As you may have gathered from my previous remarks about the countries I visited, it had been a very positive experience. So positive in fact, that the boat trip to Helsinki started with a "rude reminder" that I was back in familiar territory: the price of beer had quadrupled. - Just as well - drinking and driving really do not mix.
I arrived in Helsinki without problems (a super fast ferry, 1 1/2 hour for a stretch of approx. 100 km). Here I re-entered the more traditional form of living that I had been so used to before I went on my trip: I received a warm welcome by the Teinilä Family.
"My generous hosts in Helsinki"
"Click for larger version of this picture"
Timo and I had been colleagues a long time ago; more recently, we had some common business contacts and we have mutual friends in Switzerland ("Gruezi" to the Schurr Family in Horgen). When Timo heard about my trip earlier this year, he extended a spontaneous invitation to stop over at his place.
After being on the road for about six weeks, I spent four great days at his family's home just outside of Helsinki. I still do not know what I enjoyed more, the beautiful location of their house just above a small bay of the Helsinki archipelago, the fun of entertaining the two children Ramona and Arn with paper folds (specialty: paper gliders....), the fact that I had access to a fast internet line, or the washing machine... - I am getting carried away, here. It was certainly the warm and generous welcome by the Teinlä's which I totally enjoyed.
I came to Helsinki just in time for the mid-summer celebrations (20th to 22nd of June) - THE national summer holiday with lots of bonfires and even more alcohol (generally speaking - not in our case). We went on tour around the city, but unfortunately the weather was "unsupportive": it was cold, overcast and it was rainy - This is probably the reason that this year only 2 people drowned as a result of inebriation. A widely observed statistic in Finland, as I was told....
"Many such bonfires in celebration of mid-summer"
The next day I explored the city of Helsinki, in particular the area around the harbor. I took a ferry to visit the historic fortress "Suomenlinna": a short ferry ride (15 minutes or so) gets one to four islands which were originally connected and fortified in defense of Helsinki/Finland. The place is very large and I only saw the main island and fortification. Still, a real attraction - worthy of visit - and one also gets a tour of the harbor, a home for many cruise ships.
"The Suomenlinna Fortifications protecting Helsinki Harbor"
"Click for more historic facts about Suomenlinna"
After four enjoyable days with the Teinilä family I decided that I was time to move on (I was also running out of ideas for making paper folds for the children.....). At the recommendation of my guests, I went north towards the city of Jyväskylä. A scenic route - carefully planned and stored on the GPS. Well.....I messed up the stored data, took a wrong turn and missed some of the scenic stretches. But, in the end, I still arrived.
I found a very nice very nice campground near the town of Keuruu. What was probable the best aspect about my stay there, was the public library and the free Internet access it provided. I was able to up-load my "Baltic Report" and establish contact with the "horizonsunlimited" community in Kajaani, Finland - namely Heikki Lukkari.
"Keuruu Public Library - beautifully located"
Heikki Lukkari proved to be a valuable contact. He recommended two camping sites and he was especially helpful with regard to interpreting some of the information on the BMW website for Finland. I needed an oil change for the GS and was looking for some dealer that could do it. I had already identified one in Oulu (on the Baltic coast up north) but I was not sure about what the offered etc. Heikki confirmed though that the name I had found before was indeed a proper dealer who should be able to help me.
So I sent two e-mails to see whether and when they would have some time to do the service. There was, however, no response. It was with some kind of uneasy feeling that I rode towards Oulu.
Heikki had provided me with a map of the location of the BMW dealer. It was an excerpt of a larger map and I needed some time and the help of a fellow biker named "Lasse" to find "Euro Motor Center" www.emc.sci.fi.
I approached Lasse in front of a motorcycle equipment shop hoping that he might know about the BMW dealer. Not only did he know it (they had recently move their quarters), he offered to guide me there. Even more so, he introduced me to the mechanics (in Finnish). That turned out to be helpful but the people of EMC spoke perfect English. - Still, I was very impressed with the spontaneous help by a fellow motorcyclist.
I had already resigned myself to an extended waiting period before the service could be done. To my utter surprise, the EMC staff said that they could do the service the next day (which happened to be a Saturday). According to Heikki, garages in Finland typically to not work on Saturdays (same as in Germany) - so EMC must have been doing me a favor. - A big "Thank you" for that.
Spontaneous help in Oulu - Much appreciated!"
With the motorcycle serviced, I felt ready to go on. After looking at the roadmap, the Finnish north-east, the Lapland area, seemed to be the most interesting. Not very densely populated, small roads, not too close to the typical tourist trails. I decided to establish "base camp" in "Kuusamo".
My road map suggested that this should be a somewhat bigger city, hopefully with access to the internet. Kuusamo is about 40km west of Russian border and 100 km south of the arctic circle. It is here that I start preparing for "Part 2" of my Finland trip.
More to follow.
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