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.
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.
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 5000 years old.
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.