|Church stables in Närpes|
The next big event for me was Vasa where I had already been during my first visit to Finland one year ago. Like last year I would have liked to see Hendrik Morkel again but unfortunately he was away when I came through town. Having been here already had the big advantage that I didn't have to do any sightseeing - I had already visited all the interesting places and even knew my way around. Therefore I concentrated on three things: shopping at Lidl, using the internet in the fantastic Vasa library and visiting the local swimming hall.
|Kokkola swimming hall|
It is difficult to explain the feeling after a sauna. On the road it is already great to take a shower and wash your hair after a week of cycling or hiking but the feeling is even better after a sauna. You not only feel incredibly clean but also warm and mellow. But instead of going straight to bed I still had to cycle out of town and find a campsite. Luckily it doesn't really get dark here this time of the year because it was already past 10 pm when I turned off the road into my "target camping area". The camping shock here was bigger than usual. Finnish forests are more like jungles. The ground is usually totally overgrown with blueberry bushes or other scrubs making camping rather difficult. But this was a camping nightmare: huge rocks everywhere! I haven't seen ground that impossible for camping since the New England states along the AT! My only hope was to find a man made track into this jungle and I had to cycle more than one km to find one. Exhausted I decided to camp here and now. Luckily my tent is almost free standing because due to the rocks I couldn't get any tent stakes in. After setting up camp and cooking it was almost midnight when I finally went to sleep - and cold!
I soon encountered another problem: This was not a very touristy area and the few sights had very limited opening hours - usually from noon to 4 pm. But with distances so big it was difficult to be at the right place at the right time. I managed to do so at Jakobsstad another city of the "Swedish parallel". The Finnish West coast that I am cycling up now has been settled by Swedish people for decades. There are still plenty of Swedish speakers and every street sign is bilingual. Therefore also the Swedish name "Jakobstad".
I took a look at the Jakobsstad museum and learned why Finnish bread is round and has a hole in the middle. In the olden times the bread was preserved by drying it over the stove. Storing it on wooden sticks also made it inaccessible for mice and rats. Next stop was Kokkola and again I was too late for any museum. But I had a much better idea: Visit another sauna! And I definitely struck gold with the public swimming hall in Kokkola. There were two saunas, a hot pool with massage jets and even a jaccuzzi. I am convinced that the entrance fee here of 5,80 EUR was an excellent investment and again I stayed till the place closed.Uima halli (swimming hall) has become my favourite Finnish word!
the couple I had couchsurfed with one year ago in Vaasa! I could hardly believe it but they had recognised me and my bike when passing me in their car. And they didn't even know that I was in Finland! This is such a small world and an incredible coincidence. Of course we stood there chatting for half an hour and I was so happy that they had stopped for me. Now that I have already met them twice I hope for a third encounter!
That night my "target camping area" was beside a minor road of the big E 4. But to my big surprise there was almost more traffic on this road than on the big E 4. Car after car came on to me and I did not have any other explanation than that the E 4 most be closed and this was a construction detour. I stopped at a farmhouse to inquire what was going on. A very confused farmer who hardly spoke English finally understood what I was trying to find out and told me not to worry. The E 4 was still open - the traffic just came from a "Christian festival". I managed to find a somewhat quiet campsite but when I resumed my journy the next morning there was an even higher amount of traffic. I was very curious now and finally passed the event. Thousands of cars and caravans were parked on mown fields. When I had passed the first parking lot I already thought that this is big but I passed more and more huge parking lots and campsites. Woodstock must have been nothing compared to this.
Only when I arrived in Oulu my CS host told me what this festival was all about. There is a conservative Protestant sect in Northern Finland called the Laestadians and I had stumbled upon their yearly summer meeting! It was a funny coincidence that I had just been listening to an audiobook by famous Finnish author Aarto Paaselinna which also dealt with this sect. And old Lapp woman had been expelled from her Laeastadian congregation because she had watched TV - and Laestadians are not allowed to do so (although computers are allowed.....).
Mauri Kunnas is a Finnish author of children's books and creator of the dog characters in Dog hill that re-enact Finnish history in dog form. There even is a canine Kalevala. Inka showed me all her Mauri Kunnas books and I tried to learn how to count in Finnish with one of his picture books..The local museum even has a permanent Dog Hill exhibition.
|Master is at home|