Sverige? Suomi? Seamless.

Monday 17 September. The early drizzle lifted after an hour which made the 285 mile trip along the E4 from Umeå to Haparanda more pleasant. It’s the longest drive I’ve done while away, and though it isn’t that far, top speed is mostly 62mph, very short stretches of 68, very long stretches of dancing around 56, 50, 43. The road has some dual carriageway, but is generally single, or a third lane alternates to give a couple of kilometres dual carriageway in either direction. People stick close to the speed limit as there are cameras everywhere.

Having said that, it’s the road the traffic requires as, despite being the arterial link along the east coast, it is so quiet. To entertain myself, I kept count of vehicles overtaking me, and those I overtook. After fifty miles, six had overtaken me, and I’d overtaken five lorries, three in one go. I gave up the game then, but until the road passed through at town at ninety miles it didn’t change. I was stuck behind a lorry keeping right on the speed limit and nothing overtook us. Quiet road. Norway is even slower I believe, with a limit mostly at 50 and roads that don’t let you reach that!

Sorry for the dull stuff! Now the cool stuff; I’ve been to Finland!

Haparanda is right on the border with Finland.

‘Across’ the border lies the Finnish town of Tornio, but the towns decided they were not going to be separate. This from Wikipedia –

Relations between the neighbouring towns have always been friendly. A large portion of Haparanda’s population speak both Swedish and Finnish. Today the two towns are closely interconnected economically and socially; they constitute a transborder conurbation marketed as “EuroCity”. Since Sweden and Finland are in different time zones, Haparanda is one hour behind Tornio. This allows a unique spectacle on New Year’s Eve, when people can welcome in the new year twice. Since 2005 the cities have rebranded themselves as “Haparanda-Tornio” in Sweden, and “Tornio-Haparanda” in Finland.

Finland is a pretty excellent country. Wikipedia again – It rapidly developed an advanced economy while building an extensive welfare state based on the Nordic model, resulting in widespread prosperity and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Finland is a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development. In 2015, Finland was ranked first in the World Human Capital and the Press Freedom indexes, as the most stable country in the world during the period 2011–2016, and second in the Global Gender Gap report.

So, no border? I walked from the IKEA car park (yes, again, but it is the most northerly IKEA in the world!) into Finland and saw no sign. It was only my card company’s “Welcome to Finland” text that confirmed I’d crossed borders and was now an hour ahead of my van!

After wandering around, I looked again for anything that marked a border, this time using google maps. I stood where the border is,

(Suomi) then, without moving, zoomed the map out a little,

and it read Sverige, so I was right on the spot. Then I saw it lined up with a plaza I’d walked along earlier. That’s the border, but it’s effectively borderless, something the towns are proud of.

On the plaza is this gift from Haparanda to Tornio.

This striking obelisk, Särkynyt lyhty or Broken lantern, celebrates and Finnish punk band Terveet Kädet, from Tornio, and a poet and playwright Pietari Aapo Herajärvi.

This wooden Russian Orthodox Church harks back to when Finland was Russian.

Prior to that it was Swedish. This war memorial is for when the Finns kicked the Germans out of Tornio during WW2.

Borders are so volatile, but now at least the residents of Haparanda Tornio have a solution; carry on as if it doesn’t exist. A lesson for our times.

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