Posts

In commercial cooperation with Visit Raseborg

Article by Mika Puskala

The 46-kilometre long Front Line Route in Raseborg is an interesting, beautiful and also thought-provoking cycling route which starts from and ends in Ekenäs. The adventure awaits only a train ride away for example from Helsinki. History of the war is still present in many places along the route in the pinewood forests, which makes it so special. Read here about our experiences from the route when we took it at the end of July.

Circular route, 46 km (Google Maps)
Duration 6 hrs.
Start and finish coordinates on a map
An intermediate route. For those not accustomed to cycling long distances on roads, the route might feel hard.

The centre of Ekenäs is quite lovely. The town was established way back in the 16th century, so expect to find ancient streets and idyllic courtyards adorned with apple trees. You can easily imagine hatters and clockmakers hard at work while the gentlefolk were taking their daily stroll.

The Front Line Route combined with lodging for a night or two in the town centre will give you a nice little mini-holiday. But it’s also a perfect destination for a day trip, if you come from Helsinki for instance.

I had rented us bikes from Carfield Bike Rental which has rental points all over the coastline. In Ekenäs, the bikes can be rented and picked up at Motel Marine. Early in the morning, we park our car on the Raippatori Market, check the tyre pressures and hop on our bikes. The first leg on our route rolls along the highway no. 25 on the north side of the town. Google Maps guides us to the start of the route and along it. Following the route is easy, because there are not many different roads and turns on the way.

The Empress Dagmar’s spring and the beautiful Vitsand 

We are speeding along the first few kilometres from Ekenäs, on a combined cycle- and walking track, all the way to the crossroads of the Prästkullantie road. After that, we have to ride about a kilometre with other traffic until we turn to the Leksvallintie road. There is almost no other traffic. We stop to pick some raspberries by the roadside and enjoy the peaceful countryside. The tarmac is in good condition, and soon we arrive at the parking area of the Dagmar Park.

The nature conservation area of the Dagmar Park is located about 8 kilometres from the centre of Raseborg (Ekenäs). There’s plenty of parking space for cars, and if you arrive by bicycle, you have a chance to get a little closer to the spring itself. The parking area is clearly marked, and the signs and directions on the region are exemplary.

Finland celebrated its 100 years of independence in 2017. The nature conservation area resides on the land owned by Fiskars Company, who donated it on the same year to Metsähallitus to be maintained for 100 years.

The dry pinewood forest continues down towards the sea and turns into a lush oasis on the way, as the groundwater springs through the Lohjanharju esker, forming a small, meandering stream. Spending a while in a stone pool, the water eventually runs into the sea. On the beautiful little beach, there is a small pier with a bench. An ideal place to spend a hot summer day, I would say.

The spring of Dagmar got its name from Princess Dagmar of Denmark who married the crown prince Alexander of Russia. Alexander and Dagmar made many trips to the Finnish archipelago on their yacht, usually mooring in the safety of Lähdelahti bay. The visits of the Emperor and Empress have been recorded on the memorial stone by the spring.

We walk back to our bikes and continue southwest along the Leksvallintie road. After a few kilometres, the road takes a turn to the left and to the beach of Vitsand. If you wish to take a more direct route, there is also a path from the Dagmar’s spring, leading straight to Vitsand.

The trail from the spring to Vitsand is a forest path, so it’s more comfortable to ride it with a bike that has little fattier tyres than normal. There doesn’t seem to be any specific instructions in Vitsand where to park one’s bike, so it’s  up to you if you want to challenge yourself or to take it easy: the trail is short but bumpy.

Nowadays, it is very hard to imagine, how the white, sandy beach of Vitsand used to be a stage for a fierce battle between British warships and Russian–Finnish troops and their gun battery on the opposite side, during the Crimean War in 1854-1856.

Our coastline is strategically very important, so it has seen blood spilled on many occasions throughout history.

After we return to the road, we continue a few kilometres along the Leksvallintie road, turning eventually to the road leading to the village of Skogby. The air is heavy with flying dust as we ride along the gravel road to a lovely wooden house called Villa Kosthåll. The house used to function as a mess hall and office of the Skogby sawmill as well as the residence of the sawmill’s founder, Mr. Mauritz Hisinger. Hisinger had a park built in the honour of Empress Dagmar, and he also acted as a host for the Emperor and Empress during their visit in 1888.

We spend a moment watching the sheep tending the courtyard lawn before riding northwest towards the village of Harparskog and a defence line named after the village.

The Bunker Museum and the impressive Irma 302

I think I have read my share of history, but at the same time, never really given any more thought to some of the events. One of the eras that I had apparently been totally oblivious to, was the lease of Hanko to the Soviet Union before the Continuation War in 1941-1944. When the Winter War (1939-1940) ended with the Moscow peace treaty in 1940, Finland had to give the whole of the Isthmus of Carelia to the Soviet Union and also lease them Hanko and its surrounding islands for 30 years.

The Soviet Union established a military base in Hanko with 27,000 troops and thousands of civilians. Altogether 40,000 people – four times as much as there were indigenous Finns. The so-called lace villas in the region received new residents, and Hanko became the “Riviera of the North”, with a strong competition for who got stationed there.

Obviously, Finland didn’t let her neighbour to roam on her back yard totally unprepared. Before the Continuation War, Finland had built a fortified defensive position along the border of the leased territory. By the end of May 1941, the Harparskog Line consisted of 46 concrete bunkers with a same amount of dugouts, 70 artillery sites and 113 machine gun nests. There was also a huge, several kilometres long anti-tank barrier built across the Hanko Peninsula. Parts of it are still visible, as we noticed on our cycling tour.

Those events seem to be far away in the past, especially in the middle of a warm summer day, but if you’re interested, you have a chance to look into the history in the bunker museum. The so-called Irma 302 was one of the tough concrete bunkers built on the temporary border. It has been since restored and opened for public. The armament of the bunker consists of a 45-millimetre anti-tank gun and a machine gun. The guns slide effortlessly on their well-oiled tracks, and the accuracy of the optical sights is still amazing. The smoke and sound effects take you back 80 years to experience what it was like to be one of the 16 soldiers manning the bunker. Available for groups visiting the bunker, the experience is both impressive and thought-provoking at the same time.

We continue about half a kilometre from the bunker towards the front line memorial, erected on a place where Marshal Mannerheim received the march-past of the troops in Hanko when the Soviet Union left the area. We pass by some private courtyards and ride to the memorial along a quiet village road. After enjoying our packed lunch, we get back on our bikes and move on.

The front line of the Hanko Peninsula was fixed all the way through the Continuation War, and both sides concentrating on defending their posts. Most of the battles were fought with the artillery, and where the front line was on land, it was trench warfare. The archipelago was a stage for more mobile battles. Eventually, the Soviets evacuated their base in Hanko, and the remainder of the troops left the town on December 3, 1941. On the very same morning, Finnish troops advanced into the empty town.

Hanko Front Museum

We get back on the highway and cycle a short distance to the Hanko Front Museum. I have seen the cannon on the museum courtyard flash by through our car window, but now it’s finally time to visit the museum itself. The permanent exhibition displays the events of 1939-1941 in detail with photographs, maps and various objects of the era. An old warning sign reminds the visitors that the border of the leased territory of Hanko was just a hundred metres away from the museum. The trenches surrounding the museum also provide quite an authentic feeling of those times, and they are also very exciting for the little ones visiting the museum. When we were there, children could also enjoy a pony ride on the museum grounds.

Read more about the war history of Hanko at Finland100.fi for example.

Back to the beginning

After having a cup of coffee at the Front Museum, we move on. We have two choices: either to go back the same way we came from or ride towards Hanko for a short while and then turn northwest. After all, as the idea is to take the circular route, we choose option no. 2. Riding through the villages of Öby and Vimenböle, we return on the Prästkullantie road and then back to Ekenäs, riding several kilometres alongside Lake Gennarbyviken. The lake was dammed from the bay for industrial purposes.

This leg is the most scenic of the whole route, reminding us about the Archipelago Trail and its stops. There’s little automobile traffic, and only a few other cyclists. We pass one walker who says a happy hello. One hill after another rolls by under our tyres. The lake shimmers as we make our way uphill, downhill, uphill and downhill again.

As this leg is practically gravelled all the way, we are happy to have fat tyres on our bikes. Rolling downhill is funny, but there are some treacherous grooves on the road which we have to negotiate carefully.

A white-tailed deer hops in front of us across the road. Three cranes are slowly moving on the field. We stop by the fieldside to eat our packed lunch, to be suspiciously watched upon by a proud steed from behind the fence. Our summer holiday is almost over, but we still have nine kilometres to go on tarmac. But in a landscape like this, it is no problem.

Read more:

Visit Raseborg – Front line Route

Visit Raseborg – Welcome to Raseborg

Visit Raseborg – Plan your stay

Translation Mikko Aslak Lemmetti

In partnership with Visit Raasepori

I mount the bike and let the lift pull me up the bare skiing slopes. On the summit I take my time to admire the landscapes in all directions while a fresh breeze clears my mind. For a while I consider tempting and versatile route options and finally choose the one speedy and curvy enough for me and my bike. Adrenalin spreads all around my body as I hit the trail downhill and exhilaration grows along the meters ridden.

Downhill mountain biking is a captivating way to enjoy speed, mountain biking, trails built on skiing slopes and nature. This sub-genre of traditional mountain biking brings riders to the slopes, where a wide range of routes serve speed seekers. The location is perfect for the activity in summer and autumn, when the slopes are empty of skiers.

In Påminne Bike Park, the downhill biking centre of Raasepori, also the beginners have the possibility to try the sport. Previous traditional mountain biking riding and handling experience is required as the sport asks a little skill. Proficient and open-minded rider will grasp the tips for technique and riding from a pro, when the basic handling of the bike is familiar.

Anders Pyy tells about biking centres routes and riding techniques for Marjo Ojala, who knows about traditional mountain biking and is now having introduction to downhill mountain biking.

What the downhill mountain biking actually is?

Downhill mountain biking has a reputation of an energetic and even a bit dangerous sport. The key principles are rather simple and the difficulty level of trails vary. Skiing lifts, which take skiers to the top of the hill in winter, serve also bike riders in the summer and autumn season.

Aders Pyy advices Marjo Ojala how to safely travel up the hill with the lift.
Ropes can be added to drag lifts, which are easier for the beginners to loosen from the bike on top of the hill.
Drag lift can be also placed between one’s legs when all the way to the top is travelled as standing on the bike.
The lift drags the rider onwards with a steady pace.
On the first meters of the climb pedalling can be done but during the rise one simply enjoys the ride without pedalling.
The climb was a little exciting for a first-timer, but was in reality easier than expected.
Cheerful mood and a smile on one’s face tell about the delight of being introduced to the sport.
On top of the slope one catches the strap and gently pulls towards oneself which releases the bike from the lift.

From the top of the hill one can choose from a generous variety of trails according to their preferences in the level of difficulty or trail map. In downhill mountain biking the objective is to ride down the marked trails with style and speed whilst paying attention to the curves, built platforms, hillocks, drops and other possible obstacles.

The expert in downhill mountain biking Anders “Andy” Pyy considers it possible for beginners to get a quick grasp of the sport even with little less experience if one has enthusiasm and time to be spent on the slopes.

– Regular mountain biking on more traditional trails is also good practice for downhill riders as technique and reaction rate will develope on smoother ground too, Pyy says.

Anders Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. He developes versatile riding routes in Påminne Bike Park and welcomes all mountain bike riders in the Southern Finland to his centre.

Pyy himself has been fully concentrating in traditional mountain bike riding for already five years. His previous sport was Motocross. The reason for changing the league is simply the fact, that he finds downhill mountain biking way more fun.

Påminne Bike Park was bor from the passion of the active downhill mountain bike riders

Påminne Bike Park is the most southern slope centre in Finland and also Anders Pyy’s “homefield”. The place was practically engendered by the dream and devotion of the riders to create Påminne Bike Park THE place for downhill mountain bike riding in Finland.

New routes will be examined by foot when necessary.

According to Pyy in the future the aim is to further develop the route selection focusing on trails suitable for beginners as more riders would be warmly welcomed. The objective is also to get some rental gear and equipment for the visitors of the centre. Up until the end of October it has been possible to ride in Påminne Bike Park for two consecutive hours by paying the 20 euro entrance fee or by showing the season ticket. The centre has already been serving even up to about a hundred visitors every week indicating stable and growing interest towards the sport.

It’s fascinating to watch Anders Pyy’s pro-tricks at Påminne Bike Park.

Here’s how you’ll get on to it

Slopes at Påminne will open for downhill mountain bike riders after winter season.

Påminne is conveniently located within only about an hour’s drive from Helsinki through Inkoo and Karjaa. From Lohja the distance takes just half an hour and from Turku about one and half hours.

New riders are always warmly welcomed to the sport and slopes. The culture guides more experienced riders to look after beginners.

– Beginners are highly encouraged to have a chat with more experienced riders to ask for advice and tips, Pyy explains.

Anders Pyy’s motto is to boldly hit the slopes as learning by doing is definitely the best way. He is often there to be asked about the sport in general or to tell about techniques and tips in more detail. Ha may also give a little guidance or tell about the trails in Påminne. The lift crew is there to help beginners get familiar with the lift.

It’s the sense of freedom that lures one to the slopes with a bike

Pyy’s enthusiasm for downhill mountain biking is contagious. We concentrate on all his tips of how to get on top of the hill as we first grasp the handle bar at the bottom of the slope. Every driving tip is greeted with delight for it asks for a sharp eye, quick reaction skills and ability to perceive terrain to ride down the trails. New routes can of course also be first familiarized by foot when necessary.

The knowledge of the sport increases massively whilst riding down the slopes, as downhill mountain biking needs uninterrupted focus. It is easy to imagine someone already enjoying mountain biking to be carried away by the slopes too.

– The best part of the sport is the sense of freedom and the ability to go anywhere with your bike, Pyy says.

The second he finishes the sentence we see him agilely racing down even the most difficult slopes, almost as if his bike had wings. The smooth turns and accelerating bumps tell about years’ riding experience and never-ending enthusiasm.

Find Påminne Bike Park on map

Translation: Karoliina Säkö

Fancy paddling, supping, biking, climbing or yoga whilst enjoying old culture and nature? If you’re spending holidays near Helsinki, this is your place.

Only one hour drive from Helsinki, towards east, along the coast. After passing Loviisa you come across signs pointing to “Strömforsin ruukki“. Follow the signs and you end up to the most picturesque village, a true hidden gem that not even many Finns know about. It is like taking a time warp back to olden days. A time warp with all modern outdoor equipments you can dream of.

Strömfors is an idyllic old village. Perfect destination if you want culture, sights, nature and sports in one place. Photo: Kukka Kyrö

Photo: Joonas Talka

The cute little village of Strömfors is an old iron mill. Nowadays there is a hotel, cafes, artisan shops… and Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Kayaking in the jungle

Strömfors has a variety of activities to offer with local guides. I personally recommend kayaking. The area is very unique, located in the delta of river Kymi (“Kymijoki”). There are many river branches to paddle. No roads, no houses, just water and bushy forest banks, teeming with all sorts of creatures. As a nature lover, I was in heaven! Rarely I get that WOW feeling so effortlessly and close to settlement, not having to drive hundreds of kilometres to reach the wilderness.

Photo: Kukka Kyrö

The islands are in fact nature reserves, hence there are no summer cottages on the banks as one would expect to see in southern Finland. We even saw an otter, normally a very shy animal to spot in the summertime. Also the delta next to Strömfors is fantastic for birding.

The roundtrip ends with a narrow jungle route.

You can paddle a short half an hour route around the islands closest to the iron mill, or take a longer 10 km round route to truly get the feeling of the surroundings, as I did. There is one point of extra physical work on the longer round route though – you need to carry the kayak over a dam.

Play with your favourite toys

The Strömfors area is known among climbers for some good rock walls. For the fans of trail running, there are nice trails, shorter and longer routes. You can also try fat biking here, but the longer routes are only for experienced bikers. All equipment and guidance you get from Strömfors Outdoor Factory.

Supping is one of the many activities you can try. These guys woke up at dawn to go for a paddle. Photo: Noora Säily.

After a hard days’ play, try some relaxing yoga and sauna – you will sleep like a baby in the old clay building from the 1800’s.

The Outdoor Factory yoga room is very zen. Soft, mindful yoga is taught here. Beginner friendly and relaxation guaranteed. Kuva: Karoliina Kaski.

Read more

Strömfors Outdoor Factory homepage