Finland – Loving the summer

So midsummer came, Waffle’s parents went and we were stranded alone in Helsinki.  The midsummer Helsinki I remember, used to be a ghost town. Things have changed since the time I lived there. Largely, I think, thanks to the change in the opening hours of shops. The previously so ghostly town was buzzing with life with people shopping.

In that buzz we strolled to have lunch in a Mexican with a friend before escaping to the suburbs to find some family members to meet, before heading even further out of the town, to another cottage.

A part of my family has a great little hut in the town of Karkkila. It is in the forest at the shore of a small, dark lake. We were greeted with warm sauna and fresh, home made Carelian pies. So we bathed, swam, ate and laughed, went to bed and repeated the same the next day with a touch of football and cottage games.

However nice it was, in the afternoon we turned our car towards Savonia again, to get to enjoy our own cottage.  The real relaxing summer holiday was finally starting.

 

We were both looking forward to have at least one good day hike, as it had been a long time since we managed to get on a trail. Once we started looking for our alternatives we discovered surprisingly great amount of alternatives when it comes to National Parks.  This time Tiilikkajärvi was our chosen destination.

I was not expecting much from the park, to be honest. It looked like a small little blob on the map with a lake in the middle. Tiilikkajärvi laughed at my face and was magnificent straight from the start!

Starting from the Sammakkotammi there is the Uiton kierto -loop of 7 km which we were happy to embark on, we added a couple of extra stretches to it and walked about 12 – 13 km that day. And the trails were beautiful! I felt a bit ashamed I had never been there before.

The trail took us into a beautiful forest of pines and spruces with a carpet of bilberries waiting to ripen. Quickly we ended up to an open swamp where the trail turned into duckboards. Onward we went along the side of the lake Tiilikka, the trail moving back and forth from swamp to forest. The smell in the forest was amazing. Vibrant with tones of different flowers. The wild rosemary was not yet in bloom, so it’s smell was not yet overpowering all the others. Accidentally we had the perfect timing!

That is exactly the kind of setting a soul like mine needs to be in sometimes.

A bit further, 3,5 – 4 km from the start the trail comes to Venäjänhiekka, a camping spot with a magnificent beach and a view over the large open water of the Tiilikkajärvi. From thereon, to the north, the trail explores a very narrow peninsula which almost, but not quite reaches the other peninsula crossing the lake from the northern shores. The whole place is scattered with beautiful beaches with the most fine sand for your toes to sink in.

 


It was magical, walking in such beautiful surroundings with the summer sun on our necks. We crossed through an old farm house, that has been made into a resting hut and renovated into it’s former outfit. From there the trail took us to more of the endless swamps and duckboards. The  vastness of the place is unbelievable, it takes your mind on journeys as it spreads around for kilometers on end.

About 4 hours we spent in the park. It is by far one of the most versatile one I have seen, compared to it’s size. I do warmly recommend visiting it, whether on foot or by kayak. There is also a longer hiking trail, “Virvatulten polku” leaving from the park, which will take you to places of that shows you marks of the ice age etc…

Nothing much happened for the rest of the holiday. We chilled, enjoyed the nature and peace, some remarkable sunsets and full moons. We also seem to have an unbelievable clumsy swan as a neighbor. As we were having our evening swims the swan decided to take off and go do it’s own evening business. We just happened to be chilling in the water right on it’s runway. The next evening the same swan was coming back home from it’s business and was almost landing it’s feet on Waffle’s head, only just avoiding collision, after we shouted at it. Poor thing, maybe he should visit Specsavers.

As always, the time to go home came far too soon. I knew I would miss Finland again. Before leaving Finland completely we had a stop in Helsinki again. The last days we spent meeting friends. As we see each other so seldom I start noticing how we are all growing up, facing completely new challenges and phases in life. One is living in a mansion, another is becoming a mother, someone is moving to a new city; there are old and new loves in their lives.

I miss my girls.

 

On the following Monday it was back to reality and work again. It felt a bit like my legs had doubled in weight. I would have been so much happier to swing my toes in the lake at our dock that dragging them around the hot streets of Brussels. But oh well, there are new trips to look forward to.

So long!

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Finland – Midsummer Magic

It is always such a surreal feeling to set up the out of office replies and phone diversions on the last day of work before going on holiday. That was the case also this time. I would be out for 2 weeks and was just hoping the mountain of unread messages would not drown me on my return.

This would be a special visit to Finland, since the parents of Waffle were joining us. The first time ever in Finland for them! The atmosphere while driving to Amsterdam to catch our Transavia flight to Finland was… anticipatory.

Finland hit home on the very first meters. The weather was clear as we landed in the dusk,  slowly sliding into an explosion of colors in the northern sky. I noticed some disbelieving glances at watches – if you have never witnessed it before, it’s hard to get how the sun can keep shining even though it is night.

 

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The sunset slid into a remarkable sunrise as we were crossing the endless forests from Helsinki to my hometown Siilinjärvi. It was 4 in the morning as we arrived to our cottage. Everything was bathing in the most beautiful golden shine, the lake was calm and a cuckoo was somewhere cuckooing for the new day.

All that beauty was followed by a bit of a culture shock.

Apparently the parents had not taken my dear beloved so very seriously when he had told them how off-griddy our crib actually was. There really is no electricity, no running water, unless you yourself run it up the stairs. And the most shocking of all, no water closet but surely an outhouse. Oh my. With that image in mind we sent the parents to bed.

The reality was still very much the same later that morning when our heads started to depart from the pillows. We had breakfast at the lakeside, enjoying the green nature surrounding us. The fresh air with the scent of the forest was clearly an impressive experience for Waffle’s dad, something so pure is difficult to come by in the central Europe. The initial shock seemed to start faiding.

Luckily we seemed to be  in the positive books of the weather gods, the days stayed beautiful and sunny throughout the week the parents stayed with us. We boated and fished, ate (too) well, bathed in the sauna and enjoyed the greatest of Finnish summer.

 

I still can’t really get over the summer night skies there. Every evening, every sunset is different, full of colors that are never exactly the same shade. If it weren’t for the million of blood thirsty mosquitoes hunting me, I would have probably spent my nights out there on the dock.

The week swung by on wings and as midsummer came, we headed to the magical destination of Helsinki Airport to send Waffle’s parents back home.

I wish it was a memorable holiday for the oldies. At least we did our best showing them the surroundings, the beautiful lakes and countryside. I taught waffle’s dad how to fish, and he found it clearly enormously funny, since it is impossible not to catch anything from our dock. Waffle’s mom got onto the lake despite her shyness of water and the forest walks seemed to be enjoyable for both of the oldies.

The following week we would be enjoying our cottage just by the two of us. And that will be another story, see you in the next post!

Maybe have a look at the pictures in the meanwhile: Flickr

 

 

 

Finland and Cottage Life!

As some of you may remember, last year we purchased a cottage close to my childhood home in Finland. We had not been there for the whole long winter, obviously. The place was covered in a deep blanket of snow and had been living its own quiet life.

In the meanwhile it had not been quite as quiet for us. Loads of our friends are really interested about the cottage, some wanting to visit it, some not quite understanding why we even bought the thing. The concept of Finnish holiday huts is not really familiar for everyone. The cottage is now listed in Airbnb too!

Once the snow was gone, my parents took to enjoying the cottage, while we were stuck in Belgium. We ourselves got there last weekend, we also brought around our dear friend Maria, for whom it would be the very first time in Finland! I don’t know who was more excited, her to see Finland or we to show the country for her.

On a Thursday afternoon we headed off to Amsterdam to take a flight with Norwegian to Helsinki.  We arrived a bit past 11 pm, took our car and headed to Kirkkonummi to quickly visit my dear friend Miia and take a little boat engine out of her hands. After the detour, our road trip to the heart of Savo could begin.

We were treated to the beauty of the light of the Finnish summer night. I was tired but too taken by the beauty of the green scenery and the changing colors of the northern sky add to that the eagerness to finally get to see our cottage again, I just could not sleep! I never really grow tired of looking at landscapes passing by a car window.

The morning was well on it’s way when we finally pulled into our own little piece of paradise. I was home! My parents had been kind enough to make the beds for us so we could just crawl under the covers and let the coma take us away. Maria slept in the dedicated sleeping hut, as we dosed off in the main hut.

It had been an abnormally warm May in Finland and luckily we got to enjoy it too, once the sun poked our eyes through the curtains; the temperature had already risen above 20! I was brave, ran to the dock and dipped my toes into water. That send a chill up my spine and I was instantly a lot less brave. Waffle did better, taking a dip and a short swim in the cool lake. And what would I have been, if I did not follow in that, after all.

What a refreshing start it is for a day to have a short swim and freeze your toes off. Our delighted screams of pain and shock lured our dear Maria out of her bed too. She was happy to leave the swimming for us, tipping only a toe or two in the surface waters.

After we all were fully awake, we visited my parents and their new rescue dog Vili. We were fed well over some cups of coffee and got a tour of the garden before going to town to buy some food for the rest of our stay.

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I was half way to heaven. The lilies of the valley were in full bloom, and our whole yard is covered in them. We have starlings nesting in two of the trees and their life is a joy to follow. Every evening we could hear a bittern making its peculiar noise as well as the cranes.  There is a certain sense of urgency in the swiftly passing Finnish spring.

Followed some lovely days of summer. We swam, bathed in the sauna (using the birch whisk in the sauna was something odd and new to Maria), ate, enjoyed the peace and beauty of the nature. Our new boat engine let us explore the further islands, with even more peace and quite on offer. I was feeling positively reborn when the time to go home came, all too soon.

Luckily, we could already start thinking about our next trip to Finland in the half way of June. This time Waffle’s parents are tagging along and we have a luxurious 2 weeks to spend there!