Winter has come

Merry Christmas and happy “biking” year 2015!

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If you are to use your bike and ride in dark winter conditions, as we do here in the north, then some piece of advice worth mentioning.

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Equip your bike with a front light! You can find models at a rather decent price from any bike shop. I opted for Moon Meteor 200 lumens. I find it particularly handy as it fixes on the handlebar or onto the helmet. It is also USB rechargeable and I certainly don’t mind the cost (just above 50€). Compared to other lamps I’ve used so far this one has by far the best lightning quality.

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In addition to a reflector I also mounted a model designed by Knog, a silicone-based light called Frog strobe. The designers came up with a rather interesting and very funny story telling for this lamp. Anyway it’s a really convenient device which is easy to release from and set to the frame.

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So whether you ride on cycling paths or in town, remember to use front and rear lights ! Ooops, it seems I forgot to switch on both lamps…

IMG_6076Porvoo river in the archipelago on Christmas Eve

Summer bathing in Staffas

It’s been a while since the last post. Time to catch up 🙂 Despite the sun being reluctantly shy the past month, I decided to take a refreshing dip in a lake nearby. There are quite a few natural bathing beaches around Porvoo and one I gladly recommend is Staffas, at a mere 5km from the centre of Porvoo.

Grab your bike from the Porvoo tourist office, underneath the bridge, and start riding along Mannerheiminkatu (one of the city’s two main streets) in the direction of the town of Loviisa.
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Make sure you keep riding on the left side of the cycling path, allowing the pedestrians to walk on the right. At times this area may be busy (as the picture won’t show here) and neither pedestrians nor cyclists will necessarily pay great attention to which lanes they ought to be walking or cycling on.

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The street goes slightly uphill, but as you may have to stop at several crossroads your legs will barely feel the strain. Go straight on and as you leave the city centre you’ll notice a gradual change in the city landscape.

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Two-storey detached houses with their mansard roofs and nice gardens are typical of this district. We owe this area to Finnish architect Bertel Jung, who planned it in the early 20th century. At one point, you cross Sibelius Boulevard; you’ll see it on your right. Make sure you feast your eyes on this particularly interesting and uniform area with its carefully aligned trees and big wooden-frame houses!

Continue straight on along Loviisankatu and note the coloured lanes of the pavement! You are still advised to ride on the left side, despite the lack of pedestrians here. Upon arriving at the signpost “Isnäs” you turn to the right and then immediately to the left, following the same signpost.

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You now enter the area called Tarmola, a more industrial part of the city. Ride for about 300 meters and oh, wow! 🙂 this is the place where they produce chocolate…yummy! You may just want to pop into the Brunberg shop on your way back!

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Arriving at a roundabout, cross the street to the left then immediately cross to the right and continue to Isnäs. You now have to ride on the left side of the main road. Don’t worry! The cycling path is wide and away from the motorized vehicles. This is something I like about most Finnish cycling paths: they are designed to be separated from the main road by at least 10 meters!

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After a good 2.5 km along the cycling path, going mainly down and slightly up, you’ll notice the signpost for the swimming area. You now ride on the gravel path. It goes up so take it easy 😉 but when the sun is shining even a small hill is fun to ride up, isn’t it?IMG_5735

Continue along this path, passing a street on your left as well as a centre for elderly people (Hongas palvelutalo). Your ride is about to end after a few hundred meters, at a parking place. Attach your bike to the bike rack and continue on foot down on a forest path to the swimming area.

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The place called Staffas is actually home to a manor, with fields and forests totaling 70 hectares in area. Upon my arrival I only saw fields, trees and a neatly and freshly mowed lawn, I surely failed to spot the manor! Anyway going down the path to my final destination of the day I sense by the freshness in the woods that I’m close to water.

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It only takes 5 minutes to walk down this path until you can enjoy the view over the lake, which is called Veckjärvi. It was pure silence compared to where I was 15 minutes earlier in the noisy city centre. I spotted a rower (can you see him, too?!)

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I did not intend to follow him, although I saw two small boats attached to the jetty. You can use the boats for the sole purpose of crossing the lake to Hasselholm beach, giving your arms a workout for about 200 meters.

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On the other side there are changing rooms, toilets, showers and a supervised beach. There’s even a cooking shelter and playgrounds for kids. Definitely a summer destination for city people of all ages!

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So should I row from here? I just take a look around and…

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..such a nice afternoon view from the pier!

I glance upon the hill behind and see a cabin up in the woods. There’s a path going up to this cabin, and here you can put on your swimsuit before coming down to the pier on the shore and taking a dip in the clear water.

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Well, hum, it’s quite muddy up there! Besides there are hundreds of ants (and pretty big by Belgian standards…) busy carrying and working their way up and down so I guess I’m going to put on my swimsuit on the bench here by the shore instead.

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The bottom is here more gravelly, whereas it’s more sandy at Hasselholmen. At this place the lake shelves deeply right from the edge.

Kuva 2 (30.6.2014 19-43)

Kuva 3 (30.6.2014 19-44)

Kuva 4 (30.6.2014 19-46)

The refreshing dip from one of the two piers 🙂

Once you’re done with swimming, why not enjoy an ice-cream in town by the river! Or stop by the Brunberg factory and make your selection of sweets 😉

Whichever you choose, get back to your bike, ride back to town for 5 km following the same cycling path. The cycling path now goes upwards! After the roundabout you need to continue riding on the left handside of the cycling path. Continue straight along Wittenberginkatu (from here the road goes down all the way to the river 🙂

This area of the city is called Velkala / Velskog. The main street with its detached houses is cut with narrow streets for fire prevention purposes.

At the end of Wittenberginkatu, at the crossroads, the street turns right. You may cross it here and continue on the other side: you are now on Aleksanterinkatu. Follow it until it reaches the bridge by the river, you’ll cross at least five crossroads. Don’t go over the bridge, but turn right and you are now on the riverbank.

Choose among one of the “kioskit” where you’ll get your ice cream!

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Vanhanajan suklaata ja kupin kahvia = chocolate (old days recipe) and a cup of coffee

Well deserved 🙂

 

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seen from the hill

Riding from one hill (Linnamäki) to the other (Näsinmäki) while overlooking the old town!
Even if the ascent is not that long, it is quite steep, enough to start sweating 😉 But it’s all worth it! Then you step out of the bike and contemplate the scenery. Getting people up here to stare at the urban landscape in full silence for minutes weighs gold to me.
Not a sound from here, just the whistle of the wind in the pinetrees…

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The lunchplace Honkala revealed itself an ideal stop by then. Fortunately, it is located on the same hill. On the menu house-baked herring with mashed potatoes. Yammi! It got me revigorated 😉 The interior was also quiet, nicely furnished with pictures on the walls and objects from the old days on the shelves. It all made me feel like I was in a familiar place despite being there for the first time.

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Then I went down the path on my right and ended up to a viewpoint where Albert Edelfelt came to portray Porvoo’s uniqueness in the late 1800’s. He is one of Finland’s foremost artist who was the first Finn to be recognized internationally in his field. And he had a tremendous influence on Finnish society for years to come thanks to his drawings for Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s epic poem The tales of Enseign Stål.

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Credit picture: https://www.finna.fin

That view has barely changed 116 years after Edelfelt immortalized it.

One of the blogger I have come to appreciate for her high-quality pictures is Milla from Porvoo. She’s previously written a post here about that place many of her fellow citizens but also foreigners do love.

Do you, dear reader, also have a favourite place near your home you wander to when you want / need to find peace or just relax? What’s then special about it?

Linnamäki, the place where it all starts again

Catching glimpses of Porvoo with a camera has to be a blogger’s favourite pastime. And rightfully! Strolling around on the cobblestones or wandering in the centuries-old pinewoods in the vicinity of the old town has an amazing soothing effect.

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Last Monday I went for a biking tour in the surrounding woods of Castle Hill (Linnamäki). By the way not to be confused with Castle Black, for those of you out there reading and watching GoT 😉 Going up and down with a mountain bike is a nice way to work out in open air and enjoy the panorama at the same time. After those years I’ve lived here I like to re-discover the city in spring; there a strange yet familiar beauty about Porvoo which never ceases to surprise me.

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The word Linnamäki has actually given its name to the city of Porvoo, as it suggests a place where people from abroad mainly from the Baltic countries, Sweden and Germany came to trade with the people living north of the river in the early medieval times. This castle was ideally built at the junction of the sea and the river. The name of the town itself in Swedish, called “Borgå”, reflects that particularity. In Swedish the words “Borg”(= castle) and “Å” (= river) were combined to designate that place of trade.

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A good deal has been written and said about the history of Porvoo. Just go here to read a short English version. Or you may want to purchase “The Book” compiling files and facts about cities of Porvoo and neighbouring towns Loviisa and Lapinjärvi. Interestingly “The Book” features the three languages at the same time.
So while reading a part of the 324 pages, even though you concentrate on the English text, you may get your attention brought to the Finnish or Swedish version telling the same story on the same page. Maybe that could explain why the book was well received from the general public and the press alike.
It stands on a good place in my shelf in any case! Here you can read about “The Book”.

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Today Castle Hill is a recreational park and a natural area part of the Porvoo urban national park. On the May Day many Porvoo citizens enjoy celebrating Vappu (in Finnish), Valborg (in Swedish). Families with kids enjoy picnic with a traditional glass of sima, special lemonade from lemons, brown sugar, and yeast. It is accompanied with tippaleipä (in Finnish) or struva (in Swedish), these are doughnuts and a crisp pastry fried in oil made from a similar, more liquid dough. (Wikipedia) As a Belgian fond of pastries and chocolate, I have adopted this pretty delicious patry, still not to the point of baking it, but rather buying it 🙂

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Credit photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e3/Sima_and_tippaleip%C3%A4.jpg

What about you? How do you celebrate May Day in your country or town? Do you also enjoy particular food on that day?

Swans are back

The sun rose today at 6.46 and is due to set at 19.58. We enjoy longer daylight hours now that we have switched to the so-called daylight time.

This morning I decided to go and have a quick tour to one of the birdwatching towers in the neighbourhood. As usual I realized I had forgotten my binoculars at home… Still I was surprised to spot some swans along with ducks and gulls. Swans at least are on their way back to Finland. They stop each year in this bay called Kodderviken for some weeks before heading further north where they’ll mate.

When riding back home I couldn’t resist making a detour on Albert Edelfelt’s path where I spotted other couples of swans bathing in harmony. As you’ll see in the short clip I made the creatures are able to rest on the thin ice with no fear of slipping through it.

In Porvoo and in many other places in Finland people practice birdwatching or birding as I learnt from wikipediaIn Porvoo there’s been a local association called Porvoonseudun Lintuyhdistys since 1962. It has engaged in promoting birdwatching and raising awareness to the protection of birds. In Kodderviken especially the association members propose guided tours on April 3rd, 2014.

They’ve also come up with a tradition, that of laying 2000kg of oat on the usually ice-covered bay in order for birds to feed when these are back to Finland and the lakes are still covered with ice. This year the bay is already free from ice though and I wonder how they’ll manage to lay the oat. You can listen here to a radio report where two people are interviewed by the Finnish broadcast (in Finnish).

 

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