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Curious what backpackers do in Finland? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • This morning started with uncertain skies as we left early from our lodge to get some distance before the rain was scheduled to hit (all afternoon, according to weather reports).

    As it turns out, the rain shower was more of a momentary drizzle, but after having our lunch on the roadside we took the opportunity to warm up and dry off in a Sami cafe 10km further on (50 cent for coffee and a doughnut!)

    After that, the sun broke again and we sailed though the last 40 km without much incident, even though by today our joints were aching and bums were increasingly sore.

    As it happens, the only available accommodation was a cabin with it's own sauna. When in Finland..!
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  • Following a moment of inspiration, yesterday (, for a change) we have opted to take a rest day and take ourselves (and our bikes) to Tornio by coach.

    This means we skip some of the Finnish-lapland wilderness (very pretty, but also a bit repetitive) and get to the Swedish border and coastline two days earlier.

    Plus, with Simon developing 'cycling palsy' in his hand from all the hours of gripping handlebars and my knees feeling tender, it gives us a good chance to recover.

    It's a bit of a zig-zag, as we had to take a bus further into Finland before getting anotherback towarda Sweden, but we'll arrive in Tornio, fresh and cycle-free, by mid afternoon.
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  • Our longest single day of riding yet...and possibly the best. The roads have evened out compared to Norway and, despite some fierce wind, the weather has stayed mild.

    We are both in the rhythm of cycling now, and got through the last of Norway easily enough. After stops in Finland at passport control and a restaurant (meatballs and mash with free, refillable coffee) we pushed on to Hetta, along some beautiful Road - the forests turned from bare branches to lush green and the wind dropped away, allowing us to free-wheel much of the last 27km

    We were expecting to arrive in a town without any accommodation, but we are now sitting in a log cabin, surrounded by forest and mild, dry weather.

    So, Finland is great so far! But tomorrow may be our first day of cycling in the rain. Stay tuned...
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  • Today is Courtney's birthday. Happy [INSERT NUMBER] Birthday Courtney.

    The day began with a traditional Scandinavian breakfast buffet. This featured two particular items, that Courtney would not stop talking about for the rest of the day. The first was egg butter, which looks similar to scrambled eggs, but is much richer. The second was frozen yoghurt, available in unlimited quantity. If Courtney only had these two things for her breakfast for the remainder of her life, I think that she would be more than happy.

    After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel, and picked up an unexpected companion. Teemu the bear is an avid fan of the Finnish Olympic Team, and quite amazingly, is also travelling to New Zealand. He didn't have any plans for the next three months, so on the spur of the moment, decided to join us on our travels. He is apparently going to pay for his share of the travel costs, but he is so small, and travels so light, that we really don't mind if he does or he doesn't.

    The first stop on Courtney's birthday tour, was th Pynikki Observation Tower in Tampere, to give a beautiful view across the surrounding region. There were donuts and coffee available, to add the experience, which Courtney declined in favour of a diet Fanta. Teemu, didn't have anything - there was no honey.

    On the way to our next destination, we had to make quick pit stop, and a motorway layby. With all the excitement leading up her birthday, Courtney was up all night dreaming of adventures and emails from people, and was getting pretty tired. After flirting with the idea of having a powernap, it was agreed that the best thing would be for us to do some road side exercise to wake up. And so it came to pass that Jamie and Courtney did press ups, lunges and starjumps, as the rest of Finland drove passed them wondering what was going on. Teemu didn't join in - he is pretty lazy.

    The next proper stop on our trip was a UNESCO World Hertiage site, that is in fact a trig station. It was part of a network of trig stations built in the 1800's, and was used to confirm that the Earth is squashed, in that it isn't as long North to South, as it is East to West. It was a short walk up a reasonably steep trail (20mins up, 40 mins down) - Teemu described it as an adventure. It was a challenge on Courtney's bung ankle, but we got there, and had the place to ourselves. Just us, and a very beautiful view. Despite all this beauty, Teemu didn't have anything to say - he is pretty simple.

    Then it was on to Jyvaskyla for the night. After parkng the car and checking in, we were looking for something to do. before dinner. Teemu, recommended an art installation or inflatable rabbits. Apparently, one of his friends is a rabbit, and recommended the art installation as pretty awesome. I think Teemu ate the wrong forest mushrooms myself.

    And then it was on to dinner, sans Teemu, to a rather fancy, fine dining establishment. The food consisted of deliciously done, Finnish delicacies, and the wine was a rather tasty bottle of prosecco. Top tip for tourists heading to Finland, if you want to travel on the cheap through Finland, do not go to a fine dining establishment. For Courtney's birthday it was well worth it though, but it wasn't the end of our culinary adventure.

    Fuelled by proscco, and a rather strong, if sweet aperitif, we headed to the closest purveyor of cold dessert treats. We happened on a place really popular with the local youth, called McDonalds, which is a funny name for a food place in Finland. At this restaurant we had some McNuggets, which are like chicken nuggets, and two delicious ice-cream treats called McFlurries, with Oreos. We saw Teemu at McDonalds too, with a tonne of food around him - he is gluttonous it would seem.

    FYI - they actually mix the McFlurries properly here, none of this drop the oreos on top and pretend like we actually did something business.

    And then Courtney's birthday was over. We both had a lot of fun, and were definitely looking forward to a good night's sleep.

    On another topic entirely, Teemu reminds me of another bear that we met somewhere. We can't quite remember where yet, but we'll work it out.
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  • Day 3 of our Finnish Adventure and we woke up to a pretty chilly room after the central heating became too much and we left the door open all night to cool us down. We are so hard.

    Our day started off by a early morning run around Savonlinna in temperatures in the mid-high single digits. My ankle fortunately appears to be ok if I run on flat straight lines, but anything involving uneven ground is a nightmare. After breakfast (EGG BUTTER!), we drove to the Punkaharju Ridge approximately 30km east of Savonlinna. The ridge itself is a narrow causeway seperating two big lakes and was a defensive line against the Russians.

    After our quick tourist stop, and realising we had 4 hours to get the car back to the rental car company before we were to be charged for an extra day and we had 3.45 hours of travel time to get there, we commenced our journey back to civilisation with haste - or so we thought.

    What transpired was the most frustrating drive of my life. First of all, we need to talk about the Finnish obsession with Speed Cameras. As mentioned in yesterdays post, speed cameras seem to dot the road every 500m or so. After a quick google check, Jamie was able to confirm that like NZ, the majority of speed camera housing units were empty and could be differentiated by those that had a silver lens (camera) vs those that had a yellow lens (no camera). Not wanting to take risks, Jamie was on speed camera spotting duty as keeping to the speed limit in a car with no cruise control is impossibly hard when the speeds change as often as there are speed cameras, dropping to 80km/hr in areas of the highway where there are turnoffs, 60km/hr where there are petrol stations, 50km/hr zones just for the hell of it and the odd zone (about 5%) of actual driving at 100km/hr on roads straighter than a ruler. I tried to take my cues from the locals on how strict the speed limits were but this became incredibly confusing. Based on a days worth of data, I can ascertain that the Finnish like to stick to one speed - under the speed limit of the 100km/hr open road limit but well over the speed indicated in smaller towns, averaging a speed of around 80km/hr everywhere. Based on the amount the speed limit changes, this appears to be a tactical solution, however was massively confusing when I passed a car going 80km/hr in the open road limit area, only to slow down upon reaching a town, and then was passed again by the same car in a 60km/hr zone going 80km/hr *slaps forehead*.

    During our drive, we came within 500m of the Russian Border, so gave it a wave and said we will be back again in a few days.

    Halfway through our journey, the roads widened, and the lane size, whilst still only one lane, could have easily fit two cars. It took me awhile to figure out why, with all this extra space, cars remained on the far right of the lane. It became clear once I saw a car passing another in the face of oncoming traffic (see photo below). I decided on the "do as the locals do" approach to driving and it scared the sh*t out of me doing something that I was educated never to do from a young age - pass in close proximity to oncoming traffic. A big wine was in order after this drive.

    We got to the airport with 10 minutes to spare, and took the train into Helsinki. Teemu had the best view and contemplated his adventures in Central Finland realising his time in his homeland was fast coming to an end. He will leave with his adoptive parents for a new life in a warmer climate. He is scared, wondering if he will be able to master the Haka and blend in with the locals, whilst maintaining his Finnish roots. Get ready for Egg Butter New Zealand!

    We dropped our bags and Teemu off at the hotel (he needed to be alone) and made our way into a big square adjacent to the Train Station which was housing an International Food Market complete with a British Stand selling British Cheese for €9 euros per 100g. I've decided I'll come back next year, undercut those British Twats by half and still make a handsome profit.

    After filling up on olive oil and bread samples, we made our way back to the hotel, stopping off at the Helsinki Botantical Gardens. Jamie was obsessed with anything that appeared semi-edible while I went on a photographic expedition. It bled beauty and was a lovely walk in the sunshine.

    A pre-dinner snack of cheese and crackers proceeded a lovely dinner at a Nepalese Restaurant (so Finnish) across the street from our hotel. On the way back to our room, we checked out the hotel gym, which I can report is utter crap.
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  • We arrived in rain-soaked Tornio - a border town to Sweden - and cycled to a 'campsite', which is so water-logged that we have had to rent another Cabin. I'm actually starting to miss sleeping on the ground for some reason.

    We're certainly in a bigger city (it even has traffic lights!) but the choice of food hasn't improved. After a long walk around town, we were forced to concede that (as trip advisor suggested) the best place to get a hot meal was, in fact, Ikea. So we crossed the border on foot to eat in their cafe before coming back to the cabin to finish the day with a sauna (free with the cabin rental, because it's Finland) and a beer.

    Unfortunately I managed to pick up some non-cycling injuries by slipping over in the sauna! So I'll cross into Sweden with some strapped toes and a dose of ibuprofen in my system.
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  • This morning started late by our standards, and we didn't get out of the hotel until about 1100, after a run around Central Helsinki. Teemu was lazy, and decided to stay in the room, staring out the window, in a clueless daze.

    We on the other hand, went on a walking tour of downtown Helsinki. The first stop, was the western coast of the downtown peninsula. There was a large sculpture, mobbed by bus-loads of tourists. We have no idea what it was supposed to be, and you won't find a photo of it below.

    What you will find, is a photo of the little cafe that we stopped at along the waterfront for a coffee. This cafe was one of the few cafes/restaurants along the waterfront of Helsinki, and Finland in general, that was still open, despite the fact that it is not currently the height of summer. Also, though Finland is a coffee drinking country, it doesn't necessarily partake of the same sort of coffee culture we are used to, from the Antipodes. In many places, your choice of coffee, is take it or leave it. There are no baristas, just filter coffee, which is tasty, but not as good as a proper, barista made coffee.

    The next stop on our walking tour was the waterfront near the Hielalahden tori market. It was a Monday, and the market, which did look to have a lot of tasty looking street food stalls (~10EUR for a meal), was pretty dead. The only excitement, if you want to call it that, was a man getting hauled off by the police and loaded into the back of a police wagon. It was very quiet and orderly. As civilised an arrest as I can imagine.

    Further round the waterfront, we happened on the docks, and a forest of cranes. It was good to see that docks, and the cranes, were still in use, building and repairing ships. Carrying on around the waterfront we passed Finnish body builders swimming in the sea, many marinas, and many kiosks offering 4EUR per scoop of ice-cream. Safe to say that Finland is not the most easily affordable travel destination, but we knew that before we arrived.

    After the journey around the waterfront, it was time to get up above the city. This was achieved through a trip to Ateljee Bar. It is at the top of a 14 storey tower in the middle of downtown Helsinki. It isn't the tallest tower in the world, but Helsinki is a particularly tall city, so the bar has a commanding 360 degree view of the city. It is rather beautiful, and can be yours for the purchase of anything from the bar. We had cocktails and more importantly Courtney had her first Mojito of the trip and rated it 3.5 out of 5 stars. An espresso will set you back 5EUR, a beer 10EUR, and a cocktail 12EUR - give or take.

    Then it was time for an early dinner at Harald's. For the uninitiated, this a Viking themed chain-restaurant, complete with waiters/waitressed dressed as Vikings, and a menagerie of dead reindeers hanging from the walls. You can even get yourself a plastic viking helmet to wear as you enjoy your meal. If the thought of eating at a themed restaurant has you running, screaming to the hills, think again. Once you move passed the themed nature of the restaurant, the food was absolutely delicious. The restaurants are built for large groups, and the atmosphere would be awesome on a crowded Friday or Saturday night, but unfortunately, Mondays are not a busy night, and the place was a pretty cavernous venue to host six parties totalling about 20 people. The place could probably seat closer to 300.

    And that was the day. We repaired to the hotel room, to have a night-cap. Me, half a litre of stale beer left over from my 1L can yesterday; Courtney, half a can of stale cider left over from yesterday.

    Goodnight folks.
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  • This morning was our last morning in the UK. If we started with a hint of regret at our decision to leave, it quickly evaporated as we navigated London, its inhabitants, and its institutions, one last time.

    Whether the angry ramblings of a man at the train station in the morning, forcing his way to the front of ticket machine queue; ill-tempered and mal-adjusted train passngers on the short train ride from Crawley to Gatwick Airport; or the staff at Gatwick airport misdirecting the boarding of our plane, with people for at the front getting on at the back at vice versa. If we are to have any take away from London in particular, and the UK in general, it is the gross inefficiencies that exist. Those inefficiencies allowed us to live a very comfortable and fortunate life, but at the expense of many others, considerably less fortunate than ourselves. With comments like that I feel compelled to add: Vote Labour, Vote Jeremy Corbyn. Not my personal choice, but don't let me stop any of you.

    The flight with Norwegian was uneventful, and featured the wonder that is inflight wifi for free. To all the other airlines out there charging for this particular service, at the same rates as operating a mobile phone in the 1980's, this is what your customers want.

    As soon as we arrived in Helsinki, we picked up our car and headed for Tampere. The only issue with the car being the minor panic that set in when Courtney couldn't find her driver's license. It was found, in Jamie's wallet, the most obvious place.

    Once Courtney got used to driving on the other side of the road again, The drive from Helsinki to Tampere, represented a reasonably uneventful two and a half hours. There were cars, trucks, and lots and lots of lakes and pine trees. The latter two being the symbols of Finland. On arrival in Tampere, it was time to get some dinner, which involved a trek across town, 25 mins at most, to a wee Malayasian restaurant, tucked away in a residential area. Finnish cuisine, doesn't offer the greatest options to your average vegetarian, so we went for what amounted to the easiest option at the time. We were both tired.

    Easy or not, the food was very delicious, if a bit expensive to the unitiated. Think London prices, and then add a wee bit more. And then there was a lovely walk back through town to our hotel. Check the photos. Tampere looks very cool, and its a shame we won't get to spend more time here.

    FYI Tampere is the Manchester of Finland. The most obvious similarity being the enormous number of Victorian era factories, making use of the fast flowing water. Tampere is otherwise a very cultured town, with cultural options abound, from operas to museums to fine dining.

    Also, the gravity of leaving London has yet to sink in. The beauty of FInland, from what we have seen already certainly has though.
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  • After a night of self destructing and consuming McDonald's for the first time in years and waking up hating myself, it was time to leave Jvyaskala and drive east towards the Russian border to another small Finnish town - Savonlinna.

    As Jamie pointed out yesterday, my new Finnish culinary faves - Egg Butter (essentially boiled eggs mashed up and combined in butter) and unlimited breakfast Frozen Yoghurt were consumed amongst a room full of heavily bearded and tattooed Finnish metal fans to power the 207km journey. Luckily, I decided against wearing my Justin Bieber tour shirt this morning and opted for my heavy black eye liner instead. We quickly departed with Teemu before he was converted to listening to Iron Maiden and started wearing Anthrax t-shirts and before we knew it we were zig zagging through countless lakes, pine trees and countless speed cameras, which seem to be located approximately 100m away from one another. Teemu remained quiet in the cheap seats while Jamie and I discussed global news and the quality of Finnish coffee at truckstops. My take was that the coffee out of the thermos was actually quite good, all things considering. Jamie thinks I've just forgotten what good coffee tastes like.

    Speaking of truckstops, the lowest octane petrol here is 95 and averages €1.35 (compared to UK prices at £1.10) and the average speed limit on the open road is about 100 km/hr which causes my inner Lewis Hamilton to scream with boredom.

    Another interesting Finnish fact is that summer lasts for approximately 2.5 months from Mid June to August, where they appear to charge extortionate fees for everything including parking in central areas. As we are now in the Finnish Winter, all towns seem to close down while the Finnish go hibernate in their naked saunas for the remaining 9.5 months of the year and parking is free or greatly reduced in price. Just as well - we will need to save our hard earned pennies for our extortionate dinner with salad leaves made of gold.

    We arrived in Savonlinna at about 1.30pm, which funnily enough is another beautiful little lakeside town. The hotel was completely void of human life and resembled a Stephen King horror setting. We quickly dumped our bags and walked the lakeside waterfront to check out "Olavinlinna Castle" where they offer English tours on the hour. Building of this castle started in 1475 when most of the modern day Finland belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden. Like most castles in Europe, it was used for defensive purposes against the Russians and the Swedish but like any good castle it also served as a prison for those Scandinavian Baddies.

    The afternoon was spent relaxing in the hotel drinking cider and beer named Karhu until dinner which consisted of the cheapest salad and pizza we could find and it still nearly cost us €50 for dinner with a wine each. I am really starting to think that my McNuggets are nutrient dense and should be consumed as an everyday food instead of rarely. I might get fat but at least i'll be fat and richer.

    No day in a new country can be complete without learning new words. Kiitos is Finnish for Thank You while Moi Moi is Bye bye. I think that is the cutest way of saying Bye Bye I have ever heard. Also, "Teemu" is a top Finnish Boy's name.

    Mojito Update: Still no Mojitos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ankle Update: Swelling pretty much gone, still bad bruising, walking down hills/stairs is hard
    Phone Update: Still in Poland apparently...

    Moi Moi!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Finland, Finnland, Finland, ፊንላንድ, Finlandia, فنلندا, ܦܝܢܠܢܕ, Finlandiya, Finnlånd, Фінляндыя, Финландия, Finilandi, ফিনল্যান্ড, ཕིན་ལན྄ཌ།, Finska, Finlàndia, Finsko, Fińskô, Финлянди, Y Ffindir, ཕིན་ལེནཌ, Finland nutome, Φινλανδία, Finnlando, Soome, فینلاند, Fenland, Suomi, Finlande, Finlân, An Fhionlainn, Suòmaidh, ફીનલેંડ, Finnlynn, Finlan, Pinilana, פינלנד, फ़िनलैण्ड, Fenlann, Finnország, Ֆինլանդիա, Pinlandia, Finlando, フィンランド共和国, ფინეთი, Ufini, Финляндия, Finlandi, ហ្វាំងឡង់, ಫಿನ್‌ಲ್ಯಾಂಡ್, 핀란드, Šuomi, Pow Finn, Finnia, Filandɛ, ຟິນແລນ, Suomija, Filande, Somija, Finlandy, Финска, ഫിന്‍ലാന്‍ഡ്, फिनलंड, Finlandja, ဖင်လန်, Pinrand, फिन्ल्याण्ड, Fînlande, ଫିନଲ୍ୟାଣ୍ଡ, Pinlandya, فېنلانډ, Finlândia, Finlanda, Suopma, Fëlânde, ෆින්ලන්තය, Fínsko, பின்லாந்து, ఫిన్లాండ్, Finlándia, Финланд, ฟินแลนด์, Finilani, Pinlan, فىنلاندىيە, Фінляндія, فن لینڈ, Phần Lan, Suomiyän, Finlandya, פינלאנד, Orílẹ́ède Filandi, 芬兰, i-Finland