Autumn In Our Finnish Paradise

October came, and like many Finns, us too needed to get to our summer cottage to make it ready to face the harsh months of winter.  Our journey was perhaps a little longer than most. The route went first by car from Belgium to Bremen, Germany and then an early morning flight with Ryanair to Tampere, Finland and again further by car to the cottage.

Rough journey by any standard, but as we were approaching the small Pirkkala airport in Tampere the tiredness was swiftly swiped aside. Pirkkala must be one of the prettiest airports I have landed to. It is surrounded by beautiful lakes and farmlands. The fields had mostly been harvested and formed a golden brown blanket underneath us. The islands in the lake were covered with yellows and reds. The mostly German crowd in the plane was clearly impressed too.

I had expected the beautiful colorful autumn to be over already, and that there would be a grey misery waiting. I was so happy to find out I had been wrong! The foliage was still very colorful. As we drove up towards our summer home, I felt the homesickness kicking in. Funny, how that feeling of longing can hit you like that, when you actually are there, in the place you have been longing to. I hadn’t even noticed the whole thing back in Belgium.

But there I was, sitting in the car, looking at the colorful countryside passing by. And crying. Don’t know why, but the tap was wide open. Waffle was spooked, probably thinking that his girlfriend had gone mad.

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While we had been gone, my parents had taken the freedom to use and improve our hut. So we arrived to a slightly different Finnish summer nesting place.  We had a new fireplace outside. Dad had made it, since the previous one was resolving in itself. Also the open fireplace in the hut had been prepared so, that the smoke would actually go up the chimney and not into the room. The dock and the boat were taken out of water for winter. My parents had checked our oil lamps too, and labelled the ones that work. The oldies themselves were on holiday, so the we were on our own.

Such a nice feeling to get back to our own little piece of paradise. As it was getting dark, we lit the fire place, the sauna and a ton of candles. Soon the hut was toasty warm, smelling faintly of smoke. We wrapped ourselves on the sofa to watch the living fire and our small piece of land disappearing into the dark.

We had raided a store on the road. So now we possessed a massive feast of all things Finnish. Mainly Carelian pies and blueberry juice, which we munched on while waiting for the sauna to heat up.

It is not the quickest to warm up, the sauna of ours. But oh my, the löyly (heat) it gives, is magnificent. Perfectly moist, still rich in oxygen, even if the heat rises to skin burning levels! What a wonderful feeling it was after a heavy travel, just to sit there, let all your muscles heat all the way to the core, water hissing off of the stove. Shared all with the best boyfriend in the world. Priceless.

As a part of the sauna going, we wanted to take a dip into the lake. If the colors, migrating birds and the dark night hadn’t brought it home, the temperature of the lake water did: it was autumn! Our sauna-warm bodies were quickly chilled in the water and the cold pricks in my toes drove me back to the heat pretty quickly. We are not quick learners, so we tried the water again, several times, before giving up and letting the sauna cool down.

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That was pretty much how our weekend went. Keeping the cottage warm, doing some shopping for equipment and such, seeing relatives, visiting the touristic things in Kuopio, tracing elks and having some more sauna. The colors in the nature surrounding us and the beautiful fading autumn light created such an unspeakably beautiful setting.

No wonder neither of us was exactly jumping out of joy when the time to return home came, all too soon. We closed the place down, took the last sniffs of the smell of the wood fire and the moist forest and hit the road.  After a small mishap, we were running terribly late, given that we wanted to visit some friends in Tampere still before hopping into the plane. But the road was beautiful for the part we were able to appreciate it.

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The rest of the way, well, it did not go quite as planned. We returned the car, got to the terminal, through the security, all the way up to the plane. Even the plane got on to the runway and was speeding up. Until it wasn’t. Soon enough we found ourselves back in the terminal, waiting for a new plane from London. That took some time. So long in fact, that we could not land to Bremen anymore. They flew us to Hannover instead, a 2 hour bus ride away from Bremen.

We had thought, optimistically, that we would be back home, sleeping it all off in our own bed by 3 am the following day. Obviously that didn’t really happen. We started driving from Germany only after 6 in the morning. The German rush hours were kind enough to welcome us too into the slowly crawling queues. Waffle was soldiering through the misery without batting an eye, as I was drooling and snoring happily at the passenger’s seat.

When we finally got to our offices in the early afternoon, neither of us were too fresh. The work day was like wading through a thick swamp. But Finland had been beautiful! The weekend getaway had been perfect and I was happy to have had some Finland-time.

 

 

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Escape to the neighborhood

I was looking forward to a nice, calm and relaxed Sunday today. Our neighbors had a different idea. They have just bought the house, and the renovation is on full swing during the weekends. Now they are killing the floor and apparently some of the walls with great passion.

My ears were ringing and I was getting irritated. So was Waffle.  Some browsing later we took our way to escape to Hamme, a small town a bit further up the river from us, with plenty of calm countryside walks. It was a beautifully chilly, sunny autumn day, so why not go out?

We arrived close to sunset, and the colors were stunning. There was frost and a bedding of brown leaves coloring the ground and a sea of reeds waving in the quieter waters as a golden fuzz. It’s been long time since we last did these short hikes around our own home. You don’t always have to go far to find things beautiful and interesting.

 

It was good to be out together. We had time to get silly again, I love his brain, refusing to get adult and serious, always looking for ways to do something silly. I think I tell that to him way too seldom.

The autumn air was getting our minds working on more smart things too. We spent a good amount of time planning. There is this dream of a “home extension”. A thing to be built that would bring quite some new aspects to our weekend travels. Waffle’s father is also in with the plan, which is great, because the two of us don’t necessarily have all the knowledge needed to do such a thing. (Irritating isn’t it, that I don’t let you know what it is? You’ll find out soon enough, trust me).

The walk chilled our cheeks and noses and gave a nicely wintery feeling. It feels so good  now to be back in the warmth of our home. The neighbors have stopped and the local marching band is still sober. Now over and out, with my glass of glögi off to the sofa.

 

What happened in October

November is usually the depressingly boring month, when the autumn really sets in, turning everything into grey, wet and cold misery. Then the nature goes to sleep, sun does not want to rise anymore and people are getting ill and depressed. At the same time the wheels of the economy are starting to spin faster after the summer break. That is usually a bad combination, and unnatural, in my humble opinion.

The starting of my October was not quite that depressing, or business-wheely. It started of with a birthday hike. Our dear German friend from Karhunkierros was getting older, and she had had the wonderful idea of hiking a part of the famous Mullerthal trail accompanied by hiking people. For us that was also a wonderful opportunity to get together with more or less the same group with which we hiked the most important hike of my life. Oh the nostalgia and the pretty memories! We should start doing that more often!

The planned hike started from Mullerthal and looped back via Larochette, 37 km of Luxembourgish countryside for us to hike in 2 days. We drove to Mullerthal in pouring rain. The weather didn’t get much better when it was time to get going on foot. So we all ended up looking more or less like walking tents in our rain gear.

The first day took our convoy through a beautiful valley all the way to Larochette. By the time we got there the rain had more or less ended and our wet convoy of hikers was able to get their feet dry. The evening was starting to turn a little bit moist though; Someone had brought some absinthe, and the store of the camping had a good supply of beer. We were able to get our birthday girl, and more importantly, the rest of the group, nicely tipsy. Soon there were plenty of inappropriate German jokes and out of focus pool games around.

The return hike to the car began in the late morning and was sturdily hangoverish. The convoy was walking less than straight, but everybody seemed to be pleased with the small party we had had the night before, I certainly was. We crossed quite a bit of beautiful Luxembourgian countryside with rain and wind on our backs.

The ending part of the trail took us to a wooden path that was extremely slippery after a couple of days of rain. On every second step someone was almost dropping off to greet the bushes. Soon we started to see more and more people, we were approaching the very popular bit of the famous stone formations, waterfalls and bridges, which many people obviously want to see.

Soon after that we found the cars, packed all the wet hikers into them, and drove home. For us it was a bath awaiting accompanied by some good wine.

The next weekend it was time to teach some basics of kiting to our dear friends Maria and Bram, who we have met via my Dutch lessons. One Friday we sent them off to Les Hemmes with their camper van and children. We would be coming after them on Friday.

That weekend turned out to be full of surprises.  First one being, that the camping we have started to use, was closed for the whole winter.  We had sent our friends there to find a closed gate and felt very bad about it. They had to go look for another campsite for the night.

On Saturday we arrived too, and got a confirmation of the camping really being closed. Another set of our dear friends, Maarten and Yvan, had found us another camping and even reserved a spot. Lovely people those guys! So we managed to focus on the more important tasks at hand, socializing over a beer with buggiers that is.

There was of course eventually a time for the beach too. The beach was perfect, I realized and felt immediately sorry for myself, since my wrist would not allow me to kite or drive at all. But the weather was nice, I had a chair, a camera and a good book with me, so the beach life would not be that bad.

By the time Maria and Bram joined the group we had already built our buggies and enjoyed a very buggier-like portion of beer, thanks to our dear friend Maarten. It was definitely time to drag ourselves to the beach. We set camp and Waffle started teaching.

Waffle’s day turned out to be hectic. There were two adults to be instructed and their kids to entertain. He was driving our tandem up and down the beach all day long, with too low wind and massive kites and kind yelling at him to go either faster or slower. If he wasn’t driving he was teaching people to fly a kite. I was ruminating my own misery of not being allowed to even touch a kite (I did though, do not tell Waffle).

That teaching resulted to the next surprise of the day. Bram was incredibly talented. Waffle shoved bigger and bigger kites into his hands and he didn’t die. Soon Bram found himself in a buggy with the kite and sure enough, he drove! He found the correct wind direction very easily and managed to drive some very impressive lines. Either Waffle is getting great at teaching or Bram is phenomenal.

The following day the wind was completely gone. Other activities needed to be invented. Since there were kids and all, we decided to go see the seals. As usual, to see them we had to drive through the makeshift refugee camp, The Jungle. Driving through that place is always an experience. To the kids it left quite an impression for sure.

At the shore we saw quite some seals. Apparently very contempt and happy seals. I have never seen them so relaxed before. They were just floating around with the current and socializing with the other blobbers. It was great to end that weekend like that, watching something so beautiful.

After that my October became a little bit more business-wheely. I had to stop my Dutch lessons (still getting my diploma though, with 89% score!) and get to work. So it finally started. My new challenge in working life. I work in the EU quarter in Brussels, right in the middle of EU politics. Which is surprisingly lot of fun. The job is interesting and the people are great, finally I am happy to be working again!

But I do spend a lot of time on the road. It is not the optimal journey to work from Rupelmonde to Brussels, especially as I am for the time being refusing to drive to the center on my own. That is why I haven’t been writing too much lately, at least in English, so sorry about that. I just haven’t had the time. But I’ll try to get it going again.

We do have some things coming up. Waffle is doing his No Alcohol November and we are going to Mallorca for a getaway weekend. There is another set of Finnish Beer Festival coming up and of course, Christmas is here pretty soon. I am happy to announce, that we’ll be spending it in Finland!

How is autumn getting along there, where ever you are?