Have you ever, while traveling, fallen so in love with an object that you had to bring it back home with you? Maybe even despite the fact that it was impractical for your real everyday self? I’m trusting that since you’re reading this site, you’ve been in this place before. A few weeks ago, I visited Finland with my good friend Jessica Oreck, who had just finished a documentary about reindeer herders in Finnish Lapland, Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys. Jessica had invited a few close friends to see Lapland with her, to stay in the cabin that had become her home while she filmed the movie and to meet the family of reindeer herders. When we arrived to the cabin, which didn’t have heat or hot water, the first order of business was making a fire, and Jessica showed us how to make a fire the Finnish way. The technique centered on a particular way of shaving the wood to create little curls for the kindling. The wood was soft birch, but it was still impressive to see the knife in action.
The knife was a Marttiini made just a few kilometers below the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, where they’ve been made since 1928. I became totally enamored with the Marttiini knife when the reindeer herders, the Aatsinki family, hosted a dinner (following a sauna), and we all watched in awe as they not only made a kindling but also carved wooden flowers and wooden spoons as easy as one, two, three. I should say that I didn’t actually end up buying the knife. When I finally decided that I had to have it, the shop was closed and I had to head back home to New York. Then, Jessica surprised me with it for my birthday a few weeks later back in New York. I may not be carving flowers anytime soon, but I’m hopeful that I’ll go camping and make a huge bonfire. When I do, I’ll make my kindling the Finnish way. — Amy Azzarito
For more unique souvenirs, see Sneak Peek: Best of Bringing Travel Home.
Images above: Stills from Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys
Image above: Quickly formed wood flower and spoons that were meant to be tossed in the fire after they were used and enjoyed. But I couldn’t bear to watch them go up in smoke, so I carefully packed both in my suitcase.