30.06.02 - 01.07.02:
02.07.02 - 07.07.02:
Oulanka nat. park
13.04.02 - 14.07.02:
15.07.02 - 18.07.02:
Porvoo / Borga
19.07.02 - 20.07.02:
On this page, we (will) describe our experiences in Finland.
Apart from the travelogue for this country you will also find a number of links to useful sites, ranging from general information to embassy homepages.
Written by: Coen
As Dorrit wrote last month, we entered Finland. It rained all the way. The landscape is getting greener and greener and the number of lakes is increasing. Today we cruised through the area high and dry and finally we slept at the Inari lake. It is forbidden to camp everywhere but our gipsy noses smelt a good spot.
We have become uncle and aunt again. My sister gave birth to Youp. Hurray, hurray!
We went to a camping place and in the afternoon we went to the local pub to watch the final of the world championship Germany-Brazil. The pub was full of local Sami people and the beer was cheap. We had a wonderful afternoon with a Fin who was a Brazil supporter and a German woman who drove to the North Cape on her motorcycle.
The rest of the day we did the laundry and I changed a glow plug of the car. We had a problem with the laundry because where could you leave a half wet pile of clothes if the dryer does not work and it is raining outside? Yes indeed, 2 huge washes lay and hung around. The van looked like a south-Italian street.
With liquid in our lungs (because of the wet clothes) we woke up and looked for a shop to buy a present for Youp. You can buy everything of the reindeer here. There are indeed many of them and they really drive you crazy. If you see one at the side of the road, you can be sure it is going to walk on the road in front of your car. You can shout or claxon, nothing works. So the co-pilot has to look at the road-side constantly.
The afternoon we spend in the Siida museum which was very interesting. Part of the museum was about the geographical history of Lapland and another part was about the arctic seasons and its plants and animals. Very interesting was the exhibition about the Sami people and their customs. Outside was a open air museum.
After this, we drove south through the Lapish area. It is beautiful here. Endless forests with lakes here and there. Most of the lakes are not visible. You really have to enter the small paths to get to them. Every now and then we have to make an emergency break because of reindeers on the road. You see stalls with reindeer products and fish along the road because this is what the Laps earn their money with nowadays.
Ruka was our destination for today. We read about a hiking trail called "the bears trail". 95 kilometers through the wilderness of the Oulanka national park along the Russian border. That sounded great!
At 20:00 hr we decided to walk the whole trail and at 1:00 at night everything was packed and prepared.
We woke up early in the morning to get the bus to Hautajaervi, the starting point of the Bears trail. It was situated directly at the polar circle.
When we started walking, we felt the first drops of rain falling down on us. And yes, soon we had to put on our raincoats and pack our gear in plastic bags and we walked like soldiers through the swamp and the mud. With 20 kilos p.p. because of the supplies, we felt our feet and shoulders.
The track really went into the wilderness, through the forest and we had to clamber over roots and make our way through the swamps.
A highlight was a mushroom shaped rock in the middle of a lake.
After 15 kilometers we arrived at the planned hut. The campfire was burning and some Finnish people who also slept in the hut had poked up the heating so we could dry our clothes. It was a relaxing night with some Finnish people, a Finnish couple and a German couple. The huts are for more persons. You can sleep on wooden boards with your own sleeping bag. Inside it smells like… well, ageing Gouda cheese. You can also put up your tent.
The next morning we went looking for a canyon first. It was a splendid walk and the wetter had turned bright. The sun was shining and it was warm. We crossed the canyons with suspension bridges and there was a wonderful waterfall.
We walked through endless parts of forest, varied by swamps. The ground was partly overgrown with red-green berry's. There were great views over the river and the little streams. We also walked through a piece of "almost-dead" forest with dead, gray and naked trees without end. We though it was because of the Chernobyl disaster. We had already read about the reindeer population being affected by it.
We walked 19 kilometers to the next hut and when we arrived, a reindeer family was also living here. They stayed the whole night.
We had our "dinner" and spend the night at the campfire with a Finnish family and two Indiana-Jones-Finns with beer vodka and electrical toothbrushes.
When I woke up, I made a fire outside and cooked coffee. It had rained all night so a mist of rain, dew and hissing woodblocks hung over the campsite.
We had breakfast and after saying goodbye to the others we started the tour through the swamps. The sun-bathing salamanders jumped away and it was very hot. You can drink out of all rivers and lakes in this area so we did not have to carry great amounts of water.
After the lunch break we had a long walk along the river. From a certain point, the trail was very difficult. The views were exactly what I had imagined of Finland: shallow twisting rivers with rapids and rocks, rocky banks and all surrounded by forest. Pure wilderness. We even saw bear tracks.
We wanted to walk to a hut because we were unable to sleep in the shelter cabins (open in front) because of the mosquitoes.
After a few kilometres we met two Germans we had met before in a shelter cabin. They could not walk any further because of blood blisters.
We got our portion too because we had to walk up hill and down again with our sore feed and after 20 kilometres that day. When we stopped, our dusty and sweaty bodies were attacked by dozens of mosquitoes. After 23 kilometers we were completely wasted. The hut on the map turned out to be a hotel so we dragged ourselves to a little camping place. After some time, just when we had come to ourselves and had something to eat, we saw the two blood blister Germans walking up the camping place. They had had a bad time!
When we woke up, it was Saturday. The first part of the trail went over suspension bridges over the canyons. We saw a rafting boat full of Chinese people. We were laughing: haha, Japanese tourists in a rafting boat. Afterwards, the Chinese (they were not Japanese after all) were taking their rest at the same fireplace as we were so we had a nice talk with the "upper class" Chinese and their travel organizers offered us sausages and Apfelstrudel. Well they only had to ask once after 4 days of Knaeckebrod and Spaggeteria! We grilled the sausages and sparsely growled while eating them.
Today we had to take an easy day otherwise we would not make it, so we walked only 10 kilometers. We had a hut for us alone. We cut wood for the campfire and prepared our food. I played a bit on my harp and then swoop, on the wooden board.
Sunday we woke up at seven so we would be able to drive to a camping place today.
The first part of the track we felt rather fit but after going up and down 7 mountains (400/500 metres high each), we were exhausted. This was the most difficult part of the trekking.
When we arrived in the village we went - still smelly and with our trekking gear on - to the pub to treat ourselves with a "finish-beer"!
How good it is to sleep on our cushions again. We are on a camping place and we took a shower. We cleared away the trekking gear and we had a nice meal. Then we drove to Kaajani.
We went to the Koli mountains. In the evening we ate Plaettar, a sort of small pancakes with apple and cinnamon. After dinner we enjoyed the views from the Koli mountain.
Today we are in Joensuu. It is hot again today. There is a nice market here with local specialties, fruit and vegetables. We bought half a kilo of strawberries. The rest of the day we spend in the library and we had dinner on a little Italian terrace. We had an ice cream on one of the rocking chairs at the village square and we laughed about ourselves in the carnival mirrors. Than we walked along the river to the harbour. It really looks great here.
We are still in Joensuu. We had breakfast with a local specialty: "little whites", small 7 cm fishes first rolled in wheat and than fried in butter. You get a dozen on your plate with a yogurt-dill sauce. Very tasty.
Later we drove to Savonranta and we found a place at the harbour. I cooked a very Dutch meal, just like at home.
Dorrit started to read her third Charles Dickens. Respect!
We drove to Kerimaeki and we visited the largest wooden church of Scandinavia. Very impressive. The church was as big as a cathedral and completely made out of wood. According to the legend, the English architect had calculated the measures in feet and the contractor had built it in metres. That's why the church turned out to be three times as big as planned.
This same day we drove to Savonlinna and joined a guided tour in the opera-castle that use to be Swedish as a defense against the Russians, then vice versa, then.. etc. In the village we tried some specialties and just after I closed the tap of the wastewater tank (above a drain), two policemen showed up. Are we lucky!
We visited a bird nature reserve this morning. Packed with camera and binoculars we walked into the swamps to see a beautiful collection of birds.
In Lappeenranta there was a village party to our surprise. Music in a big tent and the café boats were crowded. The atmosphere was great.
Today we did nothing. Just reading and playing guitar. The afternoon we spend in our chairs on the fortress wall and looked down a bit. Nothing happened but it was fascinating anyhow. I can imagine being in the Middle East. Sitting there the whole afternoon, drinking tea and smoking the water pipe.
Looked for a garage to change oil and lining out the wheels. Because of the reinforced suspension in the van, the position of the wheels changed and the tires were worn off. It seemed impossible to find a garage because the van did not fit in anywhere. Finally we went to a Fiat garage (I never thought I would get there in my life ;-) and we paid the highest price possible.
After this we drove to Hamina. This is a star shaped fortified village with wooden houses in several colours.
We visited Porvoo. Cozy little town with wooden houses and gobble stone streets. Just walked around a bit and did some shopping, sat on a bank and swoop-the-whoop, another day passed.
We stayed in Porvoo and we prepared the charity project in the library. Nothing exiting happened except an idiot who was wanking there without even trying to conceal it.
We stayed at the harbour for two days and worked.
We drove to Helsinki and looked for a decent place to park the car. We found a place at the water. I finished the last preparations for the "Eastern Europe-camper-fortification". We had dinner at the university-mensa and it was old fashioned disgusting. After this we went to the post office to pick up our first post-restante: the birth announcement card of Youp.
When we walked back to the camper, a junkie had fixed against our bus and his needle, the bloody papers and other accessories were nicely draped in front of our door. So we went to look for another place to stay.
Today we visited Helsinki. We looked at Finlandia and went to the parliament. When we were at the parliament, we joined a group of people for a guided tour. When some person asked us if we also……yes indeed! Then all of a sudden we sat in the parliamentary room.
Later we visited the orthodox church, we went to the harbour and we walked to the Senaatintor to visit a beautiful white cathedral. The rest of the day we walked through the town. Remarkable are the different buildings in Jugendstil and a lot of facades are decorated with symmetric figures. This city bloomed in the twenties. Everywhere are podiums where jazz bands are playing and also the parks are full of seats and podiums.
At last we visited the Temppeliankio church. This church is blown out of rocks. The roof is made of glass with a copper hat. We went to bed early because we have to be at the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia at 7 tomorrow morning.
||Our top 3:
1. Oulanka nat.park
3. Koli bergen