The concept of a room of one’s own has long fascinated me. As the youngest of three girls and having moved in with my husband-to-be at the age of 21, I’ve spent less than a quarter of my life having a room to myself. As a child I would spend time in the woodshed or the space hidden under the stairs, until spiders or the constant threat of the low ceilings made me admit that even these private hideaways were less than ideal.
Since moving to Finland six years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the tiny mökki, or cabins, tucked amongst the trees on an island just across the water from Helsinki. Connected to the mainland by bridge, the City of Helsinki created campsites here for veterans returning from the war and for families who could not afford a summer cottage of their own.
Over time, site owners have replaced tents with permanent structures built to strict guidelines provided by the city, which allow for a cabin of no more than 14m2. When one came up for sale this summer I jumped at the chance to buy, given how rarely one gets the opportunity to do so. While some of the cabins are still in their original 1940s condition, others like mine have been replaced with simple but more solid wooden constructions.
While the land each cabin sits on is leased from the city, an association of cabin owners takes care of the grounds, compostable toilets and communal sauna. With no electricity, heating comes from fireplaces and drinkable water is accessible from communal outdoor taps. In winter the nearby Baltic Sea freezes over and so the water is turned off to prevent the pipes doing the same.
Like most places in Finland, nature is left untamed to grow quickly during spring and it is only the weight of visiting feet that marks out the paths to each cabin site. Handsome pheasants and curious squirrels roam freely through the trees, energised by the sunlight which is now present for nearly 24-hours a day after the long dark winter.
Cooking is done outside on a grill and a beach café is only a short walk away and while I feel remotely tucked away among the birch trees, I can cycle to our city apartment in just 15 minutes. It’s the perfect retreat for me, a city girl, now in her forties, longing for some nature and the chance should I want it, to have a room of my own.