The highlight of the year was our cycle tour to Finland which proved to be a rather mammoth expedition in terms of mileage, thankfully not all of it by pedal power. This year we decided to fly our bikes out to Helsinki which involved disassembling them and packing them into special bike bags. The trip on the train to Stansted with 6 panniers and 1 huge bike bag each was enough to raise our blood pressure and tax our muscles before we even got to Finland.
Foot and mouth had an impact on our trip quite early on when, having gone to the trouble of disassembling the bikes, packing them diligently into their protective covers and locking them up - the person at the check in desk announced that they would have to be unpacked by customs to have their wheels disinfected before they would be allowed on the flight. Unfortunately this resulted in us arriving with a broken bottle cage, missing wheel nut and a punctured bike bag where customs couldn't get the bikes back in their bags properly. However, the problems were quickly fixed and we were soon able to get under way.
The first few days were spent playing tourist in Helsinki and trying to track down Helsinkis Metropolitan John , no we werent looking for a convenience, but on a mission to find a college friend for Jonathans father. While we were in Helsinki we visited the very interesting open air museum on Seurasaari island and the Sibelius monument in the Sibelius park.
Lake Inari was a beautiful place with stunning sunsets although it never really got dark, there was easily enough light to read your book all through the night! It was great to meet the indigenous Sami people that herd the Reindeer in Lapland and learn about their own language, culture and to taste the local delicacies of braised Reindeer and Cloud berries. We spent a great day at Siida the Sami museum and the Northern Lapland Nature centre in Inari.
After our Lapland excursion we headed south to the Finnish Lakeland and enjoyed some glorious, if somewhat strenuous, cycling through beautiful Lakeland scenery from Lieska to Joensuu and on to the town of Savonlinna to see the Olavinlinna Castle, the best preserved Medieval castle in the Northern European Countries. While we were at the campsite at Savonlinna, we met some Russian cyclists from the Russian Cycle Touring club and had a great chat about cycling in Russia and northern Europe.
From there we took another train to Turku and an early morning ferry to the beautiful Åland isles which are between Finland and Sweden. The islands are under Finnish control but it was more like being back in Sweden as the locals all speak Swedish and the architecture is definitely Swedish. The countryside is rolling farm land, heath and woods with beautiful sea inlets. The Ålanders have a lovely tradition of midsummer poles which form the centre of their midsummer celebrations and it was great fun cycling from village to village discovering the different styles of pole.
Reluctantly we caught the over night ferry back to Helsinki, unfortunately there was a storm brewing and the journey back was a little rough, Frank got as far as the entrance to the dining room for breakfast in the morning only to rush to the nearest toilet. Poor Lass she's not a great sailor and spend the rest of the journey in her bunk until we were back into port at Helsinki! As we flew back from Helsinki we waved to Mum & Dad who were somewhere below us on the north sea on the way to their Baltic cruise.
Finland is a great place to cycle and we would certainly go back again some day, as there was so much we didn't see.