For those who have been fortunate enough to travel to Finland, they will agree that it is indeed a unique destination.
Whilst it is very much a Nordic country and a member of the European Union, its position at the crossroads of Scandinavia and Russia has left an indelible mark on its history, culture, politics, drinking habits, and architecture.
With its low population and largely unspoiled natural environment, there's no greater thrill than wandering through Finland's forests.
They cover more than 75% of the country's land area. So much so that, in the warmer months, the whole country seems to get deliberately lost in the forest, with hiking and camping being particularly popular.
A particularly charming area of the country is the small town of Ruokolahti, with a population of a little less than 5,000.
Situated near Lake Saimaa, this is a popular summer destination where tourists can not only fulfill their aquatic desires but also explore the heavily wooded areas surrounding the town.
Should they trek through long enough, they will come across a natural feature that, even for Finland's stunning natural environment, is unique: the Kummakivi balancing rock.
The Kummakivi balancing rock can be found nestled deep in the forests near the small town of Ruokolahti, adjacent to Lake Saimaa. Photo: ArtBBNV / Shutterstock
The magic of the Ice Age
Situated deep in the forests that surround Ruokolahti lies Kummakivi, often dubbed the "Balancing Rock."
A geological wonder, the main rock – about 7 meters long (approximately 23 feet) and 5 meters wide (about 16.4 feet) – is precariously perched on top of a smaller base stone.
The effect is such that this huge boulder seems delicately balanced, as if even the slightest nudge could make it fall.
Yet, this is all an optical illusion. The larger boulder, in fact, lies on a bedrock surface so firmly that it cannot be moved or shifted at all.
Scores of tourists every year come to marvel at this natural wonder that appears to be a work of magic.
The real secret of Kummakivi lies, of course, not with magic but with science.
Its formation is believed to have been the result of glacial activity during the last Ice Age. This saw much of Finland submerged under the "Scandinavian Ice Sheet," a vast array of ice kilometers deep.
As the temperature rose over thousands of years, the sheet began to melt, leaving vast glaciers that carved much of Finland's current landscape and left erratic boulders scattered throughout the region.
It is believed that when these glaciers melted and receded, this geological marvel was created as the glacier deposited this massive boulder on its smaller base.
Finland's distinctive glacial terrains owe their existence to the immense Scandinavian Ice Sheet, which, during its retreat, carved out valleys and deposited unique formations like the Kummakivi balancing rock. Photo: elina / Shutterstock
From the sacred to the protective
Now that the improbable magic of Kummakivi has been revealed to be one of Mother Nature's more impressive feats, the history of this balancing rock was steeped in the supernatural until recent times.
For years, local inhabitants of the area have regaled each other with tales, myths, and stories of how giants and other deities were said to be responsible for this rock that seems to defy the laws of physics.
Deep within the forest, it was viewed as a place where magic was ever-present, and locals were believed to have held sacred rituals here in the pre-Christian era.
Modern historians tend to agree that, during the early medieval period, most inhabitants of the Nordic region adhered to either the Old Norse religion or various animistic beliefs, which were prevalent in Viking societies.
Kummakivi might have served as a sacred site for religious rituals associated with either of these forms of worship.
- READ MORE: The role of magic in Viking societies
In recent years, the rock has seen a surge in popularity as successive Finnish governments have implemented laws and strategies to establish Finland as a global frontrunner in environmental protection and policy.
Efforts are underway to preserve the forest where Kummakivi is located, ensuring that future generations remain as spellbound as we are by this inexplicable equilibrium.
For more information on the Viking history of Finland, visit Forbes here.
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