Summer trip 2016

I wanted to travel around Finland this summer as well, so I rented a car again. First I spent the weekend with my mother in Heinola, and then from Monday to Friday I was on the trip. My main destination was Koli National Park, but I stopped in many other places on the way. The numbers in the left margin of the journal are the distance I drove (in kilometres). There are quite a lot of photos, because I didn't have the heart to remove any more.

The photos can be enlarged by clicking.

Published .

Heinola, July 1–3

I went to the car rental on Friday afternoon and after packing I started driving.

In Heinola.

On Saturday my brother came to visit and we made a trip to Rautvuori cliff. This is the view from there and my brother at the edge.

Northern spleenwort (Asplenium septentrionale). The third photo shows sporangia. In the last photo there is oblong woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis). Two years ago I also saw sheep's bit scabious (Jasione montana) here but now there were none.

Five ravens flew above us. It was difficult to get decent photos, but here's one.

Secret messages written by larvae.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) and yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). A closer look at purple loosestrife in the second photo.

Olavinlinna Castle and Arvinsalmi ferry, July 4

I had visited Olavinlinna Castle as a kid and wanted to go there again. I also looked at the map and chose a route from Savonlinna to Joensuu along small roads, and there happened to be a ferry trip on the way.

In Savonlinna. I arrived at the castle just as a guided tour was starting.

In the chapel of the Church Tower there are functioning miniature pipe organs.

Pigeons outside the grid.

We went to the top of the Bell Tower and after that listened to the practice of Otello for the Savonlinna Opera Festival. In the middle, the remains of Saint Erik's Tower. On the right, a model of the castle.

I left the highway for a smaller road to go to Joensuu via a town called Liperi. Arvinsalmi ferry is on the way. Not counting a few breaks, it goes back and forth day and night. I arrived just as cars coming to this side were leaving and were able to board immediately. I was the only passenger, but as soon as we got off the shore, other cars started to arrive.

On the way from Savonlinna to Joensuu, I admired how many harebells there were growing on the side of the roads. They didn't get any fewer on the rest of my trip.

In Joensuu, I went to buy some food. I didn't take any kind of cookware with me, but I bought stuff I could eat as is.

Koli National Park, July 4–5

I arrived to the village of Koli at the start of the evening and went to see a flower garden owned by a friend from university. We drank coffee and checked out the garden.

I went to Räsävaara lean-to and observation tower. It was raining slightly and very foggy. In the place where Eero Järnefelt painted the pond below, I couldn't see anything, and the tower was the same. I didn't even go all the way to the top. Apart from the poor visibility, decisive factors were my acrophobia and the nearby thunder.

I could hardly see the pond even from the shore.

I saw tufted loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora) for the first time. There were also bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) leaves but no flowers.

I meant to sleep at the lean-to, but there were already four men there, so I decided to drive to Koli and spend the night on a nearby camping area. The weather forecast said it wouldn't rain early in the morning, so I thought I'd climb to Koli as early as possible.

First I drove to Koli harbour on the shore of lake Pielinen and went for a swim. The water was cold but nice.

The camping area was a grassy area next to an empty-looking pasture. There were already some child campers. I put up my tent next to the pasture fence (front right).

I wasn't falling asleep, and a little over an hour later I heard weird footsteps. I had to check what beast is stalking me. Right next to my tent on the other side of the fence there were two horses. I got up and took photos of them. They liked to come close but didn't stay still, so in all the photos at least one of them is blurry.

I got up at 5. I hadn't slept much anyway. A little past six I was ready to go. The railcar going from the parking lot to the hotel and Nature Centre was luckily already in use. It was fun to ride in. First the rail was quite steep but the rest of the journey was nearly horizontal. The Nature Centre wasn't open yet, and I didn't visit there even later in the day.

Here's where it started.

It was a short walk to Ukko-Koli vantage point, and I was there already at half past six. It was a beautiful white quartzite rock, and the whole landscape was whitened by fog. A couple of times I could get glimpses of the lake Pielinen below, but otherwise the landscape couldn't be seen. The rock also had some engravings. At first I was there alone, but after some time another man came there.

I also took a photosphere on Ukko-Koli. It can be seen here. You click it open and then you can turn the picture around by dragging with the mouse.

The stairs towards Akka-Koli. There were several stairs built from rocks like these.

Akka-Koli and the altar below it. It seems at least weddings are organized here.

Paha-Koli (the name means Evil Koli). There was nothing evil in it for me, on the contrary. I ate while sitting on the edge of the cliff and listened to two ravens croaking somewhere below me. Little by little the fog was dissipating and eventually I saw both the ravens and the landscape.

I liked these two narrow islands. A fisher came there with their boat.

A nice flat rock surface. A pine tree had found a crack big enough for its roots.

Quartz and kyanite.

Kolinuuro is a bog between Paha-Koli and Pieni-Koli hills.

There are several meadows in Koli, and they are maintained by scything and grazing. The first was Mäkränaho meadow. It had a lot of flowers.

Miscellaneous flowers and a wig knapweed (Centaurea phrygia).

A beautiful chimney sweeper (Odezia atrata) came first to my sleeve and then to my finger. It didn't want to leave.

Purolanaho meadow. On the right, alpine bistort (Bistorta vivipara) with its flowers and bulbils.

Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea). I saw these for the first time, and there were a lot of them.

Among them there were some heath spotted-orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata).

On the path to Mäkrä hill, there was this coat-of-arms-like figure made of roots and moss.

View from Mäkrä to lake Jero.

View from Mäkrä to Koli, and the same zoomed in. The distance is a bit over two kilometres. There are two or three people in the zoomed-in photo on the left side of the mast on the flat rock next to Paha-Koli, but they can barely be seen in this resized photo.

Ikolanaho meadow. I grilled some sausage on a campfire despite the thunder getting nearer, and there was still almost three kilometres to the car.

A little before getting to the parking lot, it started to rain lightly, and the thunder was more frequent. Just as I got to the car, it started pouring. I took cover inside the car as lightnings were flashing. It lasted for about half an hour, but I rested in the car for a while even after that, being tired from the badly slept night.

When the weather had cleared, I climbed to Ukko-Koli again to see the landscape from there as well. The second photo is towards the north.

Memorial plaque for the painter Eero Järnefelt, and sacrificial crack. The crack is located near the north-western end of the hotel. People have thrown coins in there in the old times.

Railcar going down.

Because I was in no hurry, I went to Räsävaara hill again to see if the landscape could be seen better. I could see the pond a bit, but otherwise it was still foggy there.

I went for a swim in lake Pielinen again.

At the start of the evening I arrived at the parking lot of Pirunkirkko (Church of the Devil) cave about ten kilometres south of Koli. The cave is twisting and about 33 metres long. Witches have lived there and according to legend the cave is only the entrance to Devil's actual church, which can be seen if you climb all the way to the end of the cave.

Along the path there is a nice rounded rock forming the edge of a crack. The stairs down to the cave get steeper at halfway.

The entrance is small but inside you can easily stand. The maximum height of the cave is seven metres.

The first chamber of the cave, and the narrower part after it. There is a bridge over a pit in the last chamber.

The furthest part of the cave. On the way, there is a nice tree root which seems to have turned to a part of the rock.

The entrance from the inside.

After coming back from the cave, I drove for a bit more. I parked on a short logging road I happened to see, and put up my tent (the rain cover is missing in the photo). There was a perfectly round pond there.

Kitee, July 6

I woke up at 7. I slept better than the previous night, but I woke up every now and then when the ground felt uncomfortable. My back was aching a bit in the morning. After taking down the tent I started driving. On the way I stopped to look at two ravens that were sitting on a tree branch right next to the road.

I drove through the town of Eno and turned to a small road. This way I got to cross river Pielisjoki twice and I didn't have to drive on boring highways.

Mönni bridge.

River Pielisjoki, first to the south, then to the north.

3 + 1 gulls.

Water of the river and a gull on a breakwater.

Amanda's blue (Plebeius amandus) on a lady's mantle (Alchemilla sp.).

In Joensuu I went to the store again.

As I was driving towards the town of Kitee, I saw a sign to a birdwatching tower and decided to go check it out. But there were no additional signs along the road and I didn't know where to turn. After driving a couple of kilometres I assumed I had already passed it, and googled to see where it should be. Instead of turning back, I decided to take a longer trip and circled to Kitee centre on small country roads and drove back to the original crossing. Now I found the tower.

Around the parking lot there grew wood cow-wheat (Melampyrum nemorosum).

Päätyeenlahti birdwatching tower.

The whole Päätyeenlahti bay is protected under the Natura 2000 network and it also belongs to the list of internationally important wetlands. Its vegetation is very rich and it suits well for aquatic birds.

I didn't see any other birds than a whooper swan couple with chicks (Cygnus cygnus). Further back I also saw a glimpse of two other whooper swans.

When the other swan stayed in the nest, the other one took off.

Longhorn beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata) on a willowherb leaf.

A little after Kitee town there is a forest with wolf's bane (Aconitum lycoctonum). In Finland, wolf's bane is only found naturally in Kitee and the neighbouring Tohmajärvi.

The area is fertile forest. The path was difficult to see at times: in places there were few signs and the shrubbery had a bit overgrown.

Most of the wolf's banes were at the beginning and end of the path along the road.

I also saw a few creeping lady's-tresses (Goodyera repens). I started to like these small orchids when I saw them for the first time last year. There should also be common twayblade (Neottia ovata) in the area, but I didn't see them.

I thought this was multiflowered buttercup but I wonder if it's actually meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris). I didn't take any other photos of it.

As I was driving to the place where I was going to spend the night, I happened to see a gravel pit and went to see it. The sand had nice strata in it, like in an ancient canyon.

Nice racomitrium moss (Racomitrium canescens), a pretty common knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare) and some fine-looking cup lichen (Cladonia sp.).

This car won't drive anymore.

I also took photos of flowers along the highway. There were a lot of harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) here as well. I also saw among others spotted cat's ear (Hypochaeris maculata), greater yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus angustifolius) and mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica).

I think the butterfly on this ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) is a heath fritillary (Melitaea athalia).

I had chosen the campsite on a map. There was a parking lot next to Syrjäsalmi strait in Kitee, and next to it there was forest and a lake. There was still time before nightfall, so I explored the place and took photos. I found 310 rubles in Russian banknotes on the shore. I wonder who had dropped them there.

Bridge, railroad bridge and railroad.

There were a lot of flowers along the highway. Plenty of wood cow-wheat and more spotted cat's ear than I had ever seen before.

Among the cow-wheats there were a couple whose upper leaves were white.

Here I went for a swim. The bottom of the lake was sand and rounded rocks, a pretty good place to swim. For the first time ever, I had to secure the tent with hooks and a line, because the wind was so strong that the tent almost flew away. While waiting for sleep to come, it was nice to listen to the wind and the waves. At this point, my back was already aching pretty badly.

Parikkala Sculpture Park, July 7

It rained a little during the night, but in the morning it didn't rain and it wasn't windy anymore. A red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) was howling on the lake.

While driving, I decided to take a longer route via Punkaharju esker. I only drove through, because I didn't see a good place to park the car.

Next I went to visit the sculpture park of the sculptor Veijo Rönkkönen. It was a nice place.

Entrance and a dinosaur.

Yoga practitioners. One had meditated a bit too long in the same position and had been covered by moss.

Dancers among snowdrop anemones, and the favourite sport of Finns: waiting in line.

The paths are paved with patterned concrete tiles. In one place, the concrete has big glass marbles in it.

I liked the many owl statues. There were also other birds in the park.

Väinämöinen, a gardener resting and a camel.

A woman reading something. Hey, it's a Donald Duck magazine.

After leaving the statue park, I stopped on the way again to take photos of harebells.

At noon I was in Imatra and went to see my friend. We had lunch, had fun with her pets and went to see the town.

In the evening, I went to the Taavetti Fortress. I had been here with my family before. There were texts around the fortress telling about its history.

I spent the night next to the highway on the shore of a lake. There has been a parking place before, but it has been closed with an embankment. I managed to park my car and put up my tent on the old asphalt. Even though the ground was hard, it was good to sleep on, because it was so even. In the evening, a lot of trucks drove by, but either there were none at night or I slept so well that I didn't hear them.

Hamina, July 8

In the morning, I packed the car so that it would be easy to carry all the stuff home.

On the way there was a beautiful meadow of rosebay willowherb.

The last destination on my trip was the town of Hamina. I've often looked at its circular streets on a map and I wanted to see them myself.

There are a lot of beautiful old houses in the town. An old school, St John's Church, Town Hall.

Orthodox Church of St Peter and St Paul with its bell tower.

A cannon and some brick building in a park.

Reserve Officer School.

As I was taking photos from this embankment, a person from the military came to tell me that the area is for military only. There were no signs to distinguish between the town and the military area.

St Mary's Church, a cannon on the Bastion embankment and a paved path from the street to the sports field.

I was home in the afternoon and after unpacking I went to return the car.


It annoyed me already before leaving when I saw in the weather forecast that it would rain a lot. Fortunately it only rained when I was driving and during the night. Only twice I had to walk in a raincoat for a bit. In Koli the fog prevented full enjoyment of the landscape, but it was good that I saw at least some of it. And the fog was beautiful as well.

I'm wondering why my back didn't like sleeping in a tent. I haven't had problems with it before. It is still a bit tender but getting better.

In Koli the paths are wide, even and in good condition. Of course there is a lot of climbing and in some places there are stairs made of rocks which are not easy for people with bad legs. To Ukko-Koli there is also a route without stairs, but I didn't take it myself. Camping is allowed only in particular places, one of which is near Koli. There are also campfire sites and dry toilets in the national park. You can get water from the Nature Center and in some camping areas. I had water in a canister and I only had to fill it in Imatra.

Information about the places: Olavinlinna Castle, Koli National Park, Papinniemi wolf's bane forest (in Finnish), Parikkala Sculpture Park, Taavetti Fortress (in Finnish).