At the Edge of Western Civilisation: A Night Out in Eastern Finland

by Anna-Cara Keim

Lennä Juri Gagarin
Lennä Juri Gagarin
Tule eläväna takaisin…

                  Miljoonasade – Lapsuuden sankarille

Those lines originate from a song by the Finnish band Miljoonasade devoted to their childhood hero Yuri Gagrin. They roughly translate into “Fly on Juri Gagarin, fly on Juri Gagarin, come back alive.” This proved to be the most popular song during my recent nightlife adventures in a middle-sized Eastern Finnish town giving me the impression that sort of space ship had brought me back to the 1970s. I mean, who even wants to go out of it is almost -30°C outside these days? There is no way you can wear short dresses and high heels. It has to be warm gloves, skiing jackets, heavy winter boots and thermal tights even if you are just walking from the taxi to the restaurant or from the bus to the club.

Our night begun in a fairly civilised manner; after having consumed our first drink in the sauna we headed to a local restaurant for a nice dinner.  Afterwards we went to a pub where we listened to a Finnish life band and consumed hot chocolate with mint vodka. And since the combination of mint vodka and hot chocolate was so utterly delicious, albeit not cheap, since alcohol in Finland is never cheap, we decided to have another one. Some more of my Finnish relations arrived and the idea emerged that we should all go to a club and sing karaoke. So we walked up the street to a club in temperatures that felt like at least – 40°C. Upon arrival I realised that everyone in the club was at least in their 40s so we significantly reduced the average age of the audience that night. Some of the patrons were Russian and the women wore glittery golden dresses that added to the 1970s feeling.  “I expect you to sing too!” my friend said. So it seemed that there was absolutely no excuse for me. And indeed, a few minutes later I found myself on small stage, together with some of my girlfriends, shouting the lyrics of a song by the popular Finnish singer Kaija Koo into a microphone.

Later that same night, after all of us had already consumed a few glasses of Longero- a gin-based type of long drink that is only sold in Finland-, a young soldier came up to me. “I want to sing something for you”. I looked bemused. His friends ensured me: “He’s had a few drinks and now he is full of confidence.” Oh dear! Where did I end up! Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of hearing him sing.

We decided to go home, back out into the cold…

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