Monday, 23 August 2010

Post Finland thoughts...

It's now a few weeks since we returned from our 3rd adventure in Finland, and we have had some time to reflect and think about what it is that we love so much about this unique and special country.

In 2006, when we set off from here in Scotland in our car, bound for Kotka on the south east coast of Finland, I thought it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so I made both an online blog and a real, paper diary, so we could show our children afterwards how the holiday had gone. We had no idea just how deeply we were going to fall in love with Finland itself.

When we came back again in the summer of 2008, this time both to Kotka again, and to Varkaus in the east of the country, we discovered more and more of the country and felt even more sad when we had to leave. Not only did we experience the joy of swimming in pure, clean (and surprisingly warm) lakes, but we again enjoyed lovely warm weather throughou our stay. 

This summer, having spent two weeks in two different cottages in the Juva and Puumala area of eastern Finland, we have returned more invigorated than ever, and feeling that Finland was simply unbeatable as a summer holiday destination! Our two children spent literally hours in the lakes each day, swimming, splashing, fishing and loving each and every minute. We relaxed in wood-burning saunas daily, and jumped or dived into "our" lakes afterwards. I say "our" lakes because we were the only people for miles around in each case- it was as if we owned both lakes!

Puumala, eastern Finland, July 2010

Since we returned, many of our friends and neighbours have marvelled at the photos and videos on this blog, and at the many posts I put up on Facebook when we were away. It's true to say that Finland really is a hidden and unknown gem in Europe, as many from the UK simply have no idea about just how beautiful, warm and welcoming a country it is. If you fancy a family holiday in a country that is clean, quiet, warm (and often hot) in summer, with many thousands of spectacularly beautiful lakes, wonderful landscapes and friendly and hospitable people, than look no further than Finland. And, the icing on the cake is that it's not as expensive as everyone imagines- indeed, from our experience, a family holiday here can easily cost less than a comparable holiday in France, Italy or Spain.
Sunset on "our" lake, Lentunen, eastern Finland, July 2010

It's exceptional! We've convinced quite a few of our friends and neighbours to try Finland, and we've already booked for 2011...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Back home!

A run down of our wonderful holiday in Finland, 2010.

We arrived home on Thursday 29th July, after the most fantastic holiday ever :-) It's not an exaggeration to say so, but we'd all love to still be in fantastic Finland.
We have had the best possible weather, the most wonderful accommodation- I chose very well- an amazing journey from Scotland, via the Netherlands and Germany to Finland, then back via Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, the company of our families and friends along the way that made the holiday exceptional in all aspects. Thank you to all who made us feel so welcome !

Special thanks to our wonderful friends Jyrki and Mari in Varkaus for all their kindness once again, to Mika and his wife Virpi in Lehmo for taking us to Koli National Park, to Sari and all her family in Mäntsälä for their welcome on our arrival in Finland. In addition, thanks to Anna-Lena and her husband Claes-Erik in Sweden for welcoming us to their house close to Grimsas, and to Ole Flemming and his wife Jette, for joining us there for lunch. The Schoolovision and Snapshot of Europe projects I have done have allowed us to meet some lovely people!

Finally, thanks to my mum and dad and brother Keith who joined us in Finland, as well as all of Anna's family, who I know also had a great time with us during the second week!

The journey home...

We headed for Helsinki after leaving our second cottage, with heavy hearts, as it had been our third holiday to Finland, and undoubtably the best so far. We all wanted to stay, and not leave for home. First though, we had to get the boat to Stockholm, then head through Sweden, over to Denmark, and on through Germany and the Netherlands- quite a journey.
In Helsinki, boarding our magnificent Silja Line ferry to Stockholm.

To break it up a bit, we had planned stops in Sweden, lunch at my eTwinning colleague Anna-Lena's in central Sweden, as well as a day at Legoland in Denmark!

With Anna-Lena and her husband Claes-Erik, and Ole Flemming and his wife Jette at Anna-Lena's lovely Swedish home.

Crossing from Sweden to Denmark, on the Oresund Bridge.

In Legoland Denmark!
Sandy poses in front of "Scotland"!

After visiting the shop.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Thursday 22nd July

We have been here at our second cottage, close to Puumala, since last Saturday. It's a much larger place than last week's, and it is also very nice, with another really wonderful lake. Anna's family arrived safely last Saturday, not long after us in fact! We haven't actually been to many places, as it's not easy to get folk transported about!

The gravel road that leads to our cottage

Cottage number 2, next to Lake Lentunen, close to Puumala.

Straight to work with some fishing. There were thousands of fish here, and they were easily caught- bream, perch, and some pike!

Anna and Olivia were immediately picking wild strawberries.
Finland is famous for its silver birch trees.

Olivia swims with her Russian grandad!

..and with a water lily!

Lake Lentunen- another beautiful lake!

Water lilies are everywhere in Finland's lakes.
Posing with Dayadushka.

Just posing!

Taxi for Baboushka and Dayadushka!
Uncle Nikolai, practising for London 2012!

The sun sets on our wonderful lake!

Sandy and Olivia, with cousin Arnold from St Petersburg!

However, we welcomed my mum and dad and brother Keith here last Sunday, and they spent a good afternoon eating and swimming in the lake with us. On Monday, I took Anna, Olga and my mum-in-law to Juva, where they searched for bargains and spent their money in the shops. We later had saunas and swimming sessions here.
Sandy, with a huge dragonfly we found in the garden!
Diving from the jetty!
I think that was Sandy!
This is definitely Sandy!
Olivia with Uncle Nikolai and cousin Arnold.

On Tuesday, we all had a big barbeque and much more swimming in the lake here. The weather continued to be really outstanding, with the temperature sitting at around 30C each day!

On Wednesday, we all went the 9 mile journey up the dirt road to my mum and dad's cottage, where they welcomed us again on a very hot day for lunch. We tried out their lake- which happened to be warm, but not quite as warm as ours, then we came back and had more saunas and swims in our lake here!
At my mum and dad's cottage, about 8 miles north of ours.
The Russian and Scottish grandparents, along with their grandchildren from Scotland!
Sandy and Olivia, with Anna, Olga and Nikolai, and grandparents Irina and Vladimir.
Me, my mum and dad, and brother Keith, along with Sandy and Olivia.
View to the lake from my mum and dad's place.

Before we went up there, I had taken Olivia to the doctor's in Juva, as she had been bitten by some type of fly which had gone a bit nasty. There, we were given some cream to apply, and hopefully it would begin to clear quickly.

On Thursday, we met my parents at Puumala, on another very hot day, and took some wonderful pictures of the fantastic scenery there, after having our lunch in a lakeside cafe.
Puumala, eastern Finland, a beautiful village.
Next to the water at Puumala.
View of the harbour, Puumala.
Brother Keith with Puumala harbour behind.

What a view, with the temperature at 32C!
Above and below, on Puumala bridge.

Small boats abound in Puumala! It would be a great place to rent a boat for a day or two's sailing!

We then came home and swam again in our wonderful lake here. I think we have been amazingly lucky with the weather- it has been 30C or higher almost every day we have been here- with only one or two days when the temperature has only got as high as 28 or 29C!!
Anna and I enjoy the sun at the jetty of our cottage.

Olga and Nikolai.

We have only seen rain one morning, which cleared up very quickly (Monday this week). The forecast suggests it might rain heavily on Saturday, as we head back to Helsinki- we will see! We have also been incredibly lucky with our two cottages and lakes- both different, but very beautiful in their own way. While last week's lake, Hakojarvi, was shallow and easy to walk into, with thousands of fish, this week it has been great to dive into our deep lake from the end of the jetty here in Kaislajarvi. Brilliant :-) Have we missed home? No way- we have had the most amazing fun here in the fantastic weather, and indeed none of us wants to leave for our return journey, as it's just so beautiful here.