2013/06/17-19: 30 km in Helsinki for bike upgrade, sightseeing, jacket shopping
2013/06/20: 104 km to 10 km S of Lahti
2013/06/21: 106 km to a cottage at Nurmaa
2013/06/22: 96 km to clearcut near Hurissalo
2013/06/23: 107 km to Savonlinna
2013/06/24-25: Rest and sightseeing in Savonlinna

There are many lakes in Finland, but the Lakeland region is almost more water than land. The sprawling Saimaa lake system predominates, forming a huge network of island-dotted lakes connected by streams, channels, and canals. The road winds among the lakes across a rolling forested topography –a land of blue and green. The weather is hot, but there have been welcome swimming opportunities.

Lupins are everywhere

We’ve ridden over 400 km from Helsinki in four days, and have reached Savonlinna. We left Helsinki using its impressive system of bike paths to easily traverse greenbelt and suburbs. Most are lit, and serve as ski trails in winter. There were not many route options on the first day, but after that we found quieter roads.

This butterfly took a 50 km ride on Chris´s rack

We often stop at a café in the morning, and at one our the second day from Helsinki the kind owner (who had cousins in Sudbury, Ontario) gave me a reflective vest to wear as we steeled our nerves in a section of traffic at the beginning of the long weekend. This was timely, as the new rain jackets we bought are black rather than yellow, so we’ll now separate the visibility issue from keeping dry. 

A highlight was an invitation by a family to camp at their pretty cottage, have a sauna, and share their Juhannus bonfire. Juhannus is the Finnish celebration of the longest day of the year. Our principal hostess was a biologist working to conserve coastal habitat, and she was happy to answer my natural history questions. After breakfast, we pored over maps and her father gave us a special map for cyclists. It was because of a pointer we received here that we chose our next day’s route so as to hike to some rock paintings at Astuvansalmi –estimated at about 5,000 years old.

Moose with heart location shown
Olavinlinna Castle

Today in Savonlinna, which sits at the southern edge of the Saimaa lake system, we visited the Olavinlinna castle. It was built in the late middle ages on a rocky island to defend the eastern front of what was the Swedish Empire against the Russians. These days, it is the venue for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and preparations were underway for this year’s event. We also went to a cultural and natural history museum, and were especially interested in information about the Saimaa ringed seal, a land-locked sub-species separated from Baltic cousins after the last ice age, with only 310 individuals left. The numbers are rising since a decade ago; the seals were still hunted till the 1950s.

Tomorrow, we plan to take a lake boat north from here to Kuopio. It will be a full day of relaxed travel. The aging bodies are still in need of recovery time, and mine especially could do with cooler weather before the planned week of orienteering and braving the vicious insects of Lapland.

Since Helsinki, we’ve been enjoying the smoothness of our new drive trains. We had a timely 10,000 km upgrade professionally done by an Irishman, at the bike repair shop recommended by Louise’s Finnish coach.


5 responses to “Lakeland

  1. Finland sounds great. And not reading about mosquitoes, I guess there are not as many as in inland northern Sweden.

    • I have tried to keep off the topic of bugs, as I know it will turn into a rant ..something I am trying to avoid. They are bad, and will likely get worse as we go north. We will try to buy new bug nets to go over our heads here in Oulu …before Lapland. Today, we met a German guy who was heading south. He warned us about the bugs, and he was covered in bites!!!!

      • If you are not afraid of repellents buy some Off – that’s what we Finns do. It maybe doesn’t help to black flies, but to mosquitoes, yes. It was a great pleasure to meet you in Nurmaa, we all wish you a happy and insect free journey in the forth coming weeks! Best regards Terhi, Mikko and the others

      • Did you bring any repellant? In Sweden there’s one called “Mygga” (meaning mosquito) that works ok.

  2. Hi Terhi. We have some OFF and will buy more. It works quite well. We sometimes put it onto the brims of our sun hats rather than directly on our faces. I think head nets will soon be useful as well.

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