So last night was my first real Scandinavian sauna (pron. sow-na, not saw-na) experience. You sit in a tiled room with pine benches and pour water over hot rocks: the steam creates an intense, oven-like experience. I am not sure if saunas are as healthy as the Finns would like you to think (a bit dehydrating), but once you get over the burning hot steam and hard wooden benches, they are actually quite relaxing. The trick is to leave frequently to take a cold shower (or jump in the lake, if you dare).
So I have a few food-related notes for those of you who are thinking of visiting Finland (and Hyytiala in particular). First, while they eat breakfast, lunch and tea at normal times, the Finnish eat dinner at the ridiculously early hour of 4:30 in the afternoon. It leaves a gaping hole in one's stomach around 9pm. I was told this was healthy. Secondly, never, ever accept Finnish candy, no matter how cute the boy who is offering it to you. It consists of absolutely vile licorice-flavoured rocks that have a very long-lasting licorice aftertaste. And thirdly, they eat a lot of starch. Breakfast is porridge and bread (with cheese and cucumbers for open-face sandwiches). Lunch is bread, potatoes and rice, with a side of stew. And dinner typically consists of potatoes, bread, and perhaps something else (this evening, it was a potato-fish soup. Tasty, but rather a lot of potatoes). Last night, it was two types of potatoes. Not that I don't love starch. It's just a little repetitive.
But the course is fabulous - lots of good science, and interesting people. We visited the Hyytiala field site today. One of the U.S. girls and I taught the group the term 'to pimp'. As in 'the research forest is way pimped out' (see photo). But we are off to do group work - always fun (made particularly entertating because the guy who didn't know that the Ukraine is a country and that the Dutch are from the Netherlands is in my group).
Now time to have a beer and take the sauna...