In commercial partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

The Antskog Ironworks is a scenic and historical site few people know about in Raasepori, only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. The picturesque ironworks reveals its beauty to an adventurer who appreciates its history and approaches the idyll discreetly and with respect for its nature that differs from other ironworks villages. 

The early evening atmosphere in Antskog in late June is magical. I have arrived in a seemingly sleepy, beautiful little village. The mass of clouds drifts by, almost touching the treetops, but the worst threat of rain has already passed.

I know that the only permitted parking spot is at the Antskog plaza. I have to check my navigator to make sure that I am indeed in the right place. Yes, I am at the plaza, at Harabackantie 3. I have never visited such a tiny plaza before, but a village community of 120 permanent residents hardly needs a Senate Square.

The plaza is recognizable by the yellow house standing on the corner – a former diner and shop – and an information board titled “Antskog as a copperworks” describing the history of the copperworks. When you see them in front of you, you know you have parked legally. Parking anywhere else is prohibited, especially in front of the old volunteer fire brigade building, as that is the turning area for the bus, and every square meter is needed.

The peacefully slumbering Antskog Ironworks is surrounded by a fence sealed with locked gates. Trespassing beyond the fence is not allowed, as the area is entirely under the control of its owner, Mako Ltd.

Fortunately, small glimpses of the buildings in the historical factory area, now used as warehouses, can be seen from permitted routes. Through my camera, I take a peek at a past world filled with our industrial history that lies beyond the fence.

The long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks

The Antskog Ironworks is the oldest and smallest of the ironworks in Pohja. The German-born merchant from Turku, Jacob Wolle, is considered to be the founder of the Antskog Ironworks. In history books, Antskog and Wolle are linked from the year 1630 onwards, so that year is considered to be the founding year of the Antskog Ironworks. 

As an ironworks, Antskog competed with Fiskars, which was founded much later (not until 1649!). In the end, Fiskars had a better location traffic-wise closer to the sea and triumphed.

When the furnace was still operational in 1650, the village had 80 inhabitants who were considered adults. People serving Antskog at that time included a master of the furnace, a pot caster, two pistolsmiths, a precision smith and a wheelsmith, several hammersmiths, a master builder as well as colliers and charcoal burners. 

The first church was built in Antskog in 1665. The ironworks parish was dissolved after population dwindled in the 1770’s, and the Antskog church was moved to the Koski Ironworks in Perniö, where it mostly retains its features from the Antskog era, although it is no longer in use.

All that remains of the church now in Antskog are the church site and the sign pointing to it.  At times when the undergrowth is more barren, the plinth of the church is visible. After June, the plinth is probably covered by Amazon-like vegetation.

As centuries passed, the ore used at the ironworks varied, as did the end products. From the present-day perspective, one of the most important owners was pharmacist John Jacob Julin from Turku. To facilitate access for ore barges from the nearby Malmberget mine, Julin built a sluice in Antskog in 1824. Julin himself believed the sluice to be the first one in Finland, and had his assumption carved into a rock next to the sluice, even though the honor of building the first sluice probably belongs to Henrik Johan Kreij, owner of the Mustio Ironworks, who is said to have built two sluices in the Mustionjoki river as early as 1745.

The copperworks closed down in 1880. Earlier in 1875, pharmacist Julin’s eldest son Emil Lindsay von Julin had been forced to hand his factory over to his debtors, but he also received a managerial position in the Fiskars Aktiebolaget company that was founded in 1883.

Industrial operation continued in Antskog, however. In 1839, John Jacob Julin had received a permit for founding a baize factory and a felting facility and dyeworks alongside the ironworks. The stone building of the baize factory was completed in 1841, and was rented by various entrepreneurs until 1849. When there was an attempt to sell the factories here in 1879, they included a small wool spinning mill, weaving mill and dyeworks in addition to the copperworks and mill. There was even a tricot production plant in Antskog before the turn of the century.

In 1900, the old baize factory was destroyed in a fire. The Antskog Klädesfabrik Ltd, founded two years later, built a large group of industrial buildings on the same site. The factory specialized in the manufacturing of baize, slipper, ulster and suit fabrics and employed over 100 people during the early years of the 20th century. The operation of the factory that provided a livelihood for the entire village ended in a surprising bankruptcy in 1959. In 1960, ownership of the area was transferred to its current owner, Mako Ltd, through a compulsory auction.

(This is an adaptation of the long and meandering history of the Antskog Ironworks. You can read the full long history at the Antskog Ironworks web site here.)

The Antskog Ironworks village today

Today, Antskog is filled with peace and quiet. The ironworks sleeps; nothing is being manufactured inside its factory buildings anymore.

The Anskunjoki river flows languidly through the fenced factory area. The sound of running water reaches my ears from somewhere, but I see no steps down to the water.

Although all manufacturing has ended, there is still a solidness about the old buildings. The abandoned factory buildings are reminiscent of past times, the history of Finnish industry.

The serene, unbroken surface of the Anskunjoki river paints beautiful images; even the slight blemishes created by the ravages of time do not disturb the full picture.

The grass isn’t growing wildly; the paths are clearly visible. The white fences look as if they had just been painted. Somebody is looking after this industrial-archaeological environment.

Even though Antskog and Fiskars are located next to each other, Antskog is worlds apart from Fiskars that waits for tourists with open arms a few kilometers away.

There are no shops here, nor artisans’ workshops with inviting open doors.

Antskog is meant to be enjoyed as is – raw, without sugarcoating to make it more tempting. There are no temptations here for loosening the strings of one’s purse, but plenty of peace and atmosphere.

The Antskog summer idyll is located on Slussintie

To get to the start of Slussintie, I cross the concrete road that runs through the village.

The speed limit is low, but it’s still a good idea to look both ways. Many of those driving by here seem to be in a hurry to get to Fiskars.

The former workers’ homes on Slussintie have developed into a paradise for summer residents. The rental apartments are modest, with outhouses at the back of the yard. Bathing takes place in the sauna, and a swim in the river feels refreshing. 

These affordable rental apartments are rarely available, and even when they are, they are rented under the counter. Marketing takes place through the grapevine. There are approximately one hundred lucky summer residents.

The houses have seen plenty of time and life, and they all have names. Plevna, Onnela, Fiskars I & II, Pomola.

The residents have their own little piers by the river.

The river sauna gets plenty of visitors. Women are cooling off with towels around themselves and their hair, and children are wading in the quietly flowing water. 

For a moment, I imagine that I have fallen into a historical, cosmic wormhole and travelled at least 80 years back in time. The number of children playing outside is beyond my comprehension. They really are swimming and running around, as they should in the summer. Outside! Even in the evening! People here are enjoying the summer and every single warm day. 

I wait for a good while before I’m able take out my camera. The surface of the river has barely settled as new swimmers enter the water.

Even the laundry/mangling room on the bank of Anskunjoki looks rather idyllic.

The nature in Antskog is particularly sensitive 

The opposite bank of Slussintie at Keskiportti is wilderness-like. The magnificent trees are reflected on the mirror of the water. Somewhere in the cover of the trees, a blackbird is singing its prettiest serenade. The water flows here from the Seljänalanen lake above, from which a waterway through a narrow canal also leads to the Määrjärvi lake. 

Here in the Pohja-Kisko uplands, especially in these river valleys, the nature is lush and diverse. There are many clear-watered, wilderness-like lakes here that have been spared from the construction of cabins and agricultural runoff, on whose shores smooth cliffs rise sharply towards the sky.

In 2017, the Pohja-Kisko lake uplands were included among the one hundred pearls of nature named by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. In the nature of Raasepori, one may spot the red-throated diver, which is rare in Uusimaa. The area is also the habitat of the black-throated diver, whooper swan, crane, eagle owl and Eurasian pygmy owl. Even a playful otter might be found in the brooks of the lake uplands. 

There is a large population of white-tailed deer. Moving quietly and downwind, one may even encounter moose, lynxes, bears and wolves. In the swamps, one may hear the wood grouse and black grouse, and there are large numbers of bats and dragonflies.

There are several conservation and Natura areas in the vicinity of Antskog. In order to keep their sensitive nature as untouched as possible, no routes have been built in them. The nearest marked routes are close by, however. There is a tree species path of about two kilometers in length in the Fiskars ironworks area that introduces as many as 23 different species of trees. The four-kilometer Rissla forest path leads through beautiful scenery to the Rissla waterfall and the structures of the old power plant. For those who enjoy cycling, the Fiskars Ironworks offers a total of 60 kilometers of marked and maintained mountain biking routes!

The Antskog idyll has even appeared in a movie

Slussintie winds along the riverbank; my steps are taking me towards the “slussi”, or the sluice.

While walking leisurely, one can constantly see eye candy along Slussintie: flowers, artistic and warmly humorous still lifes, summer residences for winged friends; the washing lines on the opposite bank and even the chair where the happy washer probably has time to wait for their laundry to dry. 

The Slussintie summer idyll looks straight out of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books! I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Emil i Lönneberga himself came running down the hill with his cap tilted, or Pippi Longstocking rode past me on her spotted horse.

No wonder the Antskog riverbank has even appeared in a movie. The adaptation of Eeva Joenpelto’s novel Vetää kaikista ovista was filmed here, and the Antskog workers’ hall can also be seen in the movie.

Nature is flourishing here. This landscape is a safe haven for many buzzing insects.

Members of the Antskog village society have received an honorable mention for their work for the preservation of the diversity of nature. Through its own example, Antskog proves that looking after the natural environment of one’s own village doesn’t necessarily require large resources, but good will and active hands willing to take action.

The Antskog village society has also made its own village plan for the development of their village. They want Antskog to be a vigorous village community in a pleasant environment, and they want to offer the people of Antskog diverse opportunities for exercise that keep people healthy.

The active Antskog village society organizes an annual summer fest, collective voluntary work, summer exhibitions, summer café activity and concerts. At the heart of these activities is the diligently restored cozy workers’ hall situated at the end of Harabackantie.

The Antskog sluice

After a few hundred yards of walking, I arrive at the historical sluice. 

The Antskog sluice was constructed in 1824 by Johan Jacob Julin, who was in charge of the refining of copper from the Orijärvi mine. Transporting ore to the foundries in Koski and Antskog was extremely laborious, especially during the winter with heavy snow. Julin solved the logistical problems by constructing a waterway from Orijärvi to Antskog, which had a connection to the Gulf of Finland through a series of small lakes. Julin’s solution was successful, as transportation costs were halved thanks to the sluices. 

The Antskog sluice became less important in 1830, when copper refining was concentrated at the Koski foundry. The Antskog sluice remained in use until 1908, when the actual sluice gates were dismantled.

The remaining reminders of history are the rusty sluice structure and the text “First sluice in Finland, J.Julin 1824” carved in stone. As mentioned before, the sluice wasn’t actually the first, but who would doubt information that has been carved in stone?

Slussintie ends at the beautiful Mikkola beach

Slussintie ends at a beautiful beach. The Mikkola beach is the villagers’ bathing beach. Littering and keeping dogs loose is understandably prohibited, as is camping. 

A smart guest always respects the rules of the house and never wants a bad mood for themselves, let alone to upset the permanent residents. During the COVID year, we’ve all read about sites getting damaged during the nature tourism boom and careless hikers who disregard the rules and leave trash behind. As smart and considerate nature lovers, we don’t want to be part of that group, do we?

Evening images at Anskunjoki river

As I walk back towards the plaza, I still wonder about the children splashing about in the river. 

The sign warning about playing children at the start of Slussintie should indeed be taken seriously instead of barreling down the road towards the sluice by car.

I admire the beautiful reflections on the surface of the river as the lens of the camera catches some boys on an evening kayaking trip.

Luukas Huppunen and Niilo Alander are enjoying the soft atmosphere of a summer evening in Antskog in the best possible way – on the water.

Villa Taika offers surprises and unique bed & breakfast accommodation

I quickly visit the Manibacka hill, a little ways from the center of Antskog towards Fiskars. Here, a real surprise awaits a hiker in need of accommodation. Raisa Kaipainen and Torsten Rüger have renovated an old schoolhouse into a unique bed & breakfast that almost certainly has no equal in Finland.

Immediately at the front door my thoughts fly towards southeast Asia. The dark wood used in interior design and the turquoise color of the common rooms act as a virtual ticket to foreign lands.

As I peek inside the comfortable accommodation rooms, nothing reminds me of an old schoolhouse. Each of the eight rooms is unique and individually decorated. 

In addition to the beautiful rooms, guests at Villa Taika also get to enjoy the serenity of the surrounding nature and a lovingly prepared vegetarian breakfast. A fountain bubbles in the large garden, and a large, wood-heated sauna is available for course groups on order.

Villa Taika is a memorable and cozy base for an explorer who values the beauty of the nature of Antskog. Rowboats are available for rent for those wishing to go out on the river, and those wishing to visit Fiskars can borrow a bicycle. By car, the drive to Fiskars is five minutes. Other sites to experience in Raasepori are also close by. The Billnäs Ironworks and Mustio Manor are only 15 kilometers away, and the distance to Tammisaari is 35 kilometers.

There are as many as five lakes as well as a conservation area within walking distance from Villa Taika. The bathing beach of the clear and strictly protected Simijärvi lake is only 200 meters away.

He who has happiness…

…should hide it, says an old Finnish proverb. After my time spent in Antskog, I can also easily understand those villagers who would prefer to keep this idyll entirely hidden. If there are no services for tourists and entrepreneurs in the village who would benefit from visitors, many may fear that their peace will be disturbed without any benefit for the community.

Antskog is unlikely to become a destination for the masses as long as the old industrial area lies slumbering behind locked gates, but for those who value peace and the beauty of nature and walk their own paths, Antskog is the perfect choice. Here, small parties and groups of co-workers will find not only the magical accommodations of Villa Taika, but also an opportunity for customized, guided adventures in nature.  The local company KD-Adventure organizes tourist services for lovers of kayaking, climbing, riding and tour skating. A survival course tailored to the group’s wishes or an evening of firewalking are also possible, as are outdoor cooking classes for gourmands who want to learn to cook on an open fire. Perhaps you’d like to learn how to cook a salmon on a fire or how to prepare an epic dish of rosvopaisti

A summer café has operated at the Antskog workers’ hall every summer during the summer fest and exhibition. This year, the summer fest will be held on July 31, and the summer exhibition will probably take place at the same time. If you are around in these parts in late July, you can find the Antskog workers’ hall at Harabackantie 30.

If the summer café is open, please support the active village society by having a relaxed cup of coffee, for instance. While doing so, you will also see the fabulously restored workers’ hall, and while enjoying your coffee, you can ponder on what a fine piece of the history of industrialization in Finland the Antskog Ironworks is.

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Visit Raseborg

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Johanna Suomela

Another world surprisingly close to the busy highway no. 25, and beyond the grain fields, awaits the curious hiker who is hungry for new experiences. Encircled by the reed beds, Lake Lepinjärvi is a paradise for birds, providing memorable experiences in nature in historical surroundings. The prehistoric graves of this versatile region date all the way back to the Iron Age. Come with me to discover the cultural path of Lake Lepinjärvi – let’s follow the sunshine to the lush hazel grove!

Relatively easy trail, length approx. 3 kilometres

Travel time 2 hrs

Table for eating outdoor snacks and a campfire site, but no firewood service.

Map showing the starting point of the trail

My mobile phone wakes me up persuasively. It is time; actually it is 03.45 in the morning. Very early in the morning, on the day we celebrate Finnish nature. They say that an early bird catches the worm, so I must be catching a lot of them. I am about to go to a place I’ve never visited before, and I hope to see the best birds in the best light possible – when the sun rises.

It is still dark, though, when I start my car and drive towards Karis in Raseborg. These wee hours are the time of animals, such as rabbits and foxes, so I drive carefully.

Already on the way to my destination, I am fascinated by how lovely nature can be. The morning mist is just unbelievable! The landscape by the roadside has never been more beautiful!

In less than an hour, I have driven from the middle of Espoo to Karis to meet my friend who I haven’t seen for a long time. We spot a clear path leading to the underpass under Highway no. 25. Let’s go there!

The autumn morning is chilly, and the temperature is just 6 degrees above zero. Good thing that I brought my gloves.

The underpass is a safe passage to the other side of the highway.

The mist is soft like a feather, as it floats over the fields surrounding Lake Lepinjärvi. There’s so much moisture in the vegetation on the side of the trail that my pant legs get wet.

Blooming season is mostly over, but the last brown knapweed of the summer is still shining in the dim light of the morning.

The trail running on the side of the field road ends up in a lush forest and forks. Wooden signposts direct us to take a left.

I have to get to the beach before the sun rises.

The old bird observation tower of Lillnäset rewards those who dare to come here.

In the time of corona, you should consider a few things if you wish to go to any bird observation tower. Birdlife Finland recommends that you should prefer close-by destinations and not let anyone else use your binoculars and telescopes but your family members. You should also maintain a safe distance to other birdwatchers.

Being considerate is especially important when visiting bird towers. This means, for example that you allow others to use the tower as well and don’t stay up there for too long.

This morning, however, we have the tower to ourselves as no-one else is around.

Carefully we climb up the stairs to the tower as they have no handrail.

Using these kinds of built structures happens on everyone’s own responsibility as does roaming in nature in general.

A breath-taking view opens up from the tower above the tall reeds.

The sun is about to rise, and Lake Lepinjärvi is full of water birds! In the mist, it feels like it is from a fairy-tale.

The busiest time of autumn migration is not yet here. However, the birds can be counted in tens, if not hundreds already. The cackling and chattering sounds overwhelming. 

Majestic pair of mute swans are swimming in the middle of the mist.

Mist is floating above the surface of the lake.

Time seems to stop just before the sunrise. This is happiness!

As much as they talk about congestion and masses of people in nature brought on by the corona, I don’t really see any of that right now!

Should someone who loves peace and quiet head to these kinds of small and less-known places instead of over-populated national parks? Moreover, should they choose an early time such as now for a tailor-made experience in nature? Selecting the most beautiful morning light and silence instead of afternoon rush hours and hard light.

It is so beautiful that I almost forget to breathe.

The only thing breaking the silence is the flapping of great wings as the swans take to the sky.

The pair of swans,who were gliding gracefully on the surface of the lake just a moment ago, is now taking off somewhere. Oh, I wish I could get a nice shot in spite of this thick mist!

The cultural landscape from the Iron Age at Lake Lepinjärvi

Thoroughly impressed by the flocks of birds and the breath-taking lake views we descend from the tower. Still going east, we take a little side step off the path.

In the middle of the rocky mound, stands a sign from the Finnish Heritage Agency which has seen its better days.

There is a rock that has about 10 hardly visible indentations, so-called cups, over a small area, and a cremation cemetery under level ground.

Archaeological digs have revealed spear tips, ceramics and charred bones. We are at an ancient sacrificial ground, with Finnish national history from the Iron Age beneath our feet.

Some rustling sounds carry from the forest, but we don’t see anyone else. There’s a hint of mystery in the air.

We head back to where we came from, walking past spider’s webs that are now visible due to the dew.

We almost miss a small information sign that tells us that there’s a place ahead of us called Stora Näset. Stora Näset is a small, rocky hill, surrounded by mist and grain fields.

This place dates all the way back to the Iron Age, too. Archaeologists have found pieces of pottery and revealed layers of earth that indicate there might have been a level-ground cremation cemetery here as well.

Walking counter-clockwise on the path going over the hill and climbing down a short but steep cliff, we come to a large and moss-covered stone wall.

The age of this 20-metre wall on Stora Näset is still a mystery.

In a moment, we go past the wooden signs again.  The path leads us to a new bird observation tower named the Pelican Tower.

About 20 metres length of the oldest duckboards is wet and slippery due to overhanging vegetation, but soon there’s also dry wood to be walked on.

The trail passes hazels and large coniferous trees, leaving the cliff of Själdberget to our right.

It feels like in a real wilderness – it is unbelievable that we’re so close to the highway.

Just before the stairs leading to the Pelican Tower, a large information board standing at the crossroads shows us where we are on the map. It also tells us what to expect.

If all goes well, one could spot the long-tailed tit, bearded tit, water rail, red-necked grebe, mute swan and the smew. Other species that have been recorded here are for example marsh harrier, ruff, corncrake, Bewick’s swan, Slavonian grebe, wood sandpiper, common tern, crane and whooper swan.

Lake Lepinjärvi in Raseborg is one of the most important bird lakes in the Uusimaa province.

About 100 species of birds nest here regularly, but as much as 160 have been recorded in Lepinjärvi and its surrounding areas.

At the time of spring- and autumn migration, this shallow and eutrophic lake is an important resting and feeding place for migratory birds. When the migration is at its highest, there are over 220 different species here, and over 3000 water birds have been seen visiting the lake at one time!

During migration, you can also spot the pintail, bean goose, grey heron, gadwall and the redshank and spotted redshank.

So the bird plate is quite full at Lake Lepinjärvi!

The autumn migration is on its way, and more birds can be seen then, because the migration is divided over a longer period, and thanks to successful nesting, there are more birds going out than coming in. The best time to see migratory birds is between September and October.

I notice that recognizing the birds is not easy. They fly overhead so quickly, and the dim sunlight shining through the mist doesn’t help a bit. Are they greylag geese, perhaps?

Lake Lepinjärvi is part of the Natura 2000 regions, protecting biodiversity in the EU. Lepinjärvi is also part of the national bird wetland protection programme.

Lepinjärvi is definitely the ideal place for birds, as it is approximately one metre deep, and the shoreline is covered by a tall reed bed.

Moreover, there is a very rare plant species at Lepinjärvi, namely  

Najas tenuissima which is one of Finland’s – if not the world’s – rarest aquatic plants.

The Pelican Tower of Lepinjärvi

The off-main trail path leads down from the information boards to the beach on stairs and onto wide duckboards that are placed well above the ground.

That means that you can come here to see the birds even during spring flood!

Standing on the Pelican Tower, we can see how the sun of early autumn makes the mist floating over the lake golden. The birds are hiding somewhere under the opaque blanket.

My friend picks an empty beer can up from the ground as we leave the tower. Beer cans are not indigenous to this region, so it’s best to take it with us to be disposed of properly. A little plastic bag normally meant for dog poo will work as a handy place to store the can temporarily.

We start walking alongside the field to the northwest. There are supposed to be more stone structures from the Iron Age somewhere close to Själdberget, but they seem hard to find at this time of the year. Slowly rising morning sun sheds its rays on the slopes, painting the fields golden.

The trail rises up for a good while and turns to the left. There is a resting place with a canopy ahead of us, equipped with a campfire ring and benches. There’s no firewood available.

The hill of Brobacka brings travellers from the Iron Age to the 20th century

As we cross over the ditch, we see more signs along the path to Brobacka that tell us what we can expect to find on the hill. 

Evidence of settlement and cultivation has been found in Brobacka that date back to the Iron Age and up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The signs also tell us that there’s an instructive video available about Brobacka on Mobiguide. We walk up a wide and smooth path covered in tree needles. Ground on this section of the trail is full of forest litter and so far the easiest to travel. As there are roots growing over the trail, it is not accessible by wheelchair for example.

If you are lucky and patient, you may be able to spot the nutcracker that lives in the hazel groves. As much as we try to move quietly, the nutcracker eludes us today.

Only a few squirrels are afoot, foraging for nuts.

The bushes filter the sunlight that is casting shifting dark and light spots on the trunks of the trees and flashing playfully in the foliage.

We pass the nationally valuable cultural heritage landscape, the meadow of Brobacka, as the trail slowly turns to the left.

Under the hazel by the meadow, a sturdy table awaits for hikers eager to have their lunch.

I wish I could be here in the spring or in the early summer as the flowers on the meadow are in their full bloom! Actually, guided tours are arranged here in the spring, when the ancient remains from the Iron Age are best visible.

After a while, as we go further along the trail, a clearing opens up in front of us. When we see stakes entangled by the common hop and black and red currant bushes, we immediately know that there used to be a croft here.

The croft belonged to the medieval mansion of Domargård until the end of the 19th century.

This must have been a nice place to live, on this warm slope, with a beautiful view to the lake and a fertile soil to cultivate!

Due south, on the edge of the former croft’s courtyard, a big and old pine with crooked limbs stands guard.

We wonder what might have happened under its branches, and turn back to the direction we came from.

The trail turns right, behind the spot where the croft used to be, to reveal more stacked stones covered in moss.

The oldest relics from the region are presumably from 200 to 400 A.D. The most famous of the relics is a buckle that was found in one of the stack of stones. The buckle was named the Buckle from Karjaa and used as a model for a jewel from Kalevala Jewelry. The original buckle, though, is most likely from the Merovingian Period, from 600 to 800 A.D., so it is believed to have been put inside the stack of stones some time later. For what? For an offering, maybe?

Diverse natural experiences in historical surroundings

As we get back to our car, I notice that we have spent two hours outdoors and covered over four kilometres, including the trip to the start of the trail and back. The trail itself is about 2.5 kilometres long. There was so much going on and so much to see that it feels like we have done a much longer hike.

The Finnish Nature Day couldn’t have been better celebrated than spending it on the cultural trail of Lepinjärvi!

Diverse nature and interesting ancient remains meet here in a beautiful way.

Moreover, Mother Nature pampered us with a misty morning and sunrise painted with a delicate brush.

When I get home, I will contact Göran Fagerstedt, who is a guide who knows Lepinjärvi like the back of his hand. Göran lives in Karis, and he has a friendly way of telling people about the ancient sites and history of the region. I value even more the work that volunteer organizations have done for the enjoyment and benefit of hikers like us, when I hear that the duckboards and the campfire shelter have been built by the Natura Society of Karis.

Göran also tells me that there are plans to replace some of the signs and information boards during 2021. Also building a new bird observation tower to replace the old one is in the plans. The signs from the east side of the region will be removed, but the historical sites will still be there, though. That side will probably be the more interesting one for the adventurous explorers.

More information and links

The trail in this text starts 2.2 km from the Karis train station and 2.5 km from the Travel Centre.

Your guide on the Raseborg region is Mr. Göran Fagerstedt who will be back at Lepinjärvi next spring. You can contact Göran and see more information about the trips he arranges by clicking here.

The Raseborg Tourist Services website provides tips for hiking in nature and different outdoor activities.

More stories from Raseborg and its many sights you can find here on Finland, Naturally.

Below is a map of Lake Lepinjärvi, found both on the information board of the Pelican Tower and the lobby of Karis ABC service station.

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

Deep in the forests of Eastern Finland, there lies a peaceful and unspoiled place. Here, one can find snow that goes knee deep and frozen trees that tower all around. It is totally quiet here, and it is possible to be in harmony with nature while walking through these woods.

This place is Koli National park, and last winter I was lucky enough to explore this snowy realm. I have put together a 12-photo album of this adventure as I make my way to the Ukko-Koli, where one can see one of the most spectacular views in all of Finland. The hiking trail is the forest walk which can be taken from the Koli village (Kolinkylä) to the lookout at Ukko-Koli, overlooking lake Pielinen.

The first thing I was greeted with was fluffy snow peacefully adorning the branches of the many trees. Old spruces and birches grow in these protected forests.

I was sinking knee-deep into the snow with every step, but it made for a more memorable adventure.

There is no better place to be mindful of the surroundings and enjoy the delicacy of nature. Koli has inspired artists for centuries.

A lonely sign could be found along the hiking trail, guiding the way through these mysterious white forests.

‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.’ – John Muir

Walking through these peaceful landscapes was indeed very calming and relaxing for the mind.

The walk is also about the little things, such as the fresh cold air.

With every passing minute on the walk, the views get better and better. Even a ski area can be found here.

Then, at last, I reached the summit, where the iconic ‘National view of Finland’ can be found. It was an unforgettable sight. The lake Pielinen lies ice-covered in the distance, as misty clouds cast their shroud over some of the frozen pine woods.

Once, long ago, great glaciers shaped these landscapes. Back then, the land was permanently frozen under glacial ice caps which didn’t melt for thousands of years.

Some of the greatest trees can be found here. They span from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts in what is known as the Main Taiga, the world’s largest ecosystem.

On the way back down, I found a traditional cozy winter cottage with its gates lying open in welcome.

And finally back again at my homely accommodation, Kolin Ryynänen, a traditional wooden lodge.

“What an unbelievable place”, enthused my mountain-biking obsessed colleague, when he heard that we were doing on a Digitrail-tour around Iso-Melkutin lake. A moment later he pedalled back to ask, ‘So you’re going on a digi-what? The app could have easily been sold to him, even though it’s free from the app store.

My colleague’s statement clearly came from the heart. Further investigation showed that he was quite right: About an hour and a half’s drive from Helsinki, right next to Räyskälä airfield, is said to be one of Finland’s hiking gems: the Melkutin backwoods with its protected ridges and beaches, and the crystal clear Iso-Melkutin lake.

But would I go so far as to call it unbelievable?

The village of Räyskälä seemed quite lively, even though it felt like travelling back a few decades. The old buildings were built in an even more traditional way than the traditional ones right next to the main road, and the village shop was from the same period. In the corner of the field was a potato pit. It was now a café, which would be open until three o’clock. We could definitely make it there for a visit, as it was still only morning.

The starting point for Loppi’s Digitrail route is at the western corner of Räyskälä airfield, next to the road called Tauluntie. The large car park was full, even though the summer had already made an exit. There were your usual enthusiasts with tents on their backs, mountain bikers, divers (?!) and then us, who paid no attention to the large signposts pointing in all directions. We were now relying on our mobile phones.

From the Digitrail app’s three options, we chose the middle one, which was approximately seven kilometres long and classified as medium in terms of difficulty. The theme of the route was Lake Iso-Melkutin, its origins and the flora of the area. As we progressed along the route, bite-sized chunks of information about the nature types found on ridges popped up on our mobile phone display, from typical plants to rarer features of the area. The most interesting was was the theory surrounding the origins of the lake that was at the centre of it all.

According to the map, the route is shaped like a balloon; at the beginning and the end of the trail we journey out and back along the same path for about a kilometre, and the rest is around the lake. If we forget to follow our progress on the screen, the GPS stops working or the satellite dies, getting lost in the vicinity of the lake would be quite difficult.

Of the three aforementioned risks is the only one that’s likely is the first one, as the locator is accurate and monitors all progress on the map without any delay. The graphics on the map are simple, the app is easy to use and is full of interesting possibilities. The map, sorry, the phone, can be held in the hand either in the direction of travel or you can fix the locator to move with the map. And, best of all, if the hiker gets lost on the route, the app remarks politely:

“Don’t get lost! It looks like you walked past the path. A little adventure won’t hurt as long as you don’t get lost. ”

Digitrail application

The highlight of the trail awaited further along, but the start of the trail was already calming our restless minds. We step into the light-filled, gently rolling terrain of dry coniferous forests….

And then dove deeper into a young spruce forest…

We wove between swampy ponds and the lake. The path is narrow at the start, but widens as we go along.

And thank goodness it does get wider; as this is where we come to the edge of Iso-Melkutin lake. My colleague was right: the view is not from this country. The lake shimmered vivid and bright with visibility several metres in depth. Only birch trees on the beach revealed that we hadn’t gotten lost with our mobile phones in the Greek archipelago.

On the shadow side of the lake the colour was close to a dark emerald. Such clear, humus-free lakes are rare in our country. There are more of them in the north, but in the south they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The shore of Iso-Melkutin is mostly unbuilt – thanks to the shore protection program – and the mostly sandy and gravel-based. You can swim almost anywhere, although the best spots are on the northern shore of the lake. The official bathing places along the route can be found on the eastern and western ends of the lake. The first of these is also equipped with two lean-tos, a campfire site and a dry toilet.

According to divers, there are piles of rocks at the bottom of the lake as well as an underwater ridge. The lake is said to have formed during the melting phase of the last glacial period, when huge ice blocks were buried inside the glacial sand. When they melted, they created big pits in which water was left behind. The deepest part of Iso-Melkutin lake is 27 meters.

Another result of the ice-age is the esker ridge, which gives the lake its peculiar shape. The ridge pushes to the surface at three points to form long and narrow capes. The western-most ridge almost separates Iso-Melkutin lake from Vähä-Melkutin lake. The strait left in between, at only a few meters wide, is ceremoniously crossed via the Samoyed Bridge.

The middle point, the couple of hundred metre-long and approximately fifty metre-wide Nappilahdennokka peninsula, almost separates Nappilahti bay from the lake. The peninsula was not on our route, but we just had to go there. The application also understood what the hiker needs, and didn’t suddenly shout at us for taking a detour.

At the eastern end of the lake, we came across a third peninsula, Tokholmannokka: half a kilometre long and narrower than the previous ones, reaching almost to the opposite shore. It’s hard for the human mind to resist these formations, so we detoured here too. A snag had snapped conveniently fallen right next to the path, forming a bench parallel to the headland. We sat for a moment and sighed in both directions. On the opposite shore, there were still two nameless peninsulas. Let’s see if we actually do make it to the potato pit for coffee.

Luckily, on the opposite shore, our route took us to the top of the headland, so we followed along. The narrow ridge turned out to be a base for divers and a hiker’s paradise. The adjacent Melkuttimentie road makes it easier for divers to get their equipment near the water and also makes it possible for the smallest hikers to get up on their own steam. At the tip of the peninsula a lean-to with seating platforms has been built along with a campfire site and dry toilets. And did I already mention, the scenery is spectacular!

Next to the lean-to there are steps down to the lake that have been built by volunteering divers.

As the route continues, the lake mostly stays at least in your peripheral vision. Occasionally we deviate from the immediate shore, sometimes looking at the lake from above. There are plenty of hills on the trail’s western side, but none of them so steep as to make the hike impossible if you were of average fitness. You do however have to raise your knees over rocks dotted along the path and over thick roots. For this reason I wouldn’t do this trail by mountain bike, but about twenty mountain bikers who crossed our paths were clearly of a different opinion.

On the north side of the lake, the trail follows steep and dry slopes typical of the area. Snow disappears from these areas early in the spring, giving room for unique plant varieties. On this slope, you can find the rare and therefore protected, Pasqueflower with its blue buds, which has been named the official flower of the Kanta-Häme region.

At the end of the lake tour, the path widens, eventually filling the whole hill. We were approaching the lake’s other swimming beach, which has attracted people for centuries. And it is no wonder, because its bottom is pure gold … sand, and it continues as far as the eye can see.

Three o’clock came and went, and we were still sitting on the lakeshore. We missed our coffee, but nevermind, we will definitely be coming back!

You can download the app here.

Häme Nature Center on a map

*DigiTrail is a mobile application that works in nature like a navigator and thus lowers the threshold to explore nature areas. The application guides the traveller in the woods, shows nearby services and attractions. In addition, it provides interesting information, for example, about the history of the region and can be used to activate its users with different themes, such as forest related sports and cultural content. Read more>>

Article: Heli Heikkilä

Photos: Tomi Pohja

Translation from Finnish: Becky Hastings


We wanted to spend a night outside and took some time to figure out where to go. We got an idea to walk on the ice and find a small isle to spend a night. We would have a great view around us from there. Päijänne is a large and long lake, where there are lots of small and a bit bigger isles. During the winter, some people ice skate or ski on the ice of Päijänne all the way from Lahti to Jyväskylä (136km) in one or two days.

Screen shot: retkikartta.fi

We soon got some ideas about where we would be heading to. Also, we figured we should use pulks (small toboggans) for getting our gear to place X easier. Some of us had skis or skates but not everyone, so we decided to walk there, with spikes on our shoes.

I bought spikes and a simple cheap pulk, which i modified a bit. I have Osprey Transporter 60L bag, and for the cover I used my bigger backpack rain cover. Found some hooks and shock cord, all done in 30 mins.

Woke up at 7am and packed all that was left. Got my small Savotta MiniJäger backpack, there I packed all the food etc. 9.30am I was on the road, heading to Tuulos, where I’d leave my car. My friend Jani picked me up around 12. Coffee break at the local mall, then we had a one hour drive to Höysniemi parking. My car isn’t in great shape, for example my exhaust pipe is broken, so most likely it would have been  ripped off on the forest roads….

Before 2pm we were there, Joonas arrived about an hour later and found us from Pitkäniemi.

The weather was perfect! We all got our sunglasses, snow blindness avoided! There was some snow on the top of the ice, but it was easy to walk. Some 10-15cm piles sometimes, and we (or I) got a bit scared every time we heard a cracking sound… The weather had been really warm and a bit rainy too, so the slush was frozen a bit and broke when we’d step on it. But the ice was about 25 to 35cm thick. No wind, even though the forecast had told us about 5-6m/s winds.

It was amazing to see so far and walk there, where we last summer were in a boat! Walking on the snow covered ice, which had no marks of other people. It was a snow desert. Colors of Finnish flag, blue sky and white snow.

Our pulks worked really well, I was happy. Also the spikes were really necessary.

Soon after we arrived to Pitkäniemi, we found out that the forest on our right side had blocked the wind. But it didn’t bother us, since the Pitkäniemi lean-to was a bit deeper in the forest and the trees gave us a good cover.

Wind drawed great piles and drawings into the snow. Light frosty snow danced and flew around us. It was so beautiful….!

We were not sure if we are going to stay there. We had asked about the current firewood situation via Päijänne National Park Facebook site, and they told us that Kelvenne has none. Unfortunately, Pitkäniemi had none either…. Only some sticks etc that someone had been carrying from the forest.

however, after some discussion, we decided to stay there. Jani disappeared to get some firewood from the car. A bit later he called for help, because he had taken one dry and long log with him. So I walked to help him and pulled the pulk full of wood.

The Sun was going down fast, so we went to enjoy the golden moment… Beautiful! Wind was blowing light snow, and the colors were amazing… It might have been cold, but my heart and mind felt really warm.

Blue tones got more deeper when the Sun went behind the horizon….

It was time to prepare the dinner, everybody was really hungry. Bacon, potatos, vegetables… I got a couple of good steaks and made some smashed potatoes. It was a good eatin’!

A couple came to greet us, and decided to sleep in the lean-to. They had fatbikes and they were cycling around Päijänne. They ate something too and went for drive again for awhile. It was fun to see their lights moving far away.

It was time to enjoy the starry sky. We did see a lot of them… Big dipper, Orion and it’s belt etc… They were bright. Also the milky way was above us, we could see it barely. I need to buy a DSLR camera again! This time I only got my LG G4 phone and Fuji X20 camera with me.

So we got some ideas and played with some long exposures, light painting etc. They came out pretty good!

We had fun on the ice and at the lean-to. Good stories and jokes, great food and so on. It was a bit cold but the wind was dying slowly, so the small breeze here didn’t bother us anymore.

It was time to go to sleep. I had my 4x4m DD tarp with me, so I had lot’s of room. This time I had chosen the Ticket hammock: it fit’s well with my Cumulus Selva 600 underquilt. Took some time to get all warm, felt a bit chilly on my back at first, but slowly everything was warming up. Snug as a bug. Warm and toasty inside of Savotta Military bag. Temp went down to -10’C.

Woke up 7.30am, and it was still dark. Wait, I need to get out from the bag where I was totally buried… Oh wow, it’s a beautiful morning! The tarp was a bit frosty inside, but everything was dry.

Niko opened my tarp so I could see the view. I didn’t want to get out from the warm bag….

We all had had a warm night and we all had slept well. The wind was gone, but so was the morning sun.

Only big cloudy sky was saying goodbye when we headed back to our cars. It started to snow also. We had a coffee break at the Tuulos mall and said goodbye until next time.

It was an awesome trip and thank you all! Not sure if we can enjoy these kind of weathers this winter again. Spring is coming slowly, so other adventures calling.

More photos from Päijänne : pixabilly.1g.fi

Here is a video from our trip too :

Thank you for reading!

Over the last few months I’ve been fairly busy with things other than photography, but never too busy for an occasional trip to the water. The Finnish lakes have once again been calling my name and spoiling me with moments of tranquility and a feeling that makes me appreciate life in the greater sense.

I always feel as though something is pulling me into the forest or towards a lake and that I have very little control over it (help?). So in connection with what seems to be a loss of free will to some degree, I have managed to get a few photos over the last few months. Below are some more scenes that Finnish nature has been so kind to bless me with.

Above: A sunset over lake Pyhäselkä in Joensuu, Finland. The weather was windy and clouds were moving through the sky fairly quickly.

Above:​ An ice fisherman leaves the frozen lake after a fishing session. This photo was taken after some heavy snowfall that left all rocks on the shore completely covered.

Above: A splash of sunlight to end the day off spectacularly.

Above: Trails of snow leave interesting formations over the lake.

Above: A maze of snow coating the icy lake surface. This was the first time that I had seen these types of interesting shapes.

Above: Another very long exposure shot with fast moving clouds.

Above: Another shot of the sun hovering over waves of snow. Goodbye for now, my warmest of friends.

Wishing everyone in Finland a great and fun-filled winter. Don’t forget to catch the sunsets!

www.jasontiilikainen.com | Instagram: jason_tiilikainen

So as some of you might know, I absolutely love being near Finnish lakes. I ended up spending a lot of time this summer in the Finnish nature, particularly in Joensuu. Since I live close to the nature there, it’s really easy to just get on my bike and cycle to the lake or forest.

I also started making some videos this summer about exploring Finnish nature and practicing my photography (you can find them on www.jasontiilikainen.com). Anyways, here are some of the photos that I took this summer.

Pictured above is a small, lonely island soaking in the last bit of sunlight for the day. I went exploring on a few different islands this summer, and this lovely scene really caught my attention.

​Above​ is a shot that I took after rushing around on a lake by boat, trying to find the perfect place before the sunset. I managed to find this really nice place. I then waited for sunset and took the shot.​

In the picture above, I was exploring the shore of a lake in Joensuu. I found this nice little piece of driftwood just sitting around. I moved it slightly so that it would compliment the composition that I wanted, and then I took the shot just after the sun went down behind the horizon.

Above is a photo that I took in the forest. It was still about an hour or two before sunset, so I got some lovely sunlight coming into the forest from behind the trees. I love how green it gets here in Finland. Everything always looks so fresh and alive. The forest also has a really nice relaxing smell to it.

This sky in the above picture was amazing to behold. Being there and seeing this dreamy pink/purple colour in the clouds just felt completely out of this world. It was also really windy, and the clouds were moving really fast, giving it even more of a dramatic effect. Moments like these don’t happen every day in Finland, but when they do, they are amazing to witness.

Sometimes its difficult to concentrate on taking photos when you have mesmerising moments like this one shown in the picture above. The weather was at first incredibly cloudy, almost overcast, but after a while the clouds started to break apart. After breaking apart, I was left with a sky that truly amazed me. The formations and shapes in the clouds really complimented the simplicity of the foreground.

Pictured above is me standing on a rock at the end of the day. I had just finished doing my photography, and thought I’d take this picture just for fun.

I hope everyone has a great autumn! I’m sure the colours will be amazing as usual, and that there will be tons of amazing photographs to look at. Bye for now!

Perhaps not as striking and immediate as the Alps, nor as intimidating as the gorges of Norway, Finland can definitely be a strange beast to fathom, but there is great beauty here, beauty that is not found anywhere else on the planet.

In fact, besides those famous Lapland photos of aurora borealis and snow bent pines, small cottages and midsummer nights, it might appear to you that Finland is nothing but an endless stretch of mottled blues and greens. And while it’s true, it’s also so much more: It’s all about the details, and less about the scale. It is the silence, the sudden rush of leaves, the seasonal shift, the whole enthralling ambiance of the north.

A moment of stillness just before the sun takes the plunge.

While other countries often give me this continuous feeling of awe, bombarding my senses with towering mountains, quaint seaside vistas or gently rolling hills, nothing can really beat the magic of the moment I’ve felt herein. It’s a feeling hard to describe, with seemingly melancholy surroundings of little remark. It’s one of those deeply personal experiences everyone must figure out for themselves.

“Surely we have leagues upon leagues of lonely woods and scores of glimmering rural lakes, but to truly feel the magic – you only need to pick out any neck of the woods and let yourself be spellbound.”

Now, you might say that I’m perhaps a little bit biased, that everyone thinks just so about their country, but bear with me here. Although I have a great sense of home, my true country is nature, unhindered and unconfined by any border.

Imagine yourself somewhere there by the rocky coast, under those shadowy trees, enjoying the purity and silence.

For me the most memorable moments are those of discovery after a long day’s hike when you find that perfect spot in the wilderness. Be it in a dark wood by the deep green stream, or a solitary free-for-all cabin in the midst of winter. The peace that follows. The campfire by which you might find yourself contemplating the simple fact of being alive, or just warm yourself with the kuksa full of coffee.

Wilderness huts such as this one are scattered all around Finland for anyone to use as a temporary shelter.

Come summer and those mornings when you wake up to a concerto of early birds and the misty light of dawn. There is something ancient and shamanistic about it really, some deeper unconscious connection between the man and the wild, so often lost in this time and age.

What do you think? Why not come and explore it for yourself. The arboreal land of bear, elk and deer welcomes you!

Reindeers, while keeping their distance, are often quite curious about the wandering folk.

A stormfront chasing across the marsh with thunder in its wake.

Finland is all about stark contrasts and attraction of the opposites.

Amidst all those browns and greens, it’s spectacular to see a heather in bloom against the morning rise.

After taking many photos throughout the winter here in Finland, it’s nice to finally see some liquid water again. It’s quite amazing to see the transitions in nature as the seasons change, and I really recommend visiting Finland within the next few months as the weather warms up. The spring/summer season is really nice here, as it’s often warm and the forests become amazingly green and lush.

Below are some photos that I’ve taken recently, right after the lakes have thawed or are busy thawing.

The water slowly starts to show as the weather warms up.

The remains of some ice float on a lake as the weather continues to rise.

Only a bit of snow remains along the shore.

The last lonely piece of ice sits on a lake at sunset.

The sun sets over a recently thawed lake in Joensuu. No more ice or snow!

Have a great summer everyone!

First of all, I have to say that don’t drink and ice fish. Seriously. Use proper safety gears and don’t fool around, or else you can die.

Finland is the promised land of associations. I personally belong to 5 different associations. One of my favorite ones is definitely WP. And no, it’s not white power, it’s Wanhat Parrat and it’s translated to English; Old Beards. Although some of us got really nice facial hair, it’s not about that. Basically our association is  for over 30-year-old men and the name relates from that.

Most people even in our association think that ice fishing is a really boring hobby. Just sitting out there in cold weather. Usually people think that the purpose of ice fishing is to get some fish. It may be for some people, but for us it’s just quality time to enjoy with friends and have a good time. We do have a little competition about who gets most fish (I won!), but it’s not so serious.

We have a tradition to get a little nip of alcohol when someone gets a fish. This year we had a place with over 50 cm (1,64 ft) of ice, and it’s quite a safe place to go ice fishing. But seriously, you should never drink and go walking on the ice.

Finnish people may look quite strange to foreign perspective. We don’t talk much, we don’t like closeness, we don’t smile so often. We don’t have any problems to go a 90℃ (194℉) degrees warm sauna, and after that we go swimming to a hole in a frozen lake. If it’s a warm day, we can take our clothes off and take all out of the sun. Even if it’s -10℃ (14℉) degrees outside. And we were not drunk.

Where does all this “craziness” come from? I think it’s from our history. When there is  -36℃= (-32℉) degrees cold outside and you have to go to toilet. You just have to do it. I did it once, and it was also fun. How crazy is that?

I think life isn’t about how many or how big fish you get. It’s about enjoying your life. Get some some crazy experiences, but do it safely.