It was the closest thing to cloud-walking. On a hot summer day in mid-July, my feet sank into the very fine sand on the beach of Yyteri. The powdery sand was unlike anything I’ve experienced in Finland. Everywhere I looked there was sand. Sand for kilometers and kilometers, dotted with people worshiping the sun and carrying surfboards. The sea was pounding upon the shore as the gusting wind pushed the surfers back and forth with their big sails blowing in the breeze in one of the windiest waters in the country.
Yyteri is a beach and district on the coast of Pori, not far from the city center. Pori itself is a historical city up on the west coast, located about 240 kilometers from Helsinki; it was founded by Duke John in 1558 who later became the king of Sweden. Yyteri beach is “one of the finest stretches of sand in northern Europe,” said The Guardian in their article of 10 of the best beaches in Europe for families.
We had accommodated the spa hotel, Yyteri Hotel & Spa, located only a few hundred meters away from the beach. It stood above the surrounding pine trees, shaped like a box and carried by gigantic pillars. The arching facade finished off the surreal look. If the futuristic look was any indication, this mother ship wouldn’t be your ordinary inn.
“Hi. Our dog dislikes elevators,” I said to the receptionist.
With a smile and an understanding nod, he pointed behind the glass doors.
“It’s okay. You can take the stairs.”
With a wagging tail in lead, we ascended the stairs to our room, which was on the fifth floor. Yes, this hotel welcomed canine guests, too.
“Holy living Jesus!”
“What is it?” asked my dog with that look.
I hadn’t realized I was speaking out loud but my dog didn’t mind as he went sleeping on the floor. I had swung open the curtains, and the panorama of pine trees rising on the shoreline in front of the water that gleamed in the sun had mesmerized me. It was nature framed for the visitor’s eye. Claude Monet without the coke bottle glasses.
According to the history books, Mother Nature created Yyteri sands in the beginning of the 19th century when the sand floor of the ocean became visible after the water had withdrawn from the area. The strong wind took care of the rest. Where the drifting sand landed, a dune piled. Like snow, but not melting. The nature of Yyteri is a unique biotope in Finland, and justly some of the dunes are carrying magnificent names like the “Emperor’s Sandbank.”
According to a local legend, the “Emperor’s Sandbank” was named after a man — who no-one knew who he was or where he came from — moved into a cottage next to the huge sandbank at the end of the 19th century. When asked who he was, he replied “The Emperor.”
Spa culture began in Finland in the 19th century as well. It was quickly adapted to the society, because of the unique tradition of saunas. Needless to say, the two were a match made in Finland.
Before the Yyteri Hotel was built, the beach had already received international acclaim. In 1965 during the Midsummer, The Rolling Stones attracted about 30,000 people to the sands and became the first internationally known pop group to visit Finland. Reportages of the time describe the day as a battle between the local police and the fan girls.
The girls tried to come forward as close to the stage as possible and when the police and the security pushed the girls back, they insisted on rushing forward. The lead singer, Mick Jagger, was enjoying this. When the police appeared to get a hold of the situation, he switched to the most tender tone and stepped in front of the stage to lure the girls back.
Yyteri Hotel was built in 1974. It belonged to a large hotel chain, Rantasipi, one of the monumental hotels of the time, which stood as a symbol of wealth. Big-name Finnish artists performed at the hotel’s nightclub in some of the fanciest shows in the country.
Then in 1976, the global oil crisis began to affect the industrial production in Finland, resulting in a stagnated production between years 1976-1977. The depression stopped people spending for leisure, and companies couldn’t afford to entertain their guests in spas. In Yyteri Hotel, the food got bad, the nightclub lost its glamor and in 1984, the hotel was closed.
After several bankruptcies and owner changes, ups and downs, the Yyteri Hotel & Spa of today stands strong. The hotel has been integrated to the surrounding nature in the most functional and refreshing way. In addition to the beach, there are nature trails extending for almost 30 kilometers with changing sceneries, and there are bird-towers where you can spot various seabirds. The area contains a golf course, tennis courts and a riding school. In the winter, the dunes become ski trails. As for the entertainment, the hotel still attracts some of the most popular Finnish artists.
At the beach, the smell of hamburgers, fries and fish loafed in the air from the new beach restaurant Helmi. I climbed on the second floor, which was uncovered, resembling the deck of a boat, and I walked to the edge and watched the wind creating white horses in the sea. At the tables, patrons were sipping red wine and eating fish. My long hair was waving in the air, and I felt like Mick Jagger watching the audience in the summer of ’65.
We took the dog for a walk to the trails close to the beach, and then we headed to the spa. The soft steam of the Turkish bath was a delight. The vaporizer produced an even fog, and the body relaxed on the warm tiles in about 60 degrees Celsius. I could barely see the people opposite of me. There was a scent of mild Eucalyptus while the heat and humidity worked hand in hand.
A few laps in the 17-meter pool got the pulse ticking. Then we dipped into the large pool, where children were gliding along a water slide. The pool extended outside, too, where it was nice to be able to combine the fresh air to the experience. I was told that the pool is open year around.
Tssssssssh! Hot. Nice.
A child, slightly taller than the sauna bucket, was running toward me with open arms.
“Mother!” she repeated.
A tall, chubby figure appeared behind her, and just as the child was about to grab my knee, the sturdy man, her father, grabbed the child in his lap.
“No! Mother is in the other sauna,” the man said.
The child kept staring at me. I put down the scoop in the bucket, and my long hair hung over my shoulders.
Maybe I should cut my hair, I thought.
I decided to leave. Puzzled. But in the dressing room, I burst into a deep laughter.
I hadn’t felt this good in weeks.
Sources: Hannes Tiira: Yyteri — Dyynien Kaunotar, Yyterin kylpylän majoitusasiakkaiden asiakastyytyväisyys (2008)