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East of Sweden and West of Russia, Finland has the lowest population density in the European Union. Some consider Finland, specifically northern Lapland, to be the home of Saint Nicholas (also known as Santa Claus). A quarter of the country’s land is in the Arctic Circle. The summer brings the midnight sun, whereas winter brings the polar night, when the sun doesn’t rise for days, weeks, or months. Commercial cruises in the Baltic region are a big source of revenue. Nordic skiing and bird-watching are popular activities. Also, music fans may enjoy the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival in Olavinlinna.

Finnish cuisine can be hearty and rustic, or fancy and continental. Typical cereal grains are rye, barley, and oats, and berries like blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, wild strawberries, and the highly nutritious sea buckthorn are popular. Some common vegetables are turnips, mushrooms, and potatoes. Lakes provide a lot of fish–try fried vendace in the summertime. Hernekeitto is a pea soup usually served on Thursdays, along with a dessert pancake.

Helsinki has many organic restaurants, serving up Finnish and European food, fresh juices, even frozen yogurt. It isn’t hard to find vegan eateries or natural foods stores around the country, and there is also typically vegetarian-friendly Chinese, Indian, Italian, and maybe Greek or Vietnamese food. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, try some excellent Scandinavian licorice or pulla, cardamom-flavored bread that goes really well with coffee.