07.05 – Hiking under attack & architecture enlightenment
08:30 – It’s so quiet out there! We just wake up. Although yesterday’s fire is long extinguished, it’s still warm in the whole house. Outside it’s all grey, no light, and about 10°C… As it’s not raining yet, we’ll try to go hiking in the nearest national park, Leivonmäki.
After a nice breakfast, we leave our wooden rustically home and drive about 30 km until the entrance of the national park. Our trail will be 5,5 km long. First, the path is a little bit disappointing: it stays in a dense forest and doesn’t offer a real variety of landscapes. But then, we come to a clearing and have to cross a swamp area on wood planks. That’s for me the characteristic trait of a Finnish hiking trail! Only problem: each time we stop, for example to pick up some berries (delicious blue-berries, they are everywhere!), the air strike of the Finnish plague begins immediately! It’s not possible to even take a picture without being bitten by several mosquitos… These little bastards find each time a way to bite us, even through the clothes!
Halfway through the trail, we arrive to a cooking shelter, where we eat our picnic. It’s really well organized, you can find everything to make a fire and cook a real meal: a saw, a reserve of dry wood, paper, matches , a fry-pan, etc. In France, it won’t be possible to offer such place, after a short while everything would have been stolen…
Well fed, we goes on with the trail, singing a walking tune of our own composition: “Niku dango! Kai kai!” (Meat balls! I’m itchy!). Small explanation: In Finland we’re eating meat balls all the time. They are very cheap, tasty and you can even eat them cold, making them a perfect picnic meal! And the rest is self-explanatory!
Back to our car, it begins to rain and we decide to drive to Jyväskylä, the next big town, birthplace of the most famous modern Finnish architect, Alvar Altoo. The city centre is interesting with a few very old wooden houses. We walk there a bit under drizzle, visiting among other things artisan workshops gathered in a courtyard, with metal jewellery, clothing, ornaments, etc.
Then, we drive to the museum dedicated to Alvar Altoo. To be honest, I never heard of him before and I generally don’t like modern architecture. Kumiko wanted to go there in the first place. But this visit really changed my mind and was a sort of revelation about architecture and design! Thanks to the numerous and interesting explanations of all the main projects of Alvar Altoo, I understood for the first time what can be achieved with smart architecture, apart from the external appearance. For example I found his work, on the effect of light to sick people for a sanatorium very impressive. In addition, Alvar Altoo was in the 19030’s the main designer of two main inventions of the Scandinavian Design: the “typical IKEA chair” (without rear feet) and the three-legged stools.
3 hours later, we drive back to the cottage, under pouring rain…
Second evening, second try to lit the fire properly! In the main fireplace, after just one fail I managed to do it! But in the stove, no way, it don’t work. I just fill the living room with smoke, that’s all… After consultation with our friends, we learn that is was due to a wrong order of making the fire (after the fire in the main fireplace was lit, the stove didn’t have enough oxygen left in the chimney). To wash ourselves, we boil some water with the kitchen gas hob and mix it with cold water from the well.
23:00: The dinner was good, another pea soup with meatballs and a mixed salad with cheese. We now sit upstairs at the balcony and listen to the sound of rain in the woods before going to bed.
07.06 – Berries, giant trees and great mires
Same weather as yesterday, same temperature… Today we’ll drive to another national park north of Jyväskylä: Pyhä-Häkki.
Just like yesterday, it rains during the whole drive and then almost stops as we arrive at our destination :-). We are welcomed by the park ranger, a very nice man whose first question is: “Why choose a Mini who looks like an American School Bus to visit Finland?”. He’s right, it exactly the same colour! He then explains us all about the park and the available trails (in German!).
More than yesterday, this park is full of water. The first half of the trail, we walk most of the time on the typical wooden planks through beautiful mires with plenty of red-orange berries. Sadly they are mostly too far away in the water to be picked up. After about 5 km, we arrive at our lunch place, once again a very nice cooking shelter.
The second trail half is pretty different, in the woods with beautiful moss covered stones and plenty of blueberries. Kumiko pick up a lot, enough to accompany our diner tonight! Then, we walk past one of the main attractions of the park, two really old and big trees (about 25 m in height). The oldest one, which is already dead but still stands, lived almost 500 years. The youngest one is only 375 years old but still alive. It’s not so old compared to for example the 800 years cedars in Kyushu, but still impressive for this type of tree.
15:30 – Back to car, the park ranger is already gone. It’s a petty, we wanted to chat with him a little bit longer and take a picture of him…
On our way back to the cottage, we decide to take another road, to avoid the heavy truck traffic. In the end, it wasn’t such a good idea…
The first part is really nice, a quiet country road with only a few houses every 4-5 km, but then suddenly there is no asphalt overlay anymore, it becomes a dirt road with huge potholes and it stays so for 40-50 km… Luckily, the landscape is very nice with splendid lakes on the way, where we stop a bit to admire the view and eat some Finnish sweets!
On the evening, the fire is lit in only 20 minutes, we are getting better! Due to the weather, it’s really dark inside, but in a way very cosy. Diner as usual, with the berries we picked up and soy beans Kumiko found in the supermarket. Almost like in an Izakaya (Japanese tapas bar)!