Finland – Loving the summer

Forest, Finland, 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

Summer night, Finland

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

 

 

 

Visiting home – The part of the Cottage life

Lake, Finland, Evening

In the previous post I left you hanging, as we were speeding up north through the countryside of Finland. It was me having the wheel as Waffle was peacefully sleeping, missing dozens of moose and a bear running across the road (just kidding Waffle, just kidding, you only missed some bush).

We arrived at my parents in the late afternoon. There was an air of excitedness. A new cottage had joined the family. My parents had of course already had their change to enjoy it to some extend, since it was my dad who got the keys as he signed off the sale. They were rather eager to get us there as well. We were of course anxious to see the place, for the first time as our own property!

We drove there as soon as we got the keys. So many times I have gone down that road, on horse back, whit a dog, on the way to pick berries or mushrooms. But seldom have I been so anxious to actually get to the end of it. We were driving towards our very own summer home!

Our cottage is actually a combination of 4 huts and some storage buildings for fire wood etc. In the main hut is the kitchen, with wood heated stove and oven, a living area with an open fire place and a sauna, which can be accessed through the porch, and is at the perfect running distance from the lake. There is no running water, it is carried by hand from the lake. The lake water is technically drinkable, though it is a bit tinted, but we reserved to carrying water from my parents’ tap. There is no electricity either, just a generator, powering a vacuum cleaner, lighting and the TV if needed. All basic and adorable, true off-grid life.

We entered first the main hut, a descent log cabin. The previous owners had left almost everything behind. Which meant a mismatch pile of furniture, carpets and cutlery. I could see Waffle looking and scanning and deciding to throw practically everything out.

The sauna is somewhat the heart of the place. It heats the whole hut nicely, making it a comfortable place to sleep in, even if the night gets cold. The stove in the sauna has a water tank, in it we can heat about 30 liters of water to a boil while we bathe. And it stays warm all the way till the morning. Wonderful! Of course the sauna is also the place of bathing and relaxation; the most important functions of it.

We were very happy about our new home. In the evening, after sauna and skinny dipping, we wrapped ourselves in towels on the dock, to look at the warm orange light that colored the lake and the forests around it. The wind was gone and the surface of the lake was like a mirror. We breathed in the silence and the peace, as the following days would be full of work.

The rest was needed. The next week was rhythm by the slow mornings (getting the coffee ready took an hour, on our charming wood stove), removing the furniture, kitchen and cupboards. We visited furniture stores almost every day, as it was slowly clearing out, what all we would be needing to make the place functional and pretty.  Always, by the end of the day, we took our dusty and tired bodies to sauna and swim. That is the ultimate sleep bringer in the evenings.

The goal was to get the main hut and the sleeping hut at the lake side livable and ready by the time our holiday was over. The stress was taking its toll. Not everything we wanted was deliverable by the time we would be out of the country, so we needed to make some compromises to get the whole thing in place and just choose the items in stock. Good thing me and Waffle had pretty similar vision of the end result and what would fit the cottage.

In the midst of it all, we managed to put together a small cottage warming party, with my family and some friends gathering around for pancakes, BBQ and beer. The weather treated us good, with sunshine and warmth. That was such an important moment to get our minds off of all the work and enjoy the surroundings with good food and noisy babble.

Every now and then there was time for enjoyment. We got to experience some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises; at that time of the year it is hard to tell them apart. There had been bears right at our property earlier in the summer, but they were now gone. Our neighbors were a crane family, with a brown lanky youngster, some owls and a small herd of deer. They made sure that we were entertained in the evenings before the new TV arrived.

My parents and brother were a great help for us, almost every evening we ate fresh fish they had caught the same day from the lake (delicious!) and they were helping us out in throwing out the old stuff and to carry in the new. In return they can use our cottage and sauna as much as they wish.

To be honest, as the holiday came to an end, we did not feel so very relaxed. We had been stressing and yapping at each other and there had been no relaxing outdoorsy adventures around. We were both still missing the mountains, since that is where we normally would spend a holiday. But next time the cottage hopefully is less work and more relaxation.

On the way back, we still managed to have a small moment with friends in Helsinki, before taking the boat to Estonia. On the other side of the sea we were aiming for some wild camping. Estonia is littered with free camping grounds, most of which offer basic, but good facilities, meaning an outhouse, fire pits and a source of water.

One of those locations was on our route, situated in the middle of a pine forest. We arrived in the middle of the night in darkness and rain. A little less adorable as we maybe hoped for. There were some Finns and a Dutch already fast asleep as we were just pitching the tent.

Somehow we were a bit too tired to make the return journey a descent road trip. We drove fairly straight towards Riga, with one pit stop to stretch our legs and visit the seaside. Also Latvia should be more famous for the camping grounds. We happened by a very large one. It was made in the forest right on the seaside, a strip of a few hundred meters, or more,  of forest housed multiple fire pits and tent spots, definitely very pretty and tidy! It happened to be the season for bill berries too, and the forest there was full of them.

In Riga we climbed to the plane, fingers still dyed by the blueberries and an apparent longing to get back to our cottage. The next trip to Finland has already been planned!

More pictures you will find from our Flickr!