It might come as a surprise, especially because we are talking a country of the deep North where temperatures are not exactly mild, especially winter time, but outdoor activities are a crucial part of Finnish lifestyle, no matter what’s the season.
For many reasons Finland has been the country of my firsts. Well, not all firsts, obviously, but when it comes to outdoor activities, that’s pretty much it. To begin with, this was my first time in Finland, and during the trip I went kayaking for the first time, had a sauna for the first time, did zip wires, swinging bridges and other shaky stuff for the first time at Vierumäki Flowpark (don’t get too excited here, I did the easiest track and I was already exhausted), and also went canoeing for the first time.
My canoeing performance started in Hartola, near our base, Linna Hotel, right on the shores of Jääsjärvi Lake, where our guide, Helena of Maahisen Muki ja Mela (here their website, if you are familiar with Finnish, or here her number if you’d rather book by phone: +358 50 569 6117) explained to us how to behave once on board along with some useful tips on how to avoid capsizing, how to face a rapid (even the tiny ones we found on our way) and also how not to get stuck in the bushes or in the rocks (like I did).
After our little outdoor class, we jumped on a canoe and started our trip on the calm waters of Jääsjärvi Lake, just to get warm and familiar before facing the not-so-raging flow of Tainionvirta River and its first small rapids. We did some 4 kilometers and took us a couple of hours, but depending on how experienced you are and on the trail you choose, it can take you from a couple of hours up to four days, like the trail from Hartola to Sysmä (here you can download a useful brochure on the Tainionvirta route).
Whatever your level of experience is, the best way to fully enjoy the landscape, the seemingly endless stretch of water, the local vegetation and the occasional fish and birds, is to go slowly and stop from time to time to marvel at some of the wonders nature unleashes in this untouched corner of Europe.
A trip around quaint Hartola is kind of water-themed. After canoeing along the lake and the river, and a mandatory scrumptious snack at Koskenniemi guesthouse, we went back to our hotel via an inspiring trek along a wet bog where we managed to delve into the local way of life and traditions, from enjoying the peat right in nature to berry picking, from float fishing to simply hiking surrounded by nothing but trees interrupted only by fluffy expanses of golden barley.
We saw quite a few people fishing, both a man fishing directly from the water and two from the boat. For all of them the common feature was one and only: silence. Fishing in Finland is seen as a way of meditating, reason why silence is the first step to reach a true peace of mind.
Below you can see the rest of the shots I took during this walk, images that will inevitably inspire you to unplug from your daily routine and plunge headfirst into this tranquil spot of southern Finland.