close to 30C next week!).Finnish summer house I am very much looking forward to spending time at my family’s summer house by a lake, because this is where some of my best memories come from. Pike spotting in the willows, watching dragonflies land on the lake, breathing the century-old forest after the rain, heating the sauna, swimming in the lake, water skiing, picnic on one of the lake’s many islands, etc.

To get a glimpse of this place, see previous posts from last summer:

Finland, Land of the Midnight Sun
Summer holidays in Finland
Sauna Time
A typical Finnish meal after sauna
Fishing at midnight
Our beautiful lake has turned into a monster!
Finnish fish tajine (part 2)
Very easy tartiflette
The Wind in the Willows (kaislikossa suhisee)
A must-try at the Finnish summer house!

And a post about the Finnish Midsummer I wrote some weeks ago (includes beautiful photos!):

The Midsummer Weekend in Finland

PS It is difficult these days to figure out airlines’ logic! To my surprise, it was cheaper for me to purchase Paris-Helsinki-Tampere and Helsinki-Paris, than to buy a Paris-Helsinki-Paris. Curious. Until now I have mainly used SAS when I need to fly to cities other than Helsinki in Finland, but it seems Finnair does have some pretty good deals, too.