Fishing lines: It's the ice one - that's Marrttii

Next time you find yourself stuck in Helsinki on a snowy Sunday, while away a few hours in the Natural History Museum on Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu. Not only is it an educative experience, it will also tell you a great deal about the Finns.

You might wonder why I was wasting time soaking up culture when I could have been fishing. But I had gone there to deliver some writing skills training (hard to believe, I know) and I had not expected to have so much time free. Nobody had warned me that Helsinki is closed on Sundays.

In desperate search of amusement, I discovered that the Natural History Museum was open. Sadly, there was little of interest to anyone but the most ardent ichthyologist, except perhaps that the country boasts more fish beginning with z (zope, zlege, zahrte, zander) than anywhere else I know. The displays were a disappointment too. The museum's taxidermist was certainly not an angler - it seemed like he hadonly just reached chapter three of Taxidermy for Fun and Profit. The exhibits were supposed to reflect Finland's finny life, though I never worked out why a sailfish, more commonly caught off Florida, was there.

Perhaps the accompanying caption would have explained all. Unfortunately, it was in Finnish, which is not the easiest language to understand, being related only to Venusian. It is a bit like typing on an old Underwood, where the letters get stuck, aa bitt liikke tthiis.

The birds and mammals were more interesting. At some stage, probably in Victorian times, there was a Finn who was an absolute whiz with the trap, gun and garotte. Macaws, snow leopards, red pandas, orang utans, birds of paradise, giraffes, tigers: he'd bagged the lot.

The real highlights were the moose specials. The moose clearly holds a special place in Finnish hearts. So go along and marvel at a mirror surrounded by moose jaws, a table with moose legs, even a diorama of a badly smashed up car, with a battered, bleeding moose draped across the bonnet and coming through the windscreen. It's a fine advert for Beware of Moose When You're Driving.

Well, after that lot I could have done with a spot of angling, especially as Finland is home to the vendace. In the UK, this herring-like fish only survives in Bassenthwaite and Derwent water, but it is common in Finland and one evening, I ate vendace fillets for supper. However, my fishing enthusiasm was curbed by memories of my last Finnish exploits with a rod.

I had wanted to go ice- fishing, and heard about a competition in Oulu, about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. A Finnish friend booked me in and I duly turned up on the day, walking out across the ice to the organiser's caravan.

"Hello, I'm from England," I said. "Where is the rest of your team and your hut?" asked a bearded giant, called Marrttii or something, looking out the window. As he spoke, a car pulling a hut on wheels drove past and disembarked six woolly-hatted Finns. I suddenly had an awful feeling that I had not entered a cosy little five-hour competition, but something more gruelling.

Someone who spoke passable English was found. He explained that I had entered The Finnish 48-hour Marathon Team Ice Fishing Championships.

Well, I gave it a go. But moon boots and an extra jumper were no protection against the bitter night temperatures of 20 degrees below zero. It was made worse by visiting the huts strewn across the water, all of which had fires burning, beds set up and booze flowing.

At just before midnight, I gave up before I became a permanent feature of the landscape. I had another go in the final few hours, but the English team of me finished a miserable last.

The Finns were very hospitable, keeping me in drink and food for the two days. I even won a prize, a wooden spoon with the Oulu name on it. But I will be very wary of entering any ice-fishing contest again. I came very close to ending up as a salutary display in the Helsinki museum.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable