Thursday, June 19, 2014

Southern Finland

Haltia nature centre
I spent the whole day in Haltia nature centre and when I finally left one of the staff members even commented on it. But they were just surprised and not annoyed with my long term stay. When the centre closed at 7 pm I set out to get to one of the two lean to shelters in the park. Unfortunately this required pushing my bike for over a km but I was told to check out the closer cooking shelters as well. I didn't have much clue what to expect but cycled into the consistent rain. There was a handicapped and bike trail to the first cooking shelter and I was overwhelmed with joy when a huge shelter came into sight. It was half full with fire wood but still had plenty of space for my tent. I was just wondering how you were supposed to cook in here. Stupid me - this is luxury national park Finland. This was just the dedicated fire wood shelter, the even more luxurious cooking shelter was a bit further away - and already occupied by two young guys. Just out of curiosity I cycled to the next cooking shelter where I found the same situation. I happily settled into the firewood shelter and even took a quick swim before going to bed. I was already wet anyways...

Firewood shelter
The whole night I could hear rain pounding onto the metal roof but in the morning it had finally almost ceased. Reluctantly I left my cosy shelter and cycled back into civilisation passing the nature centre one last time. It was a miserable morning and when I stopped at a supermarket at noon I was shivering with cold. It was a dilemma: if I put on more clothes I'll be sweating on the steep uphills. But with less clothes I would get cold as soon as I stopped. Eventually in the early afternoon the rain let up and finally stopped. When the sun came out briefly I even started singing with joy. But I can't really complain: this has been the first real bad weather spell in 5 weeks.

With the weather slowly improving I was now in my way to Turku and the Aland Islands. Swedish-speaking Ekenäs was the next stop. I learnt from the friendly tourist information lady that the biggest group of foreign visitors is Russians - an interesting fact that I had not expected at all.

On Sunday I reached Turku - and the last Lidl supermarket for quite a while. This was going to be a big shopping trip. On the bike parking lot outside Lidl I met the first other real long distance cyclists on this trip: a German couple on their way to Spain. They were going exactly the way I had come and therefore I could give them a lot of tips. With all that chatting and shopping it was much later than expected when I finally cycled into Turku centre.

Turku castle
Museums are expensive in Finland and therefore I had to make a decision what to see. I cycled to Turku castle where an unfriendly security guard helped me decide to skip the place. There was no bike parking outside the castle and I was pushing (not even riding) my bike into the huge castle yard when he immediately stopped me. No bikes allowed in here, no bike parking outside and no luggage storage for my panniers. I was not going to pay 8 € for that inconvenience and left to visit the Abo museum. (Abo is Turku's name in Swedish). Staff was much friendlier here and my panniers fully loaded with several kg of Lidl chocolate were stored at the reception desk. These 8€ were well invested and I enjoyed the very modern exhibition on the history of Turku.

Turku promenade
Heading out into the archipelago on the Sunday evening was a not a nice cycling experience. Hundreds of cars were coming towards me on their way back into town after a weekend out. This was not the tranquil experience I had been looking for. Only after cycling a long way away from the main artery road I found a quiet campsite. Next morning I was fighting against a strong cold headwind while cycling the last km out to Galtby from where the inter-islands ferry to Aland departs.

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