|View from the bird hide|
|Bird viewing tower|
I stayed so long that I had to rush to get into Imatra before Lidl closed at 6 pm on Sundays - and I needed food! I shouldn't have worried: next to Lidl were several other supermarkets with longer opening hours, all caring for Russian tourists. Even Lidl had a "tax free for tourists" counter - and this was one of the biggest Lidls I have ever seen. The negative side effect of all the Russian tourists is that the usual supermarket toilets here all cost money - normally they are free and a great way for dirty cyclists to "freshen up".
Imatra was and is famous for the rapids of the river Vouksi but nowadays the river is dammed for an hydroelectric powerplant. But every day at 6 pm the power station releases water for a sound and light rapid show - which I missed because of shopping too long. At least the EV bike route rewarded me with cycling along the river shore. Although I had been cycling along the Russian border all the way through Karelia I have never been so close to it. Now everywhere were signs telling me that I was about to enter the border zone for which you need a special permit. Russia didn't look too tempting anyway: right across the border is Svetgorsks which I could see, hear and smell from miles away because an ugly noisy plant rises its smoking chimneys high up into the otherwise blue sky. No wonder the Russians hop over the border to Finland for holidays...
|Sibelius in sand|
Lappeenranta's summer attraction is the sand castle park where each year several sand sculptures are erected. This year's theme must be music as I saw Jean Sibelius next to Freddy Mercury.
Had the weather been unusually cold around midsummer it was now unusually warm, almost hot. For over two weeks now it was blue sky every day and temperatures up to 30° Celsius. I jumped into every lake along the way and the water in the shallow lakes was almost lukewarm. It had been so hot and dry that South Karelia had issued a forest fire warning. The long term forecast was for more warm weather and I wanted to take advantage of that. I decided to leave the EV route and make a detour to Repovesi National Park.
When I arrived at the park I immediately realised that I was not the only one thinking that this is a great spot for a break. The parking lot was full of cars (with lots of Russian licence plates) and the first campfire site was already full. I cycled on. Next campfire site was also occupied with two tents and the campfire was already going - and nobody paying attention to it. My hunger for grill sausages was sort of urgent now and I therefore just took over the fire. Half an hour later I had demolished for sausages and felt much better when a Russian family appeared fully loaded with camp chairs, coolers and barbecue equipment. I fled. Luckily I had already discovered the perfect campsite next to a little lake. It was just off a maintenance road where no one else went except a cyclist - everybody else is using the trails. I spent a peaceful night - no Russian families, only loons. The very best was that it had morning shade - very important when sunrise is at 3 am and you want to sleep in.
At noon I finally left my shady campsite to explore the park. I soon figured out that the maintenance road did indeed get me anywhere but that it was hard, hard work. Steep ascents on loose gravel made me push the bike more than pedal. Luckily this is a small park! I soon reached a popular picnic spot where the campfire was already burning. While I barbecued my sausages I watched in amazement how two voluptuous Russian teenage girls tried to chop wood with a huge axe - clad only in tiny bikinis. They weren't even wearing shoes. They weren't very successful and soon their group leader came to their rescue - in true Putin style only wearing swimming trunks and a gold chain. So much for work safety. At least I put my bike into a safe distance from this looming disaster.
The park even boasts a viewing tower, something rare in flat Finland. I soon regretted going there on the steep forest road but I could soon wash off my sweat in a lake. The park was almost too crowded for my taste: Russian tourists, Finnish families in a hiking trip, mountain climbers, mountain bikers - and everybody was eating grill sausage. I returned to my stealth campsite where I knew I wouldn't have noisy company. But still: it had been a good restday and I had now planned out the rest of my route through Finland.