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

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

Wales – Hiking Snowdon, almost.

We woke up to a grey morning, on top of the windy hill where we had parked the previous evening. Even though the weather had been harsh in the night, our caravan had kept us nicely warm and dry. The cold air outside came as a bit of a shock once we opened the door.

The rain was looming around several corners, and we were planning on staying off of the mountain cliffs. Instead we were looking some options to take our way to valleys and hillsides. We had a small book with us with short walks which guided us to the small town of Beddgelert.

To get to Beddgelert we drove a short and pretty road trip down from the highlands to lush green valleys and up a river to reach this small, very very Welsh town.  Despite the slight drizzle the town managed to be very charming, lying there, surrounded by hills and green nature. We walked through it to get onto our hike further up the river, towards Llyn Dinas.

It was a relaxed stroll, we got to enjoy the serene lakeside scenery before starting to tackle the small uphill back towards the town. Up on the hillside there were some old copper mines, which intrigued us so, that we lost the trail. In our defense I must add, that the book we were following was not too clear in its descriptions…  Nevertheless we found some industrial history to enjoy at the mines and eventually had a wonderful walk and didn’t even end up too far from Beddgelert. As an added bonus, while we were approaching the village, we met some locals, who led us into some folklore.

The name of the town means Grave of Gelert, Gelert was a brave dog that got killed by its owner, a Welsh Prince. As the prince came home, he found blood on the cradle of his baby, so he came to the conclusion that the poor hound had killed the child. The prince then took to killing the dog and only moments later found the baby alive and a dead wolf in his house. The grave is now somewhat famous attraction, though Wikipedia is somewhat skeptical about the truth to this story.

The day was coming to an end, and we started moving towards our hike of the next day. Waffle was really, really looking forward to it, since we were aiming to climb up the Mt Snowdon. The Park4Night -app found us a sheltered parking spot near the town of Llanberis, and we were happy to plant our caravan there, under some maple tress. We figured it would be best to set off early the following morning, to beat the heaviest rush of hikers, so we set alarms at 8 and decided to be at the foot of the hill around 9.

The morning came and soon it was evident that starting the hike at 9 am was inevitably too late. The great weather and the fact that it was a Saturday had lured tons of people out of their homes. Every single parking spot on a 2 km radius from start of the hike was taken. To me, the steady stream of people making their way up the most famous peak in the whole of Wales was not so very inviting.

We parked somewhere, waay down the road. Waffle was mortified. We were browsing through the map, desperately trying to find a manageable way up. We were both slightly ill and massively out of shape so options were limited. Plus the idea of reaching the peak only to find 200 other tourists there, was putting me off.

Eventually, after vigorous browsing of the map, we had to give up. We were not going to climb Snowdon, not this time. Instead we locked our gazes to another mountain; Glyder Fawr, which is pretty close to the Tryfan, which we did for the starters.

It was not the spectacular peak we would have gotten with Snowdon, but a beautiful stroll nevertheless. We aimed for the ridge from Ogwen cottage, walked past the Llyn Idwal resting under the cliffs of Glyder Fawr. The trail is easy to walk on all the way to the top of the cliffs. And over there, the scenery is breathtaking. Turned out, we kind of got the Snowdon experience after all, since it is the neighboring peak, we got to enjoy the view over it. It was quite amusing actually, to see the steam train running up and down and the lines of people as black dots climbing the ridges.

The peak itself of the Glyder Fawr was very pleasing to climb. It is rugged with sharp rocks pointing to all different directions, a sight, not quite from this world. We scrambled up the peaks diligently and wandered forward on the ridge, until it came to a sudden, plummeting end. Our way down to the saddle between Gluder Fawr and Tryfan was probably the most strenuous part of this hike. The steep descent took the trail among  rocks and loose sand, and we were sliding and rolling the rocks ahead of us all the time.

It was slow advancing but eventually we were down the hill and rejoined with our little caravan. We had met some Wales dwelling Spanish people earlier and rejoined them too at the parking. We shared food and drinks, as a descent hiker does with another. And stories.

Our holiday came soon to an end. We drove away from the hills of Wales, camped in a forest full off bluebells somewhere in Luton. All hail park4night -app! In the early Sunday afternoon we plowed our way to the boat, through France and into Belgium. Monday would be there all too soon with work to do.

Luton, Bluebells, England