In Lohja, less than an hour drive from Helsinki, rises the majestic Lohjanharju Esker. It is the perfect location to enjoy what nature has to offer. It’s right by the city, and the trails are easy.

Several marked outdoor trails criss-cross the Lohjanharju Esker. Their lengths are from 1 to 6.5 kilometres, and they are accessible with prams as well. Amongst these wide trails there are many smaller ones that will lead the traveller to the mystic forests and to the land of the fairies. Although the esker is a fascinating destination all year round, in winter the trails will become skiing tracks where walking is prohibited.

A natural starting point for a trip to the esker is by the Neidonkeidas Swimming Hall (Address: Runokatu 1). If you come from the centre of Lohja, it is recommended that you take the path that starts from the Kasarminkatu Street, goes up the hill and joins the other trails running parallel to the slope. If you come by car, you can leave it at the parking lot of the swimming hall. There is a stairway beside the swimming hall leading down to the trail.

It is one Sunday in December. I am standing on top of the esker. The ground is still free of snow, but the sky is covered in clouds. There’s still some light at noon. I can hear the noises carrying from the city, and I look around me. I have come here to investigate the tracks of the last Ice Age, and I wonder how the landscape looked back then, almost 10 000 years ago. I still hear the noise, but now it is different. Where a moment ago the rooftops of the city were, now are the swelling waves of the ancient Yoldia Sea.

Behind me, the glacier stretches further than the eye can see. The rivers that are born deep under the ice are transporting massive amounts of sand and gravel, which will slowly accumulate into a border moraine. That long mound runs hundreds of kilometres, following the edge of the glacier, and reaching from Hanko to Lohja and via Lahti, all the way to Eastern Finland.

This ancient landscape is clear in my mind when I start my journey on the trails of the esker. At first, the forest around me is open. Tall and robust pine trees reach up to the sky, and their tough bark spells dignity. I am walking the path downhill. I can spot colourful old wooden houses between the trees. Further away, there is the glimmering Lake Lohjanjärvi, spotted with small islands.

For a while, I follow the wide outdoor trail, but soon I choose a narrower path. At the bottom parts of the esker, dense spruce trees create a dusky effect.

As I go along, I notice the large rocks appearing here and there between the trees. Compared to these rocks, the trees are youngsters, albeit hundreds of years old themselves. These rocks are called erratics, and they are testament to the unimaginable forces which were at play during the Ice Age. Along its way, the moving ice sheet chipped off enormous boulders and carried them even hundreds of kilometres away.

I stop beside one of these boulders to stroke the moss growing on it. The moss is like goblin’s hair. With a little more imagination, I can discern a wrinkly face on the rock. Actually the wrinkles are a result of the Ice Age, too. Along with the larger rocks, the ice also carried smaller pebbles and stones that grinded on the larger ones and created these creases.

I walk alongside the esker for about 2 kilometres to the nature preservation area of Neitsytlinna to find a strange, tall mound. It is made of sand and moraine, but how, no-one has been able to tell. I climb up the steep slope and stop again to gaze at the scenery. The slope feels even steeper going down, and I almost lose my foothold. The mound is surrounded by erratics and smaller stones that have been honed smooth by the waves of the Yoldia Sea. Here is an ancient shore, now covered by forests, mosses and lichens. I feel like being at a geological art exhibit when I stand in the shadow of a giant, rugged boulder.

As I am ready to return, I will choose the paths higher up the esker. They will run in the open pinewood forests. I start to look for a suitable place to have my break. Can’t go backpacking without some lunch, can you! At the upper part of the esker, roughly halfway to the trail, there is a picnic table and a campfire site. I will not stay there, though, for I spot a fallen tree a short distance away. It is so inviting that I will sit on the trunk, take out my thermos, pour myself some tea and grab a sandwich.

It’s getting darker, when I return back to the place I started from, at the swimming hall. Today, the Sun didn’t favour me with his presence, but when the skies are clear, it is nice to time your trip to the esker so that you can come back just before the sunset. That way you can have the icing on your esker cake by looking at the breath-taking evening sky spreading above the lake.

Article and photos: Kukka Kyrö

Translation from Finnish: Mikko Lemmetti

See also:

The stunning Liessaari Island in Lohja

Visit Lohja

The story of Hämeenlinna’s Aulanko started at the end of the 1800s, when the outstandingly rich colonel and weapons manufacturer Hugo Standertskjöld wanted to return to his home region, acquired a summer villa and then tried to make an impression on a Polish countess with his estate.

An English-style country park was created in the surroundings of the manor house and around it a distinguished forest park. Foreign plants were brought to the area, a pond was excavated and pavilions, a granite fort and a lookout tower were built.

In spite of his efforts, Standertskjöld remained a bachelor. He was known for his hospitality amongst high society who used Aulanko’s playing fields as well as towards ordinary people. The park was open to everyone, and the country’s first information signs guided people towards the most important spots.

But we decided to ignore all the signs and let our mobile phones guide us.

From the three Digitrail* options, we chose the medium length, six kilometre route, which circles Aulanko’s nature reserve. The theme of the trail is the history of Colonel Hugo Standertskjöldin’s forest park. The shorter route goes through the middle part of the park taking in the most important sights, and the longest leads north and around Aulankojärvi lake.

I managed to convince my two teenage sons to join me and they promised to take care of navigation. ‘Hurry up!’ shouted one and then he shot ahead. The rest of us followed, laughing, wondering how far he would get until he realised that he was on the wrong path. The blue locator dot was merciless and guided him back before he had even reached the edge of the forest. The second boy later received the same treatment, after he had started opening up to us about how he was getting on (the best thing about hiking with a teenager), his distraction quickly leading us off route.

The trail starts from the Aulanko hiking lodge parking place, follows the ski track and immediately curves around towards Aulanko lake. On the other side, it rises steeply towards Aulankovuori hill. On both sides we are shown old forest specimens, nearly 200 year old spruces and equally handsome pines, linden trees, maples trees, ashes and elms…

In Aulanko there are over 140 species of trees and shrubs. Almost all of Finland’s naturally occurring hardwood species, groves of foreign tree species, trees with shapes that differ from the norm of their species, as well as overgrown secret gardens with the apple trees of paradise, can be found there.

It soon became apparent, that although the environment had richer soil, this kind of tree selection wouldn’t have flourished here without external help, passion and love for this Polish princess.

We continued our journey towards Aulanko lake, gently pushing towards Aulanko peninsular. We sat on the stone steps commissioned by Standertskjöld and we could easily have imagined cruise boats gliding towards the jetty with the most famous artists of the times on board, Sibelius and Leino. But no, we talked about the gloomy history and sacrificial stones of Lusikka peninsular which was opposite us.

A few hundred metres ahead, the trail made a stop up the hill. In a rock cave there lived an endearing bear family, created out of soapstone and placed there at the beginning of the century by sculptor Robert Stigell. This was said to describe the park owner’s longing for his own family.

Steps up going up Aulanko hill lead to the bear family. They’re not part of the tour, but we went up anyway. The views from the top of are breathtaking…

… and from the 33 metre lookout tower, iconic. The view is straight from a postcard, and from 2011 onwards made it onto a stamp.

But our journey had only just started. So we descended the steps, greeting those who pass and wondering out loud about the sculptures to each other in the middle of the forest, as we continued on our way.

After climbing a few a hundred metres up another hill, we had more to wonder about. A huge square shaped stone wall surrounded a natural meadow of approximately a hectare, which concealed within it the ruins of a square-shaped building.

We made a few guesses on what we were looking at, until the app revealed that the structure was a gunpowder magazine commissioned by the Russian army in 1860, which for safety reasons was far from the barracks and the town. The area is now a protected ancient relic.

We left the nature reserve for a moment and took a detour down a steep rocky path onto Aulanko road.

We continued the journey following the contours of the hill and noticed that we had come to an ancient shoreline. Around it almost 40 metre douglas firs swayed from their sheer height. The narrow forest roads which we crossed were also steeped in history, supported on the hill by low moss-covered stone banks. On the path we found a horseshoe, which couldn’t have fit the atmosphere better.

The trail twisted and turned and came back to Aulanko road. This time the sight was the manor house commissioned by Standertskjöld, with its granite tower, from which shots used to be fired, not for defence, but to celebrate the birthday or nameday of a guest or worker and sometimes just randomly. For decades, the ruins have been providing a venue for children’s theatre, which was probably part of the owner’s intention.

After the fort, we went onto a smaller path and from a distance passed the red brick Temple of Happiness that was built for the princess. It’s windows were framed with natural stones and used to have stained glass windows. According to the princess, this side of the Baltic sea was too cold, but hopefully she at least went to have a look at the park and its buildings.

After Molkkari hill we reached the shores of Joutsenlampi pond (Swan Pond). 300 men were needed to dig out an artificial pond in place of the swamp and transport earth from in front of the manor house to make two islands in Vanajavesi lake. A path framed by fifty species of trees and shrubs had been built around the pond and in its middle had been black swans brought all the way from Australia. There also used to be pheasants, from which some of our current wild pheasant population has its origins.

After Joutsenlampi we followed the linden-edged park road leading to the lookout tower for some of the way – the same path that cheerful members of high society once rattled up in their horse-drawn carriages, clinking their champagne glasses. It would have been a beautiful road to continue on, but the road leading into a rare rowan grove looked even more beautiful.

We leaned for a moment on the bridge that crossed the stone-lined creek, when two girls with their dogs stepped out of the Northern white cedar forest. They looked at us and shook their heads ‘What an unbelievable place, you have got to go there!’ The grove was their secret place. Duckboards dove into the shadows of the thick white cedar trees that had been planted before the war. Light filtered in and time stopped. The duckboards ended at the lookout tower platform, from which there was no view ahead of us. It was behind. The message for us seemed to be that the most important thing was not the destination, but the journey itself…

…. so we continued, as the evening was drawing in and we had to reach our destination regardless. We stopped along the way to see the rose pavilion built from vast romantic longing and cast a bitter glance over the other side of the Baltic sea. We descended from the forest park, going under the arch created by a young hackberry tree that had curved over the path and we bowed our respects to Hugo.

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

Evo, a village in Häme only a couple of hour’s drive from Helsinki, is best known in Finland for its highly recommended recreational area as well as the country’s oldest forestry institute. This Digitrail route* helps us explore both.

I did however already have a guide of my own, as I managed to convince my father, who graduated from the institute almost 60 years ago, to join me. This meant that there was guaranteed to be a healthy dose of forest knowledge, my father’s hilarious (for him) stories from his student days as well as a brisk progression through landscapes which were straight out of a Finnish forest industry textbook.

The Digitrail routes start from the Evo Centre, which was built as part of the institute to serve as the approximately 5000 hectare state-owned recreational area’s information centre. The campus area was built in the middle of three lakes, on a narrow isthmus.

From the Digitrail app, we chose the middle route which followed the running track towards the west and was then made up of two consecutive loops, about seven kilometres in total. Part of the journey is out and back along the same route.

At the start of the journey we were introduced to some ancient trees that were well over a hundred years old and around three metres tall. Their tall, thick trunks stood straight and with few branches, the way that trees are supposed to stand in an educational forest.

The Evo Forestry Institute specializes in teaching the multiple uses of the forest, so alongside economic values, it emphasizes the non-economic values of forest nature. When the lakes and the college were behind us, an impressive landscape opened out before us. In the old-growth forest, the beams shone with their absence; the trees grew as slowly and twisted as they wanted, leaning against each other until they finally fell down.

These kinds of free-growing forests are now rare, precisely because of the productivity dilemma surrounding forests. However, they maintain biodiversity by enabling habitat for many rare species of fauna and flora and are therefore valuable conservation and hiking areas. The atmosphere in the old-growth forest is something quite different than in the commercial forest; dusky and unhurried. The only one who might bother you here is the spider with his webs, and even he can’t always be bothered.

Even the creek had had enough of flowing and decided to stop. As a result, water flooded onto the trail, and saturated the land, which came as a small surprise to the trees that had managed to grow as tall as man. They had no option other than to give up.

After a few kilometers of wandering through the old-growth, we changed landscape again. Lush, spruce-dominated mixed forest made way for rugged dry terrain. The pines still stood strong, but grasses were sprouting all over the place.

The land’s rolling form started to become predictable, but before that Syrjänalunen forest pond and the lean-to on its shores provided a moment of rest – if one wanted to take it. Behind the lean-to and the dry toilet were split logs, a wide wooden mallet and metal blade bolted to a wooden chopping block, an ingenious way to split wood. Chopping wood was so easy and fun, that our hike was in danger of being abandoned.

With it being the end of August, the evening was starting to approach, so we left the opportunity to enjoy a small sense of achievement for others and continued our journey. On a steep, sandy slope there was a sign about the nature conservation work that is done in the area for the endangered habitats and the species that live in them. The forest had been felled, but plenty of seedling trees had been left on the slope.

On Evo Forest Institute land, the forest is regenerated by simulating small, controlled forest fires. The earth gets nutrients from the ash, and the fire makes room for fast-growing plants that later humbly make way for the stronger ones, after nourishing the soil. But for now they’re permitted to flourish for a little while.

The path narrows and starts to twist towards the Syrjänalusenharju ridge. The forest becomes darker and pine trees make way for spruce again. The map used by the app has described the steeply rising ridge in front with two elevation contours, which is quite modest, as this land formation created by the ice-age rises to 170 meters above sea level. The whole of the Evo area is located higher than its surroundings, making it a watershed, but the climb from the bottom to the top of the hill still looks about 80 meters.

The top of the ridge is probably the narrowest I’ve seen. The slope descends steeply on both sides and the hiker needs to keep his wits about him for about a kilometre.

The theme of the route is forest yoga, and stretching instructions appear on the phone display while up on the ridge. I try them out because the spot was worth stopping at. My dad sits on a rock, one of many which feel as though they have been placed alongside the path for exactly that reason. He already knew what Evo had to offer, but I was not prepared for such a fantastic views. Time just stopped…

… But the sun was continuing to set, so we continued on our journey. We descended the steep slope, sometimes holding onto the trees for support, and ended up in the armpit of the ridge, in the lush and rocky grove of Hautjärvi lake.

Expectations were high after everything we had seen up on the ridge, so after surviving the dense grove, we were glad to come across the exceptionally beautiful swamp scenery of Karvalampi. Duckboards varied in width from one to three, and some were in good condition whilst others were partly submerged. Long grasses reached over the boards and sometimes over the walker. Despite the dry summer, there was water on the surface and it was clear! Rarely does the swamp come so close!

The clarity is because Karvalampi swamp’s source is a spring. On the swamp’s south eastern edge, water breaks through to the surface from the side of the ridge. Water is drinkable and keeps cool throughout the summer.

And again the landscape changed. This time, we wove through kettle-hole terrain. The birth of the kettle-holes is as fascinating an ice age story as the birth of the ridge. For a long time trolls and spirits were suspected as being the culprits responsible, but these traces were actually caused by blocks of ice left buried under the sand.

Finally it was downhill to Evo Forest Institute. At times the route went along a forest truck road lined with plentiful long grass and thick aspens, and other times along a narrow path through the spruce forest. Tall spruces show an example to the younger ones, standing snags tell their own story and the huge cypresses on the edge of the clearcut area look lost, but stand firm and resolute.

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

In cooperation with HAMK

If you’re hiking in the Häme region, north of Helsinki, you can take advantage of the fun Digitrail* mobile application that guides you through the nature trails. The idea of the application, developed by Häme University of Applied Sciences, is to work like a navigator on a particular trail, encouraging people to get out and explore nature.

There are five trail networks on the app, which we test in this new article series. We were now at the first app location that was ready for trial, which was the Ruostejärvi Recreation Area on the Häme Lake Highlands, in Tammela.

There are three route options for all locations: easy, medium and challenging. The starting point for each is the Häme Nature Center.

Photo: Tomi Pohja

This time we chose to test the easiest trail. On this route we could go investigate the kid’s all-time favourite, the cable boat!

I left any other maps behind, and we decided to just find our way using the app. Your position is shown on the map as a blue dot and the trail as a purple line with destination points show as map symbols. So off we went!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

First, we made our way through a dark and dense, spooky spruce forest, along an easy gravel path. Under the close-knit branches, even on bright summer’s day like today, the forest was dim. It was like being in another world.

Our journey continued. Next appeared a smaller path down which we were supposed to go. Summer was giving its best, pampering us with warm rays, but the mosquitoes were thankfully nowhere to be seen. A tree that had fallen over the path, which could have been an annoying barrier in other circumstances, now provided a perfect seat for a little rest. But only a little one, as the adventure must go on.

Moments later, the path came to the lakeshore, where it followed the lake until it reached the highlight of the trail, the cable boat. When I said that this place is perfect for kids, the next sight just confirmed it. Right at that spot there were four of them fishing with a rod and line.

Before we could even say hello, two boys already volunteered to help us over.

It didn’t take long for the boys to hoist us over. We exchanged a few words with them and then carried on our way.

After the cable boat, the path curves to the left, to the beautiful duckboards that take you to your final destination, a peaceful campfire spot. We sat there for a longer while. Taking refreshing sips of water, we relaxed in our surroundings, aware and present.

In fact, I’m not even sure how long we stayed, so our relaxation exercise did its job. Now in front of us was the other half of the journey, the same route back, at least up to the gravel path. From there we chose another fork offered by the app, which took as along the shore back to the nature centre, arriving right next to the swimming beach.

The app did its job well and delivered exactly what it promised. The path was excellent for children to walk along: suitably short, mostly easy to walk, but also a hill and some more uneven terrain that develops balance and motor skills. The fallen tree and the cable boat were the highlights.

Our testing continues, and in the next sections we will explore the DigiTrail further.

*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>>

You can download the app here.

Häme Nature Center on a map

For wine enthusiasts the combination of food and wine is familiar. But is there even more to explore in the tastes of wines combining with other scents? That question Antti Huttunen, the founder of Finnish outdoor media Retkipaikka and co-creator of Back to Nature tv-series, wanted to examine more. He wanted to bring together two themes that are important to him: nature and wines. This is where the idea of a forest wine bar came from!

Even only 15 minutes in nature can make you feel relaxed.

Wine in the Woods starts in the Northern Gate of Nuuksio, an area right next to Nuuksio National Park. Nuuksio is the closest national park to the capital of Finland, Helsinki. It takes only around 45 minutes to jump from the busy metropolitan city to the calming nature and forests.

Karoliina Säkö, the guide of Wine in the Woods, welcomes our group in a lovely setting surrounded by countryside. We take a small walk around the historical buildings and take a look of the old stone stairs that once lead to the mansion of this area.

As we go deeper into the forest we start to connect our scents with the nature. Living in a busy city environment can make us nervous and disturb our minds, but nature can offer the opposite. It has been studied that only 15 minutes spent in nature can actually lower your blood pressure.

We take time for each sense to get attuned with the nature. How does the forest look like? What sounds do we hear, or, when we close our eyes, how does a small rock feel in our hands? It is incredible how strong our sense of touch will become if we close our vision and hearing!

After approximately 15 minutes we will enter deeper into the woods and will pass a wooden sign which tells us that we are now entering the nature’s own dining area: Wine in the Woods. We see the area with wooden benches with paddings, and sommelier Tero Pullinen, who welcomes everybody.

As a welcoming drink we get a glass of sparkling wine, which is also to calibrate our taste buds for the actual products of the wine tasting. There are five different red wines to taste and examine. Tero tells us about the wines and how they are connected with the nature.

Wines and Finnish woods have actually more in common that one would think at first! They both are living entireties and have many different layers. They are at constant change and when they meet each other you can find completely new sides from both wines and nature.

“The wines have a chance to return to nature, from where they have come, where everything is equal and where instead of strict restraint and control, constant change is present and embraced.”

We talk about our experiences and observations about the wines and nature. The atmosphere is comfortable and there is room for discussion. Even if one had no previous experience with wines or wine tastings, this nature’s surroundings will make this experience effortless.

The experience in nature with wines takes two hours. After the tasting the program itself is over, and everyone can choose how to continue their day. Maybe take a small hike in the National Park? Or, it is also possible to enjoy a forest themed menu, if one has reserved it in advance.

Wine in the Woods is a wine bar in the middle of forest and Antti explains how these several chosen spots in nature had to be presented to the authority in order to ask permission to serve spirits. In Finland the alcohol law is strict and you will need a permission for every place, restaurant or event that serves alcohol. Happily ever after the Wine in the Woods wine tasting got its permission and the next summers luxury outdoor experience is ready to happen!

Antti is happy for the positive feedback given by the test audience after the pilot-tasting. The Wine in the Woods experience is recommended for everyone who loves nature and wines. It is also a great opportunity if one wants to enjoy the nature but not necessarily in an exercising way.

“The taste and smell of a wine can take me into the middle of the forest, to some particular spots: under the shade of spruce branches, onto the warmth of the rocks, or amongst the lush foliage of the birch. I find this fascinating and want to give others the chance to experience the same – and a little more. I can’t wait to see what kind of experience we can offer you. Welcome!” -Antti Huttunen

If you are a nature lover who enjoys the tastes of wines or you want to experience something completely new, check out the web store here where you can reserve your place at the Wine in the Woods experience next summer! It is also available for group booking or you can purchase a Wine in the Woods giftcard!

 

When you walk through the nature in northern parts of Finland, especially in Lapland, you will most likely end up meeting a new friend during your lunch or coffee break.

Siberian Jays are known for being fearless and tame, and they will often land close to you immediately when you pause and dig up your lunch or snack. For hundreds of years these birds have been companions to hunters and rangers in the woods. In the Finnish folklore Siberian Jay was called a ‘soul-bird’ and when a ranger died his spirit was believed to move to one of these birds.

Siberian Jay is a member of the crow family but is much smaller compared to the actual crow. Their colour is grayish brown with beautiful bright rust-coloured markings on their rumps, the edges of their tails and wings. This bird lives mostly in the northern boreal forests of spruce and pine, the so called taiga area.

I’ve never met a Siberian Jay as close as I did on my latest trip to Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark in western Lapland. These little fellows were so tame and eager to get a piece of my food that they even landed on my hand. I felt gratitude to meet the soul-bird so close.

I spotted Siberian Jays almost everywhere in the woods and forest parts of Pallas-Yllästunturi Nationalpark. But these pictures are from an easy 3 km trail called Saivionkierros, which is located near Ylläs and Äkäslompolo village in Kolari. If you are interested in this or other hiking trails around the Ylläs area you can find more information via this link.

If you meet one of these birds on your travels in Lapland you can offer them a small piece of white bread, but remember that salt and salty foods are not healthy or good for them.

In partnership with Visit Raseborg

Article by Sanna-Mari Kunttu

Frisbee golf (also known as disc golf) is an affordable hobby for the whole family that combines socialising with being active outdoors in beautiful surroundings. The Västerby frisbee golf course offers challenges and thrills for beginners as well as the more experienced.

Forests, rocks and idyllic countryside are all part of the Västerby frisbee golf course.

Three different ability levels at Västerby

Your fingers take an expert grip on the disc, your body twists in the middle and your mind is centered. The frisbee leaves in one controlled movement coming from the whole body. The disc curves gently between the trees and glides towards the metal basket, but falls short of the goal and onto the ground. On the next throw, the disc jangles into the basket. You jump for joy at your success and make a note of your score.

National championship level frisbee golf player, Susanna Virtanen, shows how to throw. Next up is her son, Niko Virtanen. Frisbee golf is the hobby of the whole Virtanen family. They have actively toured all of Finland’s frisbee golf courses, and are now in Raseborg (Raasepori) at Västerby, which is about 1,5h drive from Helsinki. According to Susanna Virtanen, it’s one of Finland’s best frisbee golf courses because of its diversity.

Susanna Virtanen shows how a frisbee is thrown.

Västerby’s course is right next to Tammisaari, only 3 km from the city centre. There is parking by the sports hall for those arriving by car. If you don’t have a car, there are buses from the Helsinki area or from the centre of Tammisaari. Then at Västerby it’s less than kilometre by foot to the course.

The course is maintained mainly by volunteers belonging to the local organisation EIF Disc Golf. Virtanen is one of them. However, the course is for everybody to use and remains completely free of charge. For this reason, Virtanen hopes that everyone makes sure that they leave the course tidy and in good condition.

One frisbee golf course is made up of several fairways, in other words, tees (from which you throw), goal baskets and the game areas in between. Västerby has two full length, 18-hole courses. The A course is for amateurs and the length is 1684 metres all together. To complete it, you should set aside a couple of hours. The B course has been the competitive course for the national championships – it’s more challenging and longer at 2356 metres. Some fairways connect the A and B courses. As well as these courses, there’s a children’s course in the area that’s less than a kilometre long with 9 fairways. However, there is nothing to prevent beginners from trying more demanding courses.

Beginner course on the top of the rock.

On the south coast, the snowless period is long, so the playing season at Västerby starts in the early Spring and carries on long into the Autumn due to mild weather. Frisbee golf can also be played in winter, but you have to take into account the cross country ski tracks that are made in the area at that time of year.

‘In the winter, you can find your disc more easily by sticking a long piece of gift ribbon on it, so that the ribbon floats on top of the snow even when the disc has sunk into it. You could also put a small LED light on the bottom of the frisbee so that you can find it more easily in the dark’, suggests Virtanen.

Västerby’s fairway 11 on the competitive course on a mystic Autumn morning looks inviting.

In addition to Västerby’s courses, the following can be found in Raseborg:

  • Karjaa 18-hole: good for beginners. You can go around the track quite easily with a pushchair or pram.
  • Pohjankuru, Competition Centre: 18-hole, challenging forest course in stunning surroundings
  • Tammisaari, Skogny: 18-hole, forest course near the sea, good for beginners
  • Tammisaari, Bromarv, Görans Frisbee Centre. 18-hole, private course, but all players are welcome.
  • Tammisaari, Snappertuna: 6 holes as part of Snappertuna school. Good for beginners.

You can find more information about Västerby’s courses and many other courses in Raseborg on the website: www.visitraseborg.com.

Diverse fairways and idyllic surroundings are Västerby’s calling cards

Västerby’s courses are amongst the best in Finland. The reason is the diversity in the landscape and the charming scenery. And there’s something for everybody! After the first fairways you get to throw in a lovely park environment under the oak trees.

The third fairway under oaks.

The next fairways are on pine-covered rocks and the hilly terrain bring challenges to the thrower. Some of the course has been planned to cleverly make the use of the land under the power lines.

Fairway 12 goes under the power lines over some magnificent rock.

When descending the rock, the forest transforms from a mix of birch and pines to a mossy-floored spruce forest right to the edge of Lillträsk lake. Many have lost their frisbees in water, as one of the fairways goes over the pond. Although the water of the lake looks tempting enough to swim in, it’s not worth diving in after your frisbee. The lake bottom is soft mud, in which you can get stuck. Therefore it’s recommended that you continue your game with another frisbee.

Lillträsket.

Again it’s time to climb higher up onto the rock, which treats us with an open view. Far above the forest canopy rises Tammisaari’s new water tower.

You can see far from the open rock.

The B course fairways continue from the rocks onto the field fairways, which have been called Finland’s most beautiful. And not without reason, for the most idyllic countryside view opens out in front of the player. The fields are framed with old multi-trunked oak trees.

Västerby competitive course, fairway 14.

The A and B courses are connected by a moss-floored spruce forest, after which you are almost back at the starting point. While going around the course it’s impossible not to notice that you are surrounded by some really good berry and mushroom picking terrain.

What on earth is frisbee golf?

In recent years frisbee golf has become more known and grown in popularity. New courses are being built all over Finland. According to Virtanen, the sport’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s easy to get started, and costs next to nothing. You can buy a frisbee for about 10 Euros. Also, frisbee golf can be played by almost any age group, regardless of differences in skill level. With 18 resting points along the way, the journey doesn’t seem too long or boring for even the smallest children.

To explain simply, the aim of frisbee golf is to get the frisbee in the goal basket with as few throws as possible. After the first throw from the tee, the next throw is taken from where the frisbee stopped. When the disc ends up in the basket, the fairway is played and you move on to the next one. The winner is the one who completes the course with the least throws. If you don’t want to compete with others, you can compete with yourself and the course. Fairways and the whole course have their own par-number, which tells you the ideal result. Just the satisfaction of a good throw is rewarding.

The metal basket acts as a frisbee goal or ‘hole’.

Throwing a frisbee is all about technique and doesn’t require good fitness. However, as you go round the course, you get free exercise without even realising. Above all, frisbee golf combines the pleasure of being active outdoors with socialising with other players. Frisbee golf also lowers the threshold to head out into nature. The aspect of being active in nature is also emphasised by Virtanen. Västerby’s fairways are mostly in the woods, and natural obstacles such as trees, rocks and waterways, are an essential part of frisbee golf.

The water obstacle of Lillträsk lake has been overcome!

A frisbee is all you need to make a start, but if you want to dive deeper into the sport, there is plenty to learn and frisbee golf has its own tricks and techniques. Just as in golf a variety of racing clubs are used, frisbee golfers use different discs that have different flying properties. The sharp-edged driver is ideal for long throws and the approach frisbee or the mid-range with its more rounded edges is more accurate. Nearer the goal, a thicker disc called a putter is used.

Frisbees from left to right: putter, mid-range and driver.

Virtanen gives some tips on typical beginner’s mistakes to avoid:

‘Your first frisbee shouldn’t be a far-flying but technique-wise challenging driver. Your enthusiasm for the hobby may be cut short.

Throwing styles and holds are also varied: spinning, palm-throwing, throwing rollers under obstacles, and ups for crossing. You can ask the clubs about the prices of courses or work days out, if you want a guided game for your own group. Of course, you may also find some tips from Youtube videos, but you’ll only learn the technique by practising.’

Top left: Putter hold. Right top image: power grip (backhand). Left bottom: fan grip. Right bottom view: forehand

‘There is no wrong way’, reassures Virtanen.

‘What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.’

So, go and try frisbee golf with the whole family – even if only to spend time outdoors and enjoy the scenery of Västerby’s course!

If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Caption: If frisbee golf is not your thing, just come and enjoy the view!

Read more about Raseborg:

Ekenäs Archipelago national park is paradise for paddlers 

Fiskars’ mountain bike trail network is fast gaining a reputation

Dagmar’s spring park – a beautiful nature reserve by the sea

 

Translation: Becky Hastings

Mountain bike trail departure point on the map
ℹ Fiskars Village Trail Center’s website
ℹ Trail map (pdf)

I remember the moment I first learned to ride a bike without stabilizers. These days when I hop onto my bike and start peddling, I still get that same sense of freedom and thrill from the movement. When part of my life moved into the woods, it was only natural that cycling would soon follow. Mountain biking entered my life two years ago.

Those two years on the back of a mountain bike have been up and downhill, in every sense. The problem has been that my skills haven’t quite reached the level of my enthusiasm for mountain biking.

The search for the perfect trail came to a happy end, when I pedalled out of Fiskars Village Trail Center, which is about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. For me the best thing about the Fiskars trails was being able to achieve a level of relaxation while riding. I’m a somewhat cautious mountain biker, who only occasionally gets an adrenaline rush from executing some slightly more daring moves, riding a few small drops or down steeper slopes. Mostly this doesn’t happen. But in Fiskars the trails were just the right amount of meandering and bumpy, rising and falling, twisting and turning, so I got to ride longer distances without having to walk my bike or kick for more speed.

Because there were so many trail options with varying levels of difficulty, I got to test myself: was I really as cautious as I imagined?

I wasn’t.

Fiskars Village Trail Center

Fiskars Village Trail Center was founded in 2016 and it instantly became a popular destination amongst seriously enthusiastic mountain bikers as well as the cautiously curious.

The trails are specifically created for mountain biking. What luxury! Usually a mountain biker has to pedal on paths trampled by walkers, meant for the hiker, or on routes intended for motor vehicles. There is such a noticeable difference when you get to try trails designed for mountain bikers by mountain bikers.

The Trail Center’s bike rental centre can be found in Fiskars village’s workshop square, but the actual trails are, of course, in the forest surrounding the village. Fiskars Trail Center also organises different events from mountain biking expos to courses.

If you don’t own a bike, you can easily rent one via the centre’s website. Booking in advance is highly recommended, rather than just turning up randomly. And do make sure that you check the rental centre’s opening hours beforehand.

By renting from the centre, you get to test how it feels to ride a decent mountain bike. All bikes are quality mountain bikes by Canyon, which allow even beginners to get a good feel for the sport. There are also a couple of children’s mountain bikes at the centre.

Day 1: Flacksjön and Långbrobergen trails

The Fiskars trails have been designed with mountain bikers’ varying levels of ability in mind. Each trail’s level of difficulty is colour-coded:

green – easy
blue – moderate
red – difficult
black – extremely difficult

First I decided to test a combination of the the trails that run on the north east of the village: Flacksjön (8 km) and Långbrobergenin (5 km), which were classed as ‘moderate’. These were the newest routes from the Fiskars Trail Center’s selection.

‘When designing the routes and building them, we were specifically thinking about beginners and sunday riders, who just ride now and then’, says Marko Halttunen, from the Flowriders Association which runs the Fiskars Trail Center.

The route from the trail centre to the forest and onto the trails themselves is well marked. I’m an expert at getting lost, but managed to stay on track most of the time. There were only a couple of points where I needed to stop and check my location on my phone, worried that I’d missed a sign.

The trail had some easy sections, almost completely without roots or rocks, which I cycled along quickly and easily. The beginning section of the trail encouraged me to trust my own cycling skills, but there were times when I had to concentrate hard, especially when the trail narrowed and went down to Stensjö lake. Although I surpassed myself on a few stony and rocky bits, I left out the biggest drops and carried my bike through some short but steep parts. I managed to get into a good riding flow, which was only interrupted by the squawk of a deer, when a mother and her fawn leapt out of the way on the rocks.

The mountain bike season is at its busiest in Fiskars in the autumn and spring. I arrived during the summer heat, and had a refreshing wading session on Flasksjön’s beach. If I’d had a swimsuit with me, I’d have definitely gone swimming. Although riding in the forest you don’t get too hot, because the trees provide shade from the sun and the breeze from riding also cools you down. I also had plenty of water with me.

I don’t know if I covered all corners of the trail, but the part in the forest and getting to and from the trails took a total of 1,5 hrs. That was a perfect circuit length for that evening.

Day 2: Elevation changes, views and easy pedalling on a dirt road

On the second day of riding, I wished that I had company: I would have liked to have ridden with friends or on a guided group tour, because I feel that mountain biking is actually best in a group. When someone is cycling in front of you confidently and you know you musn’t slow down the person behind, you ride faster that you would by yourself, when you’re thinking about every stone and root.

Fiskars Trail Center’s trails on the east side work well for bigger groups, even if the group contains a mixture of beginners and experienced enduro cyclists. Everyone can cycle the routes from one trail to another together, and after that each one can find their own suitable trails with the help of a trail map, signs and painted arrows.

Elevation differences are typical of eastern mountain bike routes. If you want to sweat a bit and raise your pulse, then this is the place for you! There is some occasional relief from the up and down slopes on stretches in the woods and on dirt roads, giving you a chance to catch your breath or rest your burning thighs. There are also two easier, green routes on this side.

On Fiskars’ trails I realised that my enjoyment of mountain biking also depends on the trails, not just on me.

Finishing off a day of riding with good food and drink

Fiskars Trail Center’s inspiration is from abroad. Flowriders’ Marko Halttunen has been on many bike trips in different countries, and he wanted to bring the same atmosphere to Fiskars: the chance to ride on great trails in good company, and then relax at the end of the cycling day with good conversation, food and drink.

In Fiskars this works out perfectly. In addition to restaurants that choose to serve local food, Fiskars has its own brewing company, cider made from local apples and a distillery.

Throughout the year there are different local food festivals, including the Slow Food festival which is organised at the end of the summer, bringing together Western Uusimaa’s fishermen, bakeries, meat producers, garden farmers, organic farms and food artisans. Local food and mountain biking are a good combination, when you’ve ridden through the forest to the point of exhaustion and ravenous hunger.

Fiskars village is known for its handicrafts, design and art. After a day of cycling, you can slip straight into the holiday vibe, strolling along the shores of Fiskars river, with its bridges, and popping into handicraft boutiques and art exhibitions.

And don’t forget that Fiskars has plenty of other options for outdoor recreation. The village lies in the middle of the lush forest and countryside scenery of south coast Finland. Large oaks reach over paths, and cows graze on the grassy shores of the lake. For lovers of the outdoors, this means that in addition to mountain biking, you can go trail running, paddling and hiking.

Trail running is also permitted on the Fiskars Trail Center’s blue and green routes. If you run out of time to do all of the activities that you want, you can even spend the night at Fiskars. I returned already a week later to test more trails!

Article by Mia Sinisalo

Translation: Becky Hastings

It has been a good summer here in Finland, with lots of warm weather and not too much rain. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to spend some time at a summer cottage in the woods. It also happens to be located very close to an amazing lake. Of course, I always take my camera with. I also spend time in Joensuu and took some photos there.

Above is a photo of mine that most represents my summer this year. It was around midnight, not too dark outside, but just dark enough to make one’s eyes strain while trying to read. The full moon was out, the lanterns were lit, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for a photo. A great time to be in Finland.

Above: A simple sunset in Joensuu. The variety that one gets from day-to-day never disappoints, and I believe that simplicity has it’s place too amongst the more complex sceneries. There are also many shades of orange to appreciate at the right time of day.

Above: A family of trees enjoying an evening at the lake. It almost looks like the one standing alone is contemplating a dip in the water.

Above: Late in the day at the edge of the forest. I often don’t take photos at this time of day, but I just really enjoyed the blue sky and shape of the branches. Nature showing off it’s goods.

Above: Fiery clouds over a lake in Joensuu. The rocks seem to be making their way into the water, each one going deeper.

Above: Unwinding at the end of the day. The wind was blowing like crazy and the glow from the sunlight was intense. Refreshing and almost otherworldly.

Above: Trees glowing in the golden hour. Amazing reflections are a great bonus.

Above: A high contrast, vibrant sunset scene in Joensuu. The sky was wide awake, but the old forest was ready to sleep.

Above: Another rocky shore and of course, another sunset.

I hope that everyone has had a good summer. It’s an amazing time to be in Finland, and it’s also not too long until we get those great autumn colours popping up. Come to think of it, winter is awesome as well 🙂 Enjoy!

Follow me on Instagram: @jason_tiilikainen

In co-opetarion with Visit Kouvola, Visit Kotka-Hamina and GoSaimaa

South East Finland has some of the country’s most rugged and wild landscapes with access to excellent services. Only a short journey away from Helsinki, amidst the sounds of rushing rivers and rustling forests, you can find yourself amongst quirky cafes and excellent restaurants. We put together a list of 19 places or local delicacies that every visitor to the area should try.

1. Keisarinmaja Kahvila’s Finnish pancakes are the best in the world

? Address: Keisarinmajantie, Kotka
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

In 1889 the Russian Tsar Aleksander III commissioned a fishing cottage to be built in the beautiful surroundings of Langinkoski river. It ended up as a stylish villa, where the Tzar with his family and friends spent carefree summer days. These days it houses the lovely Keisarinmaja cafe, whose Finnish pancakes (thick pancakes baked in an oven served with jam and whipped cream) are reported to the be the best in the world.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

2. A cute cafe in a yellow house – with a fantastic view out to Langinkoski river

? Keisarinmajantie, Kotka
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

The yellow cafe on the shores of Langinkoski river used to be where the guard of the Tsar’s fishing cottage lived with his family. From the cafe terrace there are beautiful views down to the river. The cafe has lots of cozy nooks which also look out onto this view. Lunch is also available daily.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

3. Kymen Paviljonki: food, herbs, farm animals and rapids

Helsingintie 408, Kuusankoski
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

If you’re travelling on Route 6 there are many good reasons to stop at Kymen Paviljonki (Kymi Pavilion). Here you can get a decent lunch as well as take a refreshing break from driving. Walk down to Kymijoki river’s shores, get to know the farm animals and explore the wonderful herb garden, where you can pick herbs to serve with your meal.

Photo: Sari Selkälä

4. Relish the campfire atmosphere in Repovesi National Park

Riippusillantie 55, Kouvola
ℹ Read more

Repovesi National Park has many scenic campfire spots perfect for having a picnic in beautiful natural surroundings. You may make a fire in a designated campfire ring as long no fire warning has been issued. Firewood is provided on site.The easiest campfire meal is a hot dog barbecued over the glowing red coals served with whatever relishes of you chose to bring!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

5. Into Repovesi National Park via RepoTassu

Riippusillantie 55, Kouvola
ℹ Homepage (Facebook)

RepoTassu is a great little kiosk at the gate of Repovesi National park, by the Lapinsalmi entrance. Its handy location makes RepoTassu an easy place to stop off on the way in or out and prices are reasonable. There are a wide variety of refreshments available as well as lunch and coffee. You can even reserve a canoe!

Photo: Tomi Pohja

6. Orilammen Maja offers accommodation and great food

Voikoskentie 138, Hillosensalmi
ℹ Homepage

Orilammen Maja is legendary in the Repovesi area. This family business has grown over the years into a whole holiday village located right by a lake with lovely views. Here you can feast until your belly is full in peaceful natural surroundings. This place is definitely worth adding to your itinerary if you visit Repovesi National Park.

Photo: Tomi Pohja

7. Historical Fortress island: Fort Elisabeth and Restaurant Vaakku

Varissaari, Kotka
ℹ Homepage

The old sea fortress Fort Elisabeth is also known as Varissaari (Crow Island), and is a popular day trip destination and recreation area in Kotka. From June to August you can get there on board the ferry M/S Klippan from Kotka’s old harbour in Sapokka. The fortress was completed in 1796 and it was named after the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth Petrovna. Although the fortress itself was destroyed in the Crimean war, plenty of relics and monuments from the island’s history remain. As well as offering ‘fun dining in a stately environment’, according to their motto, Restaurant Vaakku also rents out SUP boards and a sauna boat!

Photo: Sari Selkälä

8. At Fortress Restaurant Kamu you can step into Hamina’s history

? Raatihuoneenkatu 12, Hamina
ℹ Homepage

Hamina’s fortress is one of the few ‘star forts’ in Finland. It was based on the one in Palmova in Northern Italy, which represented a utopian city. These types of forts are rare. Both Swedes and Russians have built hefty fortresses in Hamina. In the depths of Hamina’s Bastion, lies the atmospheric Restaurant Kamu, whose delicacies must be tried if visiting the area.

Photo: Julius Koskela

9. Anjala’s Manor House charms against a backdrop of Ankkapurha’s grand rapids

? Ankkapurhantie 15, Anjala
ℹ Homepage

Ankkapurha is the ancient Finnish name for Kymijoki river’s biggest rapids. Although the river has since been tamed to produce hydropower, the milieu of Anjala’s Manor House is still well worth a visit. There are walking trails in the area and all visitors are encouraged to try them and enjoy nature. Foodies should head to the Makasiinikahvila (Warehouse cafe) to sample the coffee and cake.

Photo: Julius Koskela

10. Salmiakki cheddar and hydrogen-powered cars at Kirjokivi manor

? Rudolf Elvingintie 109, Vuohijärvi
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

The idyllic Kirjokivi Manor and its surroundings are a sight in themselves, but once you’re there, you can fill your stomach with exotic treats. How does salmiakki (salty liquorice) cheddar cheese sound? Kirjokivi manor house is part of Woikoski Feeling – a company that provides a range of experiences in the surrounding area. The place’s special feature is the car museum, where all the cars reveal interesting parts of Woikoski’s and all of Finland’s history.

Photo: Julius Koskela

11. What on earth are Vety and Atomi? Taste Lappeenranta’s specialities

? Lappeenranta, South Karelia

Vety and Atomi have already gained quite a reputation. These local delicacies can be found at the hotdog kiosk, and should be enjoyed in in Lappeenranta’s urban surroundings, where they might be ordered by locals at the end of a night out. In true Finnish-style, you can wash them down with a glass of milk. Vety is a high quality meat pie, filled with either ham or egg. Atomi is filled with both.

Photo: Julius Koskela

12. Särä is Finnish food, with a thousand year history

ℹ Restaurant Kippurasarvi Homepage

Särä is the oldest dish in Finland, and its history goes back at least 1000 years. The name ‘särä’ comes from the wooden trough, on which lamb and potatoes were served. The meat rests on a bed of potatoes and is dished up with rieska (Finnish flatbread) as an accompaniment and homebrew to drink. Looks pretty good, don’t you think?

Photo: Julius Koskela

13. Melt-in-your-mouth hot smoked salmon in Lohela

? Karjalantie 372, Puntala
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

Could this be the world’s best hot smoked salmon? Test for yourself. Many travel from afar to buy Lohela’s smoked salmon to take home, or savour it slowly there and then. The quaint shop there has plenty of other items for sale, including delicacies and souvenirs for the traveller.

Photo: Julius Koskela

14. At Korpikeidas you can fish and meet some other animals

Vesikkolantie 415, Joutseno
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

At Korpikeidas you can fish and smoke the salmon yourself. There is a wide range of fun things to do for families with children. You can also get to know the resident farm animals which include an alpaca and a peacock!

Photo: Julius Koskela

15. Pulsan Asema is an instagram hit

? Pulsan Aseman tie 21, Pulsa
ℹ Homepage

Pulsan Asema (Pulsa Station) is an old station building that has been converted into a cafe, interior design boutique and bed and breakfast. The station’s interior decor is very photogenic. You can see the passion that has gone into creating this place. It’s certainly deserving of its media and social media attention, but go see it for yourself!

Photo: Julius Koskela

16. Konditoria Huovila – if there was a cafe in Moominland…

? Fredrikinkatu 1, Hamina
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

While wandering the picturesque streets of Hamina, step into Konditoria (Patisserie) Huovila. Its colourful cakes, the cinnamon buns overflowing on the counter and light fresh interior bring to mind the coloured Moomin books from childhood. Now in its third generation of ownership, this cafe is a part of Hamina’s street views. Make sure you at least taste the crown pastries!

Photo: Julius Koskela

17. Discover Ylämaa’s spectrolite in Korupirtti

? Kivikyläntie 7, Ylämaa
ℹ Homepage (in Finnish)

Spectrolite is a dark stone that shimmers blue and gold when held at certain angles in the light. Korupirtti (Jewellery Hut) with its services is a good base for gemstone miners. Next to the hut is the mining museum and it’s also possible to go see the mine itself.

Photo: Julius Koskela

18. Mustila Arboretum fairytale forest and Mustila wine

? Mustilan Puistotie 21, Elimäki
ℹ Homepage

Finnish berries and fruit are known to be superfoods, but did you know that you can make wine from them? Mustila’s wine shop and wonderful garden store is near Kouvola. As well as stopping at the shop, you can go for a work in a real fairytale forest, Mustila’s Arboretum.

Photo: Milla von Konow

19. Viini Verla – a winery in a world heritage site

? Salonsaarentie 127, Verla
ℹ Homepage

The idyllic Verla Mill village is a world heritage site. The old groundwood and board factory’s picturesque mill buildings feel like a journey back in time, within beautiful and photogenic surroundings. When visiting, make sure you stop at Verla Winery (Viini Verla). In addition to their wine and sparkling wines, they make a variety of berry liqueurs and table wines as well as stronger alcoholic drinks.

Photo: Milla von Konow