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.
Following the "pit stop" for the BMW in Oulu, my next stop was Kuusamo, some 250 kilometers north-east of Oulu. Kuusamo. I arrived in late afternoon and felt immediately at home. The city has a very nice info center, right at the city limits. Even on a Sunday afternoon it was open to the public, offering advice on accommodation and... free internet access.
I got some information on a camping ground close by. Other than a very nice location it offered another unexpected surprise. I was greeted by the receptionist and campground "impresario" Vesa Kallunki.His very first question surprised me completely: would I have some ball point pen of the cheap give-away type use in advertising?
"The receptionist of the Matkojoki campground near Kuusamo"
"Click here for the background to his question"
I was stunned but the explanation followed immediately: according to Vesa, he has some 15,000 of such pens and his collection is growing. I did not carry such pens with me but if you have an spare ball point pen with of some co /org/group (and a spare stamp) you may consider sending this to
Mr. Vesa Kallunki
c/o Matkajoki Camping
As it was time to update my travel report, I went to look for an internet place. The terminal at the info station was available but had no interface to upload data/pictures. I remembered my good experience from earlier and went to the Kuusamo public library. They did have a terminal with upload facility but it was constantly in use during the opening hours. I tried my luck and spoke to person who was in charge: Helena Raunio. I explained about my trip and maintaining a travel log. I may have received a slightly amused look but without hesitation, it was suggested that I come to the library before the official opening time the next day so I could have the internet terminal to myself.
A big "thank you" to Kuusamo Public Library and Helena Raunio for very pragmatic, "cool" way of make it possible for me to complete my trip report.
"The Kuusamo Public Library - full of resources and helpful people"
The next event of my trip north was the crossing of the artic circle at Lat. 66'33''. Of course this had to be celebrated with a stop at road-side inn with coffee and excellent pancakes (!). The big billboard could not be overlooked.
"At restaurant on the arctic circle"
It was about here that reindeer became part of the landscape. There were warnings all over the place. I could not help thinking that these are in fact the "holy cows" of the north. The reindeer just inhabit the road, trot along. They especially seem to like the entries to the numerous tunnels, causing serious traffic jams and long lines of stupefied drivers of camp mobiles:
"The 'holy cows' of the North"
As the reindeer got more common and the average speed on the road came down, I approached lake Inari in the very north-east of Finland. The weather was no too good and I decided to have a household day instead. The local campground had all the facilities:
"Time for a household day"
I sat out the rain for one day and the took at very scenic route along lake Inari towards Kirkenes in Norway.
More to follow.
Next HU Events
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- France Mini: Sep 5-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
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