Friday, July 18, 2014

Karelia

Cycling out of Patvinsuon
Unfortunately there was another 40 km stretch of dirt road to get to get from Patvinsuon National Park back into civilisation and I wasn't looking forward to that. Luckily the roads got better and better and after 5 hours I arrived in Hattuvaara. The tiny village boasts a War Museum but the 8 € entrance fee were a waste of money. Old fashioned exhibits and Finnish only explanations - the only good thing was free wifi.

Next day I cycled into Ilomantsi which is almost a metropolis in this region with 6000 inhabitants. Most importantly a famous restaurant there offers a Karelian AYCE buffet. For days I had been deliberating if I should invest 22 € in it and in the end I could not resist the culinary temptation. And I wasn't disappointed - the buffet was a real highlight with only local dishes. Drinks included blackcurrant juice and my beloved Kolijaki, the sweet non alcoholic beer which has become my favourite drink. There was plenty of smoked fish of all kinds, Karelian meat stew and salmon in cream. You could even watch the cook preparing pirrogi and egg butter - and of course eat it. Dessert was sticky berry soup after which I happily rolled out of the place.

Dug out
I realised soon that I probably wouldn't need dinner later which was supposed to be grill sausage prepared over the camp fire at Petkeljärvi National Park. I still cycled into the lovely little park but unfortunately camping there wasn't free. You had to use the pay campground. Petkeljärvi has been the battle ground between Finns and Russians in WW II and therefore I only had a look at the reconstructed dug outs and trenched before leaving the park. I found a beautiful free campsite just outside the park boundaries right next to a lake which meant a swim before going to bed and first thing in the morning. The weather has been incredibly good lately and consequently the water is nice and warm now.

Barbecue in Möhkö
I spend the next morning in Möhkö, a place that isn't even mentioned in my Lonely Planet guidebook for Finland. I can't believe how they could forget this lovely place which houses one of the nicest museums I have seen in whole Finland. Möhkö has always been in the middle of nowhere but it had two important assets: Lake ore and wood. I have visited dozens of mining museums all over the world but never heard of lake ore which is - as the name indicates - found on the bottom of lakes. The museum shows the remnants of the furnaces and describes vividly the story of owners and workers including forestry and war history. The grounds with several historical buildings are huge and pretty - and even include a lean to shelter with a campfire place where I finally barbecued my grill sausages for lunch. I usually don't have such an extended lunch break but I enjoyed it tremendously.

Möhkö
Now I had to work off four sausages - a good motivation to cycle 70 km in the afternoon until I finally set up camp just one km away from the Russian border. It was wonderful cycling. The EV 13 parallels the Russian border which means that there isn't much traffic. And now in the middle of a summer "heat wave" there are wild strawberries everywhere. There sweet smell is in the air and makes me stop several times per day for a quick "berry break". And slowly blueberries are coming out as well. At Värtsilä I joined a bigger highway coming directly from the nearby Russian border crossing and as a pass time I studied the cars. The Russians were all in brandnew high class cars, preferably in black and even better an SUV. The older the car the more probable it has a Finnish license plate.... Along the Finnish West Coast everything is in Finnish and Swedish - here it is Finnish and Russian. But I soon turned away from the border and followed the EV 13 inland to make another detour into the Lakelands again.

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