Finland

Despite living in one of the most technologically developed countries in the world, the Finns love to head to their summer cottages in the warmer months to enjoy all manner of relaxing pastimes including sauna, swimming, fishing and barbecuing. Today, Finland has a distinctive language and culture that marks it apart from the rest of Nordic Europe.

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Basic Information

Thank you Finland! The country that has produced Nokia, Linus Torvalds, Korpiklaani, Alamaailman Vasarat and The Black Satans. The few Finnish people I know are all completely and utterly nuts. If the entire population turns out to be like them, this will be one hell of a ride.

Finland is great and all, but I'm seriously worried about the huge vampiric insect beings flying around. I've been told Finland has some of the densest populations of mosquitoes in the world. I'll be crossing the country diagonally, so I'm sure there will be some encounters with the hell-spawn along the way. No, I know what you're thinking. The route will be diagonal. I'll probably stay upright most of the time.

Map

External Info
Distance traveled 1750 km
Time spent 4 days

Places of Interest

disclaimer   These are only places that make up 90% of the plan for this trip. Whether or not I've actually managed to visit each and every one of them can be found in the ride report.

Lapland

The northern most region of Finland, which I'll enter from the north. Famous for reindeer, being remote, being the home of Santa (or was it Satan?) and ehm, nothing else really. It's just a vast area of mostly nothing. I happen to like that. Really looking forward to visiting Lapland.

I'm particularly interested in the people of Lapland I could meet along the way. With only two people for every square kilometer, there's no guarantee I'll meet that many people. But if you can unite under a coat of arms depicting a barely clothed, angry looking man with a club, I just have to meet some of you.

For the route I'll be trying to ride as close to the Russian border as possible to the east. In Lapland there isn't much choice in roads, so I'll be forced to follow the E75 for a whole bit.

Lapland
Lapland coat of arms

Eastern Lakes

Finland is the country with the bazillion lakes. Okay, it's only 187,888 lakes according to Wikipedia. Many of those can be found in the eastern part of the country.

By following the Russian border south from Lapland, I'll end up smack in the middle of this immense area. There seems to be no end in sight when it comes to nice places to visit. Especially because it's, like Lapland, quite underpopulated. I'll just go unprepared and let the local tourist establishments show me around.

There's one exception though. I'd love to visit Koli national park. It looks great on photos. They're trying to cultivate original agricultural traditions in harmony with the local environment. That sounds like good, local food in a setting that makes one hungry. The Finnish cuisine is mostly bread, meat and fish. Exactly the way I like it.

Koli
Koli national park

CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 daneen_vol

Helsinki

Normally I'm not that big on cities. Hard to put up a tent (unless you're occupy), hard to park a motorcycle and too many people. It's from Helsinki I leave Finland, so I might just as well make it a destination on its own.

It's not that big of a city. Lots of interesting history, architecture and food. Especially food. If I manage to find a place to sleep and leave the bike behind without any worries, I might just explore the city for a bit. Finding a way to get me and my bike onto a ferry to Talinn will be the first priority. Besides food of course. Both food and ferries are equally awesome.

If I've got the time, and if I can find it, visiting Suomenlinna is definitely something I'd think about. It's an old fort built by the Swedish the the mid-18th century. It never really got used. And the best thing; it houses restaurants now! Yep. That means more Finnish food for me.

Helsinki
Helsinki

CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 Claudio.Ar


Ride Report

This is only what I remeber of Finland and quickly wrote down during the trip. I'm sure I've missed some details here and there. Sorry! It's chronological, mostly.

I was expecting reindeer in Finland. But not this quickly. After only half an hour in, I came across a large group of reindeer. They were standing in the middle of the road, occupying what looked like a derelict gas station. There were maybe a dozen females and one male. One with a temper and antlers twice the size of my handle bars. I stopped in the middle of the road, hoping they would leave. They didn't. I revved my engine a few times. That made things worse. The male now turned its head towards me and positioned himself in the middle of the road, facing me. He swung his head from side to side and slowly started to walk towards me. I have to admit, I was a little scared. But I knew this game. Chicken, it's called. And I'm good at it. So I did the same. I started rolling towards him, slowly picking up speed. He did the same. Let's just say I won. Barely. He followed me for a while, but I quickly outran him. My heart was beating in my throat, but I made it. Welcome to Finland.

It was getting kind of late and the weather was fine, so I started looking for a place to set up camp. At the first camping I saw I stopped at the side of the road and opened my helmet. Hundreds upon hundreds of mosquitoes flew in. Maybe not that many, but it was a lot. Holy shit. I wasn't going to camp in these kind of conditions. I looked around and all I could see was mosquito's flying. An occasional fly, some bees, wasps and bumblebees too. The amount of insects around this place was staggering. Another hotel it is then.

The closest hotel was in Inari. A small town with an old western atmosphere. Big, gnarly men drove big jeeps around, carried guns and knives and wore camo outfits. Reindeer hunters I reckoned. The hotel was filled with these characters. Old bikers, truckers and hunters. The hotel sold food, beds and knives. I almost bought one if I didn't have to cross five more countries. I got a room at about half the rate I was used to in Norway and went outside to fetch my panniers. They were sticky, coated with a thick layer of dead insects. Nice. The entire Alp was covered with the sticky muck. I was enjoying the midnight sun when I noticed the sign outside of the hotel. 24 degrees Celsius. That's warm. So I removed my winter gear and went to sleep.

The following morning I set out to do what I had planned. Follow the Russian border south as far as I can. Eastern Finland doesn't have that many roads so planning the route was fairly easy. You just can't get lost in Finland.

Well... as long as you've got GPS. All the roads, during the entire day, looked the same. Trees on both sides, the occasional suicidal reindeer and millions of flying insects. It's like riding through an endless tunnel of wood. Nobody lives there, in the east of Finland. Almost nobody anyway. Gas stations are few and far between. At one time I got 16.5 liters between two stops, while my tank only holds 17. Roads were pretty boring, too. Of course I was spoiled with Norwegian roads up until then, so I can't blame them.

During the second half of the day the clouds rolled in again and it started raining. The sunny weather of the day before was nowhere to be found. I was cold, bored and itchy. The night in Inari had turned my scalp into a mountain range, ever growing under the movement of my helmet.

My GPS found me a nice hotel in Nurmes where I could lick my wounds. I rode around in Nurmes, but I couldn't find the hotel my GPS pointed me towards. I found something else though, maybe it meant that. It was a collection of cabins and saunas. Finns love saunas. I don't. But a cabin didn't sound too shabby. The proprietor was a guy about my age I think. Nice guy, too. We talked a bit about the impossibility of the language. Apparently he was only a Swede learning Finnish for a few years already, and his Finnish wasn't even up to par with the local children. So I kind of gave up learning the language. He gave me a bunch of keys so I could take a look around in the cabins and decide which one I wanted. I tried every key on every lock I found, but not a single cabin would open. So I went back to fetch the Swede. He couldn't open the doors either. Now that was weird. I was getting a little annoyed so I pushed hard against the door. And it opened. Without the key. Oops.

Because of the rain the terrain was turned into a muddy mess and I had to work for about an hour to create a makeshift solution so I could keep the Alp's center stand from sinking away into the mud. All the while I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. In the rain. I felt pretty bad. The fact that I could see the hotel I was looking for outside of the cabin's window didn't help either.

The next morning I zipped the winter gear back into my outfit and headed towards the south eastern lake district, hoping to find better a better climate and better scenery.

In short; it wasn't any different. I've seen some glimpses of water, but I didn't have the idea I was riding across a huge set of quite large lakes. The weather was even worse than the day before. Cold and wet.

After having seen nothing at all of the lake district because of the trees in between the road and the lakes, cold and annoyed by the constant stream of insects I decided I'd better go to Helsinki as fast as possible. Maybe Helsinki would be nicer than the rest of Finland. Fast roads and bits of highway lead me to Helsinki quickly. You can say one thing about Finland, the quality of the roads is absolutely superb.

Of course the GPS went absolutely haywire again in the city, so I had some trouble finding the hotel I had randomly chosen. I parked my Alp on the sidewalk in front of the hotel and checked in. I immediately got some remarks in Finnish from an old lady passing by while I was unhooking the panniers. Great. At least the lady at the hotel lobby was kind enough to teach me a few words of Finnish. Of course the only words I still remember to this day are the naughty ones. She also told me the weather wasn't going to clear up for a good couple of days, so I decided that I was going to leave Finland the next day. I used her laptop to book a hotel in Tallinn for the following day. I didn't bother with a ferry reservation. I didn't actually need one in Hirtshals either.

The next morning I wasn't going to make the mistake I made in Hirtshals. So I took my time and left exactly on time, so I could easily check in at the ferry and board without having to wait. According to the signs at the docks I had made a mistake. The ferry was fully booked. According to a helpful guy in a yellow jacket and a braided beard I could get a reservation for the next ferry inside of the terminal building. So I waited in line at the counter. When it was finally my turn the bureaucrat behind the glass window told me I had to wait another thirty minutes before I could place a reservation for the next ferry. Apparently my argument that I could place a reservation via the internet right now wasn't valid and she turned the mic off. Thirty minutes later I was back. Back with a vengeance. She smiled and made a gesture with her hand. Another four minutes. I immediately understood why that glass had to be there. Four minutes later I tried again. She told me I could place a reservation, but only for business class. Normal tickets couldn't be sold anymore. I was too late for that, they stopped selling those half an hour ago. Business class tickets are twice the price. At that point I had thought of at least ten ways I could kill her and get away with it. I bought a business class ticket. I wanted to get away from that place before I lost it.

Business class was something special. On the ferry to Tallinn you're put in a glass box for everybody to see, together with all the other business class people. You're not allowed to go outside. There's a bouncer at the door. You've got your own toilets, the best view and an unlimited amount of really nasty rich people food, cigars and alcoholic beverages. Shrimp cocktail, whiskey, wine, but no beer. There were well dressed ladies and gentlemen in business suits. And there was me. Wearing my motorcycle gear, covered in dead insects and stinking of several days of rain. To add to the fun I held a pretend phone call with a fake Russian accent about killing people, drugs and weapons. Some of the business people stared, others relocated to sit further away from me. Except one man in a tailored suit smoking a cigar. He didn't care. I guess he was the real criminal among us. In the end it was a good day when I looked upon the shores of Estonia.


Photos

These are the photos taken during the trip through Finland using this gear. Hopefully they're in chronological order. If you'd like a larger version of a particular photo, just let me know and I'd be happy to make it available to you. All photos can be redistributed freely under the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.