What a lovely Midsummer weekend and a roadtrip to the Koli National Park we had! Our guests for the week (Karl from Wales and James from England) absolutely loved the Finnish Midsummer traditions. We saw hundreds of lakes and forests in addition to a few stunning sunsets during our roadtrip, and quite frankly, it all made us feel really proud of our dear ol’ homeland Finland. Except for a couple of short rain showers, the weather treated us nice, and so did all the people we met in different cities during the roadtrip.
The guys got here a few days before the Midsummer celebrations and we spent a lazy evening in Helsinki, but did some really touristy stuff on Thursday. We went to see some sights, enjoyed a cup of coffee at a market place – a highly recommended activity during summer in Helsinki – and ended the night with glow bowling at a nearby bowling alley.
Along with all the touristy activity, we started a hilarious photo project. We call it: “British guys looking at Finnish things”.
The idea isn’t a brand new one, as there are plenty of similar things and memes done in the same fashion. But for some reason it amused us all greatly! I mean, I was giggling out loud while editing the photos. There’s just something really funny about it. Even the most mundane Finnish things instantly turned a lot more fun when we added a couple of British guys looking at them.
I mean, just look at this shot of the guys watching the boat depart the island where it left us off to spend Midsummer. The birch trees on it! Karl’s hat! The grey skies!
Some of these very Finnish things aren’t that funny… until you see them through the eyes of someone seeing them for the first time.
For the actual Midsummer Eve celebrations and traditions we headed out to a small island near Lahti, Finland. It’s an island with the basic amenities like cabins, a camping site, a cafeteria with snacks and things, a few farm animals for everyone’s amusement, swing sets and things for the kids, a sandy beach to get some swimming done and of course, a sauna.
Me, Karl and James rented a little cabin and absolutely loved our stay! Just the perfect place to spent midsummer. There was a bonfire, some early evening karaoke and a decent group of similar-minded midsummer people.
Here’s another photo that makes me laugh: it’s Karl swimming in the lake and a Finnish dude offering a drink of Jallu to him (which, of course, he brought along for a swim!) while a sauna floats by (yes, we have lots of floating saunas in Finland).
After a few days on this lovely island, we took the boat back to the mainland and met up with Satu in the Lahti port. We had planned a lovely roadtrip up north so the guys could see what Finland actually looks like outside the cities. This meant a lot of looking at lakes, forests and other very Finnish sceneries along the way.
Once we reached the Koli National Park, we checked into our hotel, Break Sokos Hotel Koli. You can’t tell by the exterior from the parking lot side, but this hotel actually has a magnificent view of the park and the lake area. Just stunning!
Upon our arrival we reached these lovely little baskets of spa products and were adviced to enjoy the spa freely until closing time. We took this advice to heart.
And boy, what a relaxing evening we ended up having: we relaxed in an outside hot tub with a stunning view of the lakes, tried several different types of saunas, treated our faces and feet to luxurious spa treatments and had great giggles with the exotic shower experiences.
There are a few photos and videos on Koli Relax Spa’s website in case you’re curious!
The next day we woke up, had some breakfast and headed out with the intention of climbing on top of the highest hill. Now, we don’t really have great big mountains here in Finland and even this one is a mere 347 meters off sea level, but it’s still quite a beautiful experience. The view is truly panoramic, and the lake area makes the view unforgettable.
I tried taking a panoramic photo as well, and it turned out quite nice! You can view the full size (huge!) version on my personal website here.
We also went for a lovely little hike in the forest, just to see where the paths would take us. Through the lush shades of green, up and down little hills, with birds singing, sun shining, friends on our sides… that’s what makes a perfect summer day! Check out the photos from that day. Oh, beautiful Koli!
After our relaxing stay at Break Sokos Hotel Koli and the national park we jumped into our car and headed back south. On the way, we stopped in Savonlinna for some late lunch and a nice walk along the lake shore.
We also spent a moment admiring Olavinlinna, this big ol’ castle where I spent many nights during my art school years: they used to organize Halloween parties and even concerts inside the castle, which was amazing.
About a century ago, they organized the first ever Savonlinna Opera Festival in Olavinlinna. It was dormant at some point for 50 years, but was brought back again in 1967. Since then, it’s attracted opera lovers by the thousands to the city of Savonlinna every year in through July.
Olavinlinna (Swedish: Olofsborg; literally Olaf’s Castle, see Olaf II of Norway) is a 15th-century three-tower castle located in Savonlinna, Finland. It is the northernmost medieval stone fortress still standing.
– Wikipedia: Olavinlinna
For the night we drove to the next town, Rantasalmi, to stay in an idyllic mansion hotel, Hotelli Ruusuhovi. Another perfect spot for perfect relaxation! We were welcomed by friendly staff, made our way to our rooms and soon after, got ready to go to the sauna.
(We did a lot of sauna during the guys’ stay, to be honest!)
There was a lake to swim in, but most amazingly, also another sauna that we tried… a very traditional smoke sauna. They’re quite rare, so I can actually only remember going to one once or twice when I was a little kid. So this part of the trip was equally exciting to both the tourists and us Finns.
The savusauna (smoke sauna) is a special type of sauna without a chimney. Wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the smoke fills the room. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out. The residual heat of the stove is enough for the duration of the sauna.
–Wikipedia: Finnish sauna
For me, Midsummer is even bigger than Christmas simply for the reason that I’m definitely a summer child. I hate snow, I hate darkness, but become 101% alive during hot summer days and our warm nightless nights. I’m so extremely happy that the guys managed to take some time off and enjoy these perfect midsummer traditions with us!
Apparently, they’re quite happy about it too: Karl from Wales has already promised to fly over for midsummer 2017 as well. Yay!