It already smells of autumn. The air is brisk and sharply clear, and the thermometer barely climbs up to a chilly 12º C in the mornings. Summer seems to be over in Finland.
We Finns wait for the summer with strong feelings. The winter is lovely though very long. Summer is sweet and too short. This year we had a cold, rainy and windy summer. Every day we kept thinking maybe tomorrow the heat will come. We had one single day of heat. Oh, well, one must accept humbly the schemes of Mother Nature and this year she was hard on us.
Even then, summer tasted lovely with its overflowing light and its voluptuous greenery.
North Karelia in the East of Finland, close to the Russian border, is a charming place to spend one's summer holidays. Lake Pielinen is the cool, liquid heart of this area that inevitably has made us fall in love with it. The first two weeks we spent on the Eastern shore of this 100 km long lake, in Viensuu, where cosy fields and wooden houses, that look like they popped-out from the 19th century made us feel welcome. A Pinus sylvestris-forest surrounded our tiny cottage with its peace and quiet. The earth we stepped on was covered with moss and small, generous blueberry plants that this summer decided to give us a feast. So many blueberries! We ran around with our hands and mouth tinted blue, tons of delicious tasting antioxidants running in our veins. What a boost of health!
Every morning we swam in the lake, whether it was cold or warm, and we felt the empowering embrace of the waters of Pielinen. We paddled and rowed to lonely islands and we defied the waves when Pielinen was in a stormy mood. Because you can't but love doing sports in these surroundings. The tempting beauty of this big lake is enough to get you on the move, and even the fantastic cheering exercise webpage HeiaHeia is not necessary there: Pielinen takes care of making you exercise!
And in the evenings sauna, ladies and gentlemen: the wood crackling and sparkling in the stove; the heat rising; oh, such heaven! You must live it at least once in your lifetime: Finland in the summer, the woods, the lake and the sauna. It is delightful, despite the mosquitoes. Do not ever let them bother you! They do test your patience, but you can beat them, believe me, with a good mosquito net and mosquito-repellent. Ants crawl all over the place in these beautiful pinewoods, but they're OK if you don't pay too much attention to them. And one night, we had the wind blow the roof of our tent right on top of our sleeping us, all it's structural rods broken (the kids took the cottage, and the parents slept in a tent in a true Davy Crockett-spirit!) Goodness, what summer weather! Still, we loved it!!
And then, a drive of almost 100 km to the Western shore of Pielinen through Nurmes, to Old Koli with its sacred hills, its deep forest heavy with blueberries and its ancient rocks. If there is a magical spot in Eastern Finland, it's here. There is this mysterious place called Pirun Kirkko, the Church of the Devil. The legend tells that they used to have witch hunts there and throw the witches down from the steep hill to a tragic death.
But Koli offers other things besides these ancient tales: outdoors activities with Koli Activ; the charming Hotel Koli up on Ukko Koli, where you can have a cool beer after picking blueberries on Pikku Koli and admire the view; tough beautiful tracks to jog or mountain bike; enchanting landscapes... one can't but be happy in Koli. Oh, I wish I could be there always! Come and see for yourself what jewels we have in this Northern land!