Tag Archives: bicycle

A Lake at Sunrise

10 Feb

It’s been a slow weekend of Radio 4, reading and occasional bike rides. Saturday morning’s trip out yielded this beauty – the sun rise over the lake. Sadly it was the most sun to hit the sky and the rest of the day was cloud-covered and cold. Temperatures have hit another low and it’s chilly, not quite minus twenty though, thankfully. I shall try to be more productive next weekend, but I felt like relaxing and lounging round the house. Any suggestions for next weekend’s itinerary?

finnish lake at sunrise

finnish lake at sunrise

 

What did everyone else do this weekend?

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That’s Right, Everyone Cycles in the Snow!

17 Jan

Apart from me, because I’m a scaredy-cat – and, honestly, I’m afraid of falling and ripping my jeans. Pathetic, I know, but I love my jeans.

Anyway, this post is a hark back to one written by ‘ithinkthereforeiamsterdam‘ – ‘On yer bike!‘ which amused me greatly and opened my eyes to the bike culture of Europe. Honestly, when I used to think of Amsterdam or Finland I didn’t think ‘bike’ – well, now I do.

In Finland cycling is for anyone. Little kids cycle in groups to school, students cycle to class, parents incorporate their kids into their lives by adding a child seat to their bikes. Old ladies cycle home from the store, their baskets heavy with shopping. In England cycling is reserved for health nuts and students too poor to pay for bus fare and many bikes are mangled by anti-social youths with little better to do with their time.

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Here in Finland there is a respect for bikes and the biker; it’s as much a part of their lifestyle as a trip to the sauna. Don’t get me wrong, bike theft still happens, but the majority of people get by with just a back wheel lock to secure their bike. They don’t even have to lock it to anything.  Throughout Finland there is a large network of cycle routes so you don’t have to risk it on the road and these are maintained throughout the winter, making bike travel possible through the seasons. Yes, it’s much colder and you have to be well prepared, but I’ve seen young kids bundled up to their point where only their eyes are still visible, and they’re still cycling.

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This website cites Finland as sixth on the list of ”Top 10 Countries With Most Bicycles Per Capita’ – that is, 60% of Finns are cyclists. It’s easy to see why; walking takes such an age on these straight, long roads and it’s so beautiful why waste the view with a car? Besides, it’s environmentally sound to ride a bike which follows the Finns love of nature and all things eco. Many prefer cycling to getting the bus – it’s quicker, cheaper, better and warmer than standing in the cold while you wait.

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Top tips for winter cycling:

  • Winter tyres – these allow for better grip, especially in early winter when there’s a lot of ice around. If you can’t afford them make sure you’re careful on corners, your breaks work and that you don’t pick up too much speed.
  • Warm clothes – you’ll need really good gloves and boots to combat the wind, as well as a scarf to cover your face, a hat and ski trousers. Wind speed decreases the temperature dramatically so be sure to wrap up, even if it’s just a quick trip to the store!
  • Bike Light and Reflectors – you want to be seen by both cars and pedestrians in the dark nights of winter, so think ‘Christmas tree’ and decorate yourself accordingly.

 

 

 

32: Kummi Family

2 Oct

Well my kummi family were lovely, the day went well – despite my nerves! Kummi means ‘godmother’ or ‘godfather’ and we also have a ‘kummi’ student who helps us move in and settle into Oulu. While I have only seen mine twice other people have gone on trips with their kummi and meet up regularly for activities.

My ‘kummi mother’ picked me up from my apartment and took me to her daughter’s place downtown. They were both really friendly and we chatted and got to know each other a little. Her apartment is great, very spacious and modern, I was quite envious!

Then we went to their family home, just me and the mother, and met her husband and two cats. We sat down to an afternoon tea together and it was great, she had made so much food – blueberry pie, reindeer meat rolls, cloudberry compote with leipajuusto, it was delicious. We chatted for a good few hours and talked about the place and my hometown and my interests, and drank lots of cups of coffee.

My ‘kummi father’ dropped me off at my apartment and I said farewell. We haven’t any definite plans but we have discussed the idea of ice-fishing and baking together which will be nice.

With all my extra energy from the copious amounts of coffee I went for a brief bike ride to a nearby lake. My camera doesn’t do the colours justice, but it was beautiful.

Canned Dreams/Koiteli Rapids

30 Sep

Another week down! Another week of panicked study, quite dull classes and hiding from the rain. This week has been a bit grey all over, other than my trips to Finnkino and Koiteli Rapids.  Monday I also went shopping and found another great second hand store. This one was run by the Pentacostal Church and can be found on Uusikatu, numero 78. I bought a jumper and a scarf for 2 euros, bargain. I also sampled coffee from ‘Coffee House’ in town – yum! What a selection of buns and cakes! 

This year Oulu hosted the Nordisk Film Festival, a showcase of independent films from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. The cinema, Finnkino, is right in the city centre and has a great-modern, cosy and snack filled interior.

We caught the end of ‘The Quiet One’, a movie about a girl who moves from Iran to Sweden and faces language problems, before we settled into ‘Canned Dreams’. It’s the story of all the workers who contribute to the ingredients that make up a can of ravioli. Sounds a bit odd, but it’s actually a really touching insight into the lives of workers all over Europe. Many have sad tales to tell, and life is grim and hard, but there were some uplifting ones too. One man worked the fields every day and told the story of his brother who had been killed in a car accident, by policemen who were drink driving. The man and his brother were very close, but rather than let it make him bitter he finished his story by telling us that his daughter was the meaning of his life, and he was trying to teach her to be wise and as happy as possible.

It was one of those movies that makes me realise that I’m very lucky, that I should work harder, and that I should smile even when times are hard.

After another crazy video-game ride-in-the-dark journey home I crashed out and overslept the next morning. Very luckily my class was cancelled anyway.

Wednesday we took a trip to Koiteli Rapids, something of a hidden gem to us foreigners; before going there I would not have associated rapids with Finland. Despite the cold (8 degrees on the way there, 6 on the way back) we had a great time. It was very beautiful and it would be a lovely place to go back to in the summer. There’s a stage for performances, a summer cafe and many little places where you can have a fire and roast makkara (sausages).

I recommend taking the long way round unless you have a good mountain bike, otherwise you’ll be stuck on 6km of dirt road with a bad bike and sore muscles. It was such hard going on a racing bike with no gears. We stopped to ask for directions from one of the few houses along the way and were lucky enough to meet with a very friendly older Finnish man (with a super fluffy, super friendly dog) who confirmed that we were going in the right direction. 

The summer cafe (closed, sadly).

Towards the end of the week I met with my tandem language partner – I think she was a bit disappointed with my level of Finnish! I felt awful because I hadn’t really prepared very well either, but hopefully she’ll be pleased with my Finnish phrases next week.

Today I will finally meet my kummi family – I don’t know where we’ll go or what we’ll do, but I’ll post an update when I get home =)

Ainola Park

16 Sep

As hoped, today was much more productive. This morning was beautiful, so after a trip to the gym (which was surprisingly busy for 8.30am on a Sunday!)  I went for a bike ride to Ainola Park.

A short bike ride in the direction of the city centre to begin with…


I hope I’m right in saying that the above view is of the Baltic Sea. It was beautiful either way.

EDIT: Thanks to   for pointing out my mistake, it’s the view of the Oulujoku river! Silly me =)

Just before you get to the path which leads to the park there is Linnansaari, or ‘Castle Island’. This is where the ‘ruins’ of Oulu Castle are. I say ‘ruins’ because this is what I found:

My ‘Oulu Guide’ tells me that the castle was commissioned by the found of Oulu, Charles XI of Sweden, in 1605. The castle was destroyed in 1793 when lightning struck on a wooden gunpowder magazine. Kaboom, no more castle. In 1875 an observatory was built in the ruins instead, to teach students of the Oulu Maritime Museum astronomy. What you see in the picture is a pretty little summer cafe which inhabits the spot. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it was pretty enough.

This is the kirjasto (library) and although it doesn’t look much from the outside it’s very modern and swish on the inside. They’ve got magazines in a variety of languages downstairs, as well as free internet, and an excellent section for kids (or novice Finnish readers like me!)

The Rough Guide says this of the park:

It is a ‘ pleasantly wooded space which makes a nice spot for a picnic or a late evening stroll’.

That’s it. That’s all it has to say. What a massive understatement; I think whoever wrote the guide either didn’t actually visit it or was feeling particularly lazy when he got the the ‘Ainola Park’ section. The park is incredibly beautiful, even though the summer has passed and autumn has turned the air chilly and the trees gold. A short walk from the city centre it stretches back a lot further than I was expecting.

Ride past the fountain (which I stupidly didn’t stop to photograph because I thought I’d come back the same way) and follow the path under the underpass. It gets a bit more woody, like this:

Keep going and you’ll get to this:


A stunning park, more like a stretch of woodland or a nature park than the kind of park you normally find in the city centre. The sun was shining as hard as it could, and the place was filled with families and bikes and little kids running around after these little guys:

Finnish ducks!

I love ducks. They are adorable. Watching ducks will cheer me up even on the worst of days, so I’m pleased that I’ve found somewhere with such an abundance of them.


There’s a cafe too, which as far as I could work out is open from 9am everyday, even Sundays! (many shops don’t open until midday on Sundays)

Just next to the cafe are these incredible water fountains!

And another pond with more ducks!

I was truly in heaven.

The park hasn’t really brought to my attention by anyone which is surprising for two reasons. First, it’s so beautiful and, if you’re like me and you like to relax in nature as often as possible, it’s convenient and does the trick. It’s magical and the morning light and golden leaves made it even more so. I can’t wait to see it in winter! Second, it was really popular! It was filled with people, probably the most people I’ve seen in one place (apart from the main shopping are of the city). It’s obviously a hot-spot for Sunday morning walkers, bikers and families.

It’s also home to the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum, Oulu Museum of Art and the Tietomma Science Centre.

If you follow the path right to the end you reach the dams, which you can walk along.

On the other side I found some mushrooms growing – and managed to tread in dog poo. The second time in two days! A great big wodge of it too that embedded itself into the tracks of my trainers and dampened my spirits a little. I really should learn to look out for it here.

The path keeps going until you get back to the path which leads to Linnanmaa, perfect for a circular jaunt. It only took an hour and a half approximately to get from my apartment, through the park and back home again. And it was well worth it.

Hailuoto Island

9 Sep

This is what The Rough Guide to Finland says about the Hailuoto Island:

‘Oulu’s best beaches are to be found on pristine Hailuoto…a perfect way to get here is to hire a bike in Oulu from Pyörä-Suvala…and then cycle out to the ferry in Oulunsalo, a distance of around 27km. The ferry runs all day at roughly hourly intervals and take half an hour to make the crossing.’

Sounds relatively easy right? Sounds like a nice easy jaunt, as though it’s not too far. But in fact, if you Google map it, it’s actually quite a distance. And the ferry leaves from Riutunkari, a part of Oulunsalo and not the city centre, which is an extra 12km (ish) from the city centre.

I did not know this when I set out in the morning and actually thought it was relatively close to the Oulu city centre (mistake) and thus did not pack accordingly. It was worth the ten hour round trip, believe me, but I would advise taking the proper provisions. There are places to stop for food on the way, but not many, and after passing Oulunsalo city centre there’s very little until you reach the ferry. If you’re going in September or later you will need warm gloves and socks at the very least because mornings are cold and it doesn’t get much better by lunch.

That all said, cycling to Hailuoto was a great way to see the Finnish countryside and I made two new friends whilst doing it. We arranged the trip via the exchange group on Facebook and had a brilliant day, even though we had only just met.

I began at 9am from the Linnanmaa campus and met the other two girls at Tirolintie, another cluster of student apartments. We cycled along the edge of the city until we made the highway. The route to Oulunsalo is signposted well (as most routes are) and after about an hour we reached the city centre – although we didn’t realise it was such until we asked an old Finnish man for directions. Maybe it was so quiet because it was a Saturday morning, but it was a very humble city centre.

From there we made our way out onto the highway again. The cycling here in Finland is great because the network of bike lanes is so extensive. Instead of cycling on the highway you can cycle alongside it on very wide, very smooth paths. I expected a lot more potholes in a place with such harsh winters, but I was surprised to find that it was easy going the majority of the way.

We passed many open fields and felt surrounded by the wild. Often there were abandoned sheds in them and very little livestock. We passed through a  few small ‘villages’; groups of about ten or twenty houses, often very beautiful and elaborate and usually with a school set in the middle. All of them were quiet, and we passed very few people. Occasionally a moped or mini-motorcycle would come humming along the cyclepath (which seems to be the norm here), surprised and sometimes baffled to see us foreign cyclists. You must watch out for these because I don’t think that they expect company and occasionally we had to move quickly to get out of the way.

We passed only one other group of cyclists on the way, who looked like they were going a long distance, and they looked much better prepared! Panniers, waterproofs and everything. It made us look like rookies!

We finally ran out of a cycle path after this and passed a very small, very tired looking village. Despite this, they still had a football pitch and a slide in a makeshift playground. The road here was the worst, especially for my racing-style bike, as it suffered from a lot of pot-holes and rough stones. I had to concentrate hard not to get bumped off my bike by a stray stone or particularly deep hole.

After this we were forced to cycle on the open road. Normally I hate this, but it was fine; there weren’t enough cars for it to be a problem and they had plenty of space to go around us. The worst thing was that they were probably all laughing at us from their warm, fast vehicles. It was quite a monotonous ride for a while, with our view being only the single, straight road and trees on either side.

When we did reach the coast we realised that our effort had been worth it. It was stunning. The sky and the sea were so blue and you could hardly tell where one ended and the other began. It was so peaceful that none of the wind turbines were turning; everything was still and calm. A wave of excitement washed over our group, giving us all a burst of energy after the long ride.

Before you get on the ferry you can get snacks at a small hut and use the toilet (which is free and pretty clean, much better than the one on the other side). There are also maps, brochures and postcards for sale, and a giant map showing you the island. We had lunch on a bench whilst we waited for the ferry and enjoyed the sunshine. By this point I hadn’t been able to feel my toes for about an hour and tried to massage some life back into them and soak up the weak sun that was shining down on us. It was nearing 1.30pm so I bought some chocolate for energy to eat alongside my peanut butter sandwich, and was glad for the extra sugar.

The ferry itself was larger than I expected, although this would make sense as it seems to be quite a popular summer destination for the Finns. One of my riding companions also told me that many people from Oulu choose to buy retirement homes on the island, which doesn’t surprise me. It’s a truly beautiful place. In winter the ferry doesn’t operate; instead you can drive across the ice!

     

We were the only cyclists crossing, and once we reached the other side we realised why. Once again a long, wide road stretched out in front of us. Sadly, Hailuoto’s action all seems to take place on the other side of the island. That’s about 20km of riding before you find anything worthwhile. It was beautiful, but it was dull. Next time it would make much more sense to grab a bus or hitch a ride to the other side and back. At the time, however, we didn’t realise this. We cycled for nearly an hour and stop at the place labelled ‘potti’ on the map.  We had a short break as we admired our surroundings. Pictures can’t capture the atmosphere and the colours of the water and the sky. In the distance we could see livestock (possibly cows, but they were so far away) grazing and I thought to myself ‘such lucky animals!’ I also thought how good the meat would be from them, roaming around, completely carefree in their beautiful environment.

       

After this we headed back, content that we had at least seen something of the island. We all said how much we would like to go back in the summer and camp. It felt like we had only really scratched the surface of the experience of Hailuoto and I would have loved to see more. There is only a small paragraph on it in The Rough Guide to Finland and I think it deserves more, if the outdoors if your kind of thing.

It was a long journey home and we stopped many times to rest our legs. Although it was easy cycling it was getting to 5.30pm and it had been a long day. The sunny afternoon turned into a classic autumnal evening, with the sun shining gold on the fields. When we finally made it back to Oulu we were nearly exhausted, but the view over the river lifted our spirits enough to get us home (just).

All in all it took 10.5 hours and we cycled roughly 90km/55miles. Essentially, from Bournemouth to London. If I had known that when I started I wouldn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Which is why I’m glad I didn’t know.

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