Jul 25, 2005 Life, Travelling:

Finland Travelogue

I’m writing this in my parents summer cabin that has no electricity or internet connection, but instead has excellent views to lake Höytiäinen and the luxury of not being disturbed.

Polvijärvi
Our travelling started on Wednesday, July 13, when we packed our stuff (a lot of stuff) in the trunk of our new car and headed towards north. I’ve been privileged to have a company car and some part of my holiday will be spent looking for the car model and make suitable for us. The current car, Peugeot 607, is just temporary, until we can order and the manufacturer can provide the new car.

The car is a little bit too big for us; hard to get it parked and manouvered around the city. On the upside, it is really spacious. We had a huge load of luggage with us, and all of them could be fit in the trunk without problems.

Getting back to the travelogue, we drove first to Polvijärvi on Wednesday. We stopped for an art break in Mäntyharju, in Art Centre Salmela that has exhibition of contemporary Finnish artists. Salmela is located in really beautiful spot by the lake, near the church of Mäntyharju. The exhibition continues in other old buildings near the shore. This year’s exhibition had some ten artists with almost 200 works. All works are on sale, so prepare with a thick wallet.

Idyllic art experience in Salmela (the grey building across the lake)

The drive from Helsinki to Salmela was really swift, and the usual bottleneck between Lahti and Heinola didn’t cause any traffic jams. After Salmela, the speed somewhat declined, a lot of people drove 15-25 kmph below the speed limits — and the road is so curvy that there are not so many places to overpass. The last leg between Varkaus and Viinijärvi was once again fast enough.

The weather has been really sunny and warm, something like 25-28 centigrades during daytime and constant sunshine.

My creative work was brutally interrupted, and I had to go to pack our stuff. Thus I’m now continuing the travelogue in Taivalkoski.

The car is airconditioned, something that has been quite seldom in Finland until the recent years, and we have been able to travel during daytime. Aapo can’t stand the heat for longer periods, as he is only three months old.

In Polvijärvi, we headed directly to the cabin by the lake to have a good sauna. On Thursday, we and my parents visited Joensuu — and bought a couple of books, a shirt for Aapo and a host of other items not worth mentioning here. The tiny park between the market square and the combined city house and theathre was packed with other (extended) families with small children.

Joensuu is a nice, compact town that has everything, except the big markerts, in walking distance. Compared to Helsinki, Joensuu’s everything is not that much…

Friday was spent in the woods with my father — we loaded a tractor trailer with logs and then unloaded it on their house. While I was waiting my dad to arrive with the tractor at the end of the trail in middle of the forest, I checked my bank account balance and emails. The mobile phone showed full coverage and GPRS was as fast as in the urban areas — this is one of the perks living in Finland.

I attended to a funeral on Saturday. The weather favoured us again and it was not too hot to be in a black suit in the middle of the day, in the middle of July.

Finally there was nothing to do, and I could focus on reading books and photographing the nature and the family.

Sun sets over lake Höytiäinen in Polvijärvi

Taivalkoski
On Monday, we began our journey towards Taivalkoski. The distance between Polvijärvi and Taivalkoski is around 400 kilometers, so this took the better part of the day.

I was once again disturbed, so I’m continuing the rest of the travelogue from the peace of our home in Helsinki.

The drive was fast, highway 6 was mostly empty and also highway 5 was not packed — it is really packed in the south, but we were more than 600 kilometers north from Helsinki. That helps to reduce traffic jams.

During the last leg of the car drive, I and Sanna exchanged seats and she took care of driving for 80 kilometers or so from Ämmänsaari to Taivalkoski. We bought cheap candies from a factory store in Ämmänsaari and ate ourselves sick before reaching the final destination.

We didn’t do anything in Taivalkoski, save for occasional trips to the centre to buy more Pepsi Max and books. I spent my time reading books and playing with Aapo. I also took a number of photos of him on laps of various people. We also had a small barbeque and other leisure events.

Taivalkoski center had a new statue, erected for the memory of the best selling Finnish author Kalle Päätalo that had born and worked in Taivalkoski. The statue is made of steel that has rust on the surface and it looks like pages of a book. The statue looked really good when sun was setting, as you can see.

Statue for Kalle Päätalo

Oulu
We headed to Oulu on Friday morning. Our plan was to visit Asuntomessut (habitation fair, check last year’s archives for an explanation) and then dwell for two days with Sanna’s friends. The plan was really successful. We ate a fast lunch in Oulu downtown (in Flavour Palace) to avoid the expensive and bland meals in the fair.

One of the most expensive houses

The fair was fairly expensive: 34€ for two of us and parking. Legalised robbery! Anyhow, I’m glad to report that the fair was much better than last year. There were a lot of bold architecture and sleek design in the houses. The location is also magnificent, a converted industrial area by the sea, a few kilometers from the downtown. I could envision living there, would we both have jobs in Oulu and would the winters be not so dark and cold.

View on the top of the tallest building.

Saturday was spent again shopping, I found a couple of books to my ever-growing library. We spent some nice time in the market square and the surroundings, savouring the sunny weather and a pulla (sweet rolls or something) with Pepsi Max.

Tuuri
Our journey continued on Sunday back to south. We had reserved a room from Hotel OnnenTähti (LuckyStar or something along those lines) located in Tuuri. The place is ideally located halfway from Oulu to Helsinki — when you don’t take the shortest route through Jyväskylä.

The weather was against us this time. It rained really, really hard a few times and we had to drive much slower as the road was barely visible. And remind you, we were driving on a highway. On the other hand, I’ve never been in the eye of the storm before, so this was an experience of some sort.

Tuuri is a village in town named Töysä that has somewhat 500 inhabitants. Still, Tuuri hosts the second biggest shopping center in Finland (measured in revenue), “Village shop Keskinen”. The whole place is really worth of a visit for seeing how one family has been able to create a shopping paradise and a tourist magnet in middle of nothing, hundred kilometers away from any larger Finnish town.

They are now transforming the shopping center to an international tourist magnet. Everything there is related to luck, as Tuuri means something like luck or chance. The shop has a giant horseshoe in front of the main entrance. Tacky, but yet somehow charming.

The lucky horsehoe in Finnish summer rain

The hotel is located on top of the food store, a giant hall that looks like a fairytale castle outside. The facade is so big that I couldn’t fit it into a single picture.

Tuuri castle

There are 35 rooms, the smallest is around 45 square meters and the biggest is 107 square meters, if I’m not mistaken. All of them cost 100€. You can’t reserve any of those, but the actual room depends on luck. We got the basic room — that was far from normal basic rooms in Finnish hotels.

The interiors are really luxurious, a lot of soft carpets, lushy wallpapers, crystal chandeliers and so on. The only problem is that there is no decent restaurant nearby. We end up eating in a Pizzeria in the shopping center, among all bargain-hungry fellow countrymen. Pizza was not even good.

The store itself was a bit of a disappointment: It has been hyped so much in Finnish press that we expected something bigger. We didn’t find anything worth purchasing and still spend 50€ in various items — their arithmetics seem to work okay.

Helsinki
Today, we drove back to Helsinki. It was raining again, but not that hard as the day before. Now we have unpacked everything and washed most of the dirty clothes, so it is time to unwind from the holiday…

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