2017 sees Finland celebrate its 100th birthday and the year is being marked by a series of national events. 100 days ahead of the 100th independence day it was Nature Day’s turn in the celebratory calendar and we happened to be in Helsinki to take part. We were staying with a friend in Viikki district, a suburb to the west of the city centre and which turned out to be an excellent place to take part in the day’s activities. Viikki, despite recent housing developments is still home to large areas of farmland, part of which is used by the University of Helsinki for its biosciences, veterinary medicine and forestry and agriculture departments. There is also a designated conservation area of forest and marshland which, on Nature Day, was hosting bird watching classes.
We chose to join in the family focused fun taking place in the park around Vanhankaupunginlahti rapids. A children’s fishing competition was underway, with a prize for the person who caught the most species. Rods were for hire so all could join in, even those still in buggies as you can see in the photograph above.
For anyone wondering what the catch might taste like, fisherman at a stall were demonstrating filleting skills and cooking up samples of fishcake for visitors to try for free.
Other stalls were run by governmental agencies such as the fisheries and wildlife department, who were selling fish and mushroom identification books and postcards and displaying the different varieties of crayfish that can be found in Finland. As it was crayfish season (click here for more crayfish related antics) this was a popular attraction.
For some it may seem a little strange that the focus of Nature Day leant towards consumption, but an understanding of the Finnish psyche puts this all in to perspective. These are people who have retained an understanding and a respect for their environment, who, unlike many in my home country, still forage and fish and grow their own, even the city dwellers. There is a balance here, founded on a solid education. When you live in a country that for many months of the year is wild and inhospitable you quickly learn that you cannot manage, cannot control or suppress nature. Instead you must live alongside it, use what it offers sustainably and protect it to ensure that, next year, it allows you to continue. It is a lesson that we all should heed.