Finland - The Land of Thousand Lakes

Jul 28, 2012

Once again we found ourselves sitting at Orly airport's departure lounge waiting to board. Only this time we weren’t really just two of us, but had Denis’ parents joining us for two weeks of Nordic summer. Till now, they had been following our annual trips to my home via pictures and they were really enthusiastic to find out for themselves how it really is. Long summer nights (although in August the white nights are already gone), endless lakes, forests filled with berries, summer cottages peeking out from the woods all along lakesides and most of all the daily sauna experience- lots of things very different from what they are used to at home or on holidays in the south.

We arrived to Helsinki-Vantaa airport really late (must’ve been closer to midnight) and still had a couple of hours drive to my hometown Lappeenranta. It’s a mid-sized town near the Russian boarder* and lies on the largest lake in Finland called Saimaathe key ingredient of my town. Because of Saimaa the landscapes around the town are beautiful and offer a lot of activities in summer- and wintertime. Every summer we tend to go to a summerhouse (not too far from Lappeenranta) by the lake and just chill one week doing a whole lot of nothing. Well, that is if you don’t count swimming, going in and out of sauna, picking up berries, fishing, sitting on the dock listening to the quiet sound of wavelets or getting around with the boat or bikes…

This time around on our first days we pretty much went about the town, the harbor and the fortress and took a little cruise on lake Saimaa. It so happened that the weather was really hot for Finland, and we surely took the advantage by going to the beach and having barbeques in the night on our backyard. The major difference when talking about beach is that it isn’t necessarily any public place where we go to, but more like going to any place along the shoreline and pick a spot. It literally is nature everywhere, and that combined with the few inhabitants, you know what you’re in for.

The major mission for us though, was to get Denis’ parents to Sauna, and teach them the whole Finnish sauna culture. As it turned out, it wasn’t as hard to get them in than out of there! Yes, the French guests loved it (before the trip they swore not to go in at all)! The only remaining issue was to get them to the water, which they barely ended up doing (not sure they’d swim anywhere below 30° celsius water). Well, except for dipping their toes in.

One day we did a little road trip to the town of Savonlinna and stopped in a place called Punkaharju on our way. Punkaharju actually is just a regular municipality, but it has this road taking you through a long natural ridge. On your both sides is just water and you are driving a little higher up, making it a really extraordinary ride (in reality, the best would be to see this place from above). We pulled over somewhere in the middle of the ridge and took a little walk around the area: there are some trails you can follow that take you around the little lakes in the forest. In august, the forests are full of blueberries and sometimes also chanterelles (depending a bit on the year), so you can really make a real tasting out of it if you’re into that type of thing. And we definitely were into it- picking up pretty much everything we could get our hands on to (but no matter how much you pick, the forest seems still as full as it was before).

Savonlinna is a small town in the very middle of the lake Saimaa district, and about 160 km from Lappeenranta. There’s not so much to see except the Olavinlinna castle and the little harbor with its  typical Scandinavian wooden houses. The weather took a little bad turn for us, and we couldn’t really enjoy walking outside too long. But on a warm sunny day, it’s a nice place to look around, check out their museums and enjoy lunch on one of the terraces. Savonlinna is also known for its annual opera festival, which is arranged inside of the castle. Furthermore as some may know, Finland is pretty famous for its weird competitions: wife carrying, throwing the boot, who can sit the longest in the sauna and so on. And for this particular town- Mobile phone throwing championships! Go figure.

The remaining week we spent over at the summerhouse, doing pretty much these same things over and over again. Also, an important part of going home is to see old friends and although summers are always a bit challenging in regards to everyone’s holiday schedules, we managed to meet up with some of the best buds. We even got to be a part of a special event as one of our best friends baby boy got his name. Worth mentioning maybe that Denis was a little surprised by the discreet way of celebrating the christening in Finland ;). I don't really always know what he thinks of Finns and their partying?

After getting our minds totally relaxed for couple of weeks, we were ready to start a new chapter of our trip- the Via Baltica route (from Tallinn to Warsaw), continuing all the way down to the southern Europe. And one quick ferry later we were going to be in the Estonian capital...


*Lappeenranta is about 230km Southeast from Helsinki, about 30km from the Russian boarder, 200km from St-Petersburg (Russia), 240km from Joensuu.

General information

Visit Finland

Lake Saimaa
Visit Finland
(Information about renting a sauna by the lake in Joutseno, in Finnish, but you can see the phone numbers / price, there are two possibilities 1) 14€ / hr in a public sauna OR 2) 32€ / 3 hrs for a private sauna)

Visit Punkaharju

Savonlinna travel
Saimaa travel: Cruise from Lappeenranta to Savonlinna
(other cruise information too)

International Ferries

(Information for different ferry operators & timetables)

Helsinki – Stockholm:
Tallink Silja
Viking Line

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