VeloFinland-2003 or 8 days in BikeLand

Map VF-2003

Chapter 0. Why did we decide to go through Finland by bikes.

In August of 2002 our team (my 15-years-old son and me) were in 5-days bike trip clockwise around Lake Ladoga. After Sortavala we decided to visit well-known Waterfall of Tohmajoki and Ruskeala Marble Quarry.

Karjala-2002 photo 1      Karjala-2002 photo 2

So we did it and were surprised at good quality of road surface, especially after broken roads of Hiitola-Kurkijoki route section. The explanation of this miracle was found soon, old woman in Ruskeala said:" Finns built this road". So we joked: "Let's go to Finland immediately and test roads there". But we turned to Ladoga: we didn't want to make it angry. Weekend has come, so a lot of Finnish cars appeared on the road. We appreciated friendly and quiet Finnish car drivers in comparison with some Russian drivers. And that was another reason to visit Finland by bikes. So we understood: it is time to move our bike tours to North-West next summer.

Chapter 1. Prepare sledge during summer and visa - during winter.

(from Russian proverb:" Prepare sledge during summer and horse cart - during winter")


This chapter is not actual for Finns and most of foreigners, so it is short in English version. There were some difficulties in Finnish consulate, but Finnish Enquiry Service man in window-8 helped me to persuade Russian inspector-woman to accept our applications for visa without Invitation from Finland or prepaid habitation. We did not need to stay at cottages or hotels, because we were going to stay at nights in our own tent in any camping or forest. At last we had got our passports with 15-day visas inside just at the end of April 2003.

Chapter 2. Crossing border: by bus or car? (June 2003)

The first variant of our bike trip was to go from Petersburg to Kuopio by bus, and then to return to Sortavala via Savonlina-Joensuu-Värtsilä by bikes. But it was a poor choice, so we decided to go to Imatra by bus, and then to Savonlina-Kuopio-Joensuu-Värtsilä-Sortavala by bikes. Or we could go to Imatra by car of our friend Sergey, as he inended to go to Helsinki at the end of June. We still were not ready at June,20 and so was the weaher: cold and wet. Two days before our departure we tested our bikes in one-day trip on Karelian Isthmus. Suddenly on the rise to big hill the Derailleure rear of Oleg's bike was collapsed on two pieces. So after temporary shortening of chain he went home by 1-speed bike. Next day we installed new Derailleure rear and were very glad that we've got this collapse before, but not after departure.

Chapter 3. From Home to Finnish boundary (June, 30)

We were ready to go by the afternoon of June, 30. Then Sergey arrived in his car and he was very wondered: he expected to see folding bikes. But our bikes were too big for his small car. We took off all wheels and saddles, so all bikes, bags and knapsacks were forced into the car, but very small space was keeped for Oleg. The way to the boundary took us about 2 hours. No problems were to cross the border. Finnish frontier guard man tried to find illegal vodka inside rug for slleping, but he was disapointed, because we did not have any illegal products. Then - congratulations and correction of all watches at minus 1 hour - and we are in Finland!

Chapter 4. From car to bikes. (June, 30)

The first Finnish town was Lappeenranta. Then we intended to go to Imatra by bikes, but Sergey suggested to carry us to Imatra. So we have got minus 30 km of bike distance and Sergey - plus 60 km of his way.
elk near Imatra - before start

Near Imatra we found a small glade for assembling of our bikes, then took out of car bikes and luggage. After thanks and saying goodbye to Sergey we assembled bikes and loaded bags and knapsacks.

Chapter 5. Start on bikes. (June, 30)

Russian Svetogorsk (Enso) was about 10 km from us, but we went to the opposite side. Traffic on bicycle paths was not too small. We met a lot of bicycles, sci- or scate- rollers, motor bikes and runners by the way. StoraEnso
We passed through Imatra without stops, because it was 10 p.m. and we wanted to find a good place for night stay in any forest near lake. We felt strange smell during 20 minutes of way in Imatra. Then we saw the source: StoraEnso factory with giant smoking chimney-stalk. The same smell was near Svetogorsk (Enso), where I was in May on bike trip. Then bike path turned away and the smell disappeared. We were glad about good quality of bike paths, so I forgot about map (copy of "Fllary GT4") and lost it on the road. We returned about 2 km and found the map on the road. When bike path disappeared, we moved to main road 6. It was easy to go there, because of good road surface quality and wide band between white line and edge of the road. Then we turned left to road 4063 toward Pohja-Lankila. The road was very quiet almost without cars. It was time to find a place for night stay. We found a place near lake not far enough away from the road. It was not the best choice, but we it was too late and dark to look for something better. We prepared supper on our gas-stove and went to sleep into the tent.

Chapter 6. Move to North (July, 1)

In the morning we found that the place was not ideally clear, but after Russia there was great progress to ideal. The place was marked with letter "V" - that means "place to stay". After breakfast we continued our trip to North. Soon after Pohja-Lankila we were pleasantly surprised with bird-watch tower. mushroom

Bird-watch near Pohja-Lankila

From the tower we could see wonderful lake with duck family on it just 10 meters down from us. Really nice view! After 30 minutes of moving we entered to Punkaharju region. Soon we found info-board "Opastus-info". These info-boards helped us much in this trip. After Kultakivi we turned to unsurfaced road. It was better than some surfaced roads in Russia. So our average speed was still good. We found super market in Punkaharju and decided to by some soft drink or juice. Oleg went to the shop and I was waiting for him, listening to Radio Nova. At that time a drunken man (he arrived to the shop by bicycle!) came to me and tried to say some words or sounds with a smile on his face. I did not understand him, except one word like "onni" - it could be "happiness" in English? Then he disappeared in the shop with his bottle companion.
Oleg near Punkaharju Punkaharju
After leaving Punkaharju we went on road 4792 in narrow neck between two lakes. And we really enjoyed with views of fantastic beauty around us. On Laukansaari we went to Lusto - Forest Museum of Finland. near Lusto 5 minutes remained before close of Museum, so we took some pictures near monument of country man with a horse carrying a cart full of logs. Then we turned to Savonlinna via Moinniemi. Small traffic on the road was good compensation for more long way in comparison with main road 14. It was not easy to find place to stay for that night. Most of good places near lakes were occupied with houses. But the second attempt was successful. We found beautiful glade at the lake shore about 13 km before Savonlinna. It was the best place to stay outside of campings during this trip.

stay 13km near Savonlinna      lake 13km near Savonlinna


Chapter 7. "Linna" means Castle. Let's go there. (July, 2)

This day we intended to visit Olavinlinna - the first Finnish castle to be built for use in the era of firearms - in Savonlinna. Soon after start we found bicycle path, then turned left. Views from giant bridge in Savonlinna impressed us deeply. Olavinlinna from the top at the left side and the vast expanses of Haapavesi to the right side.

Olavinlinna from bridge      from bridge in Savonlinna

After the bridge we reached the centre of Savonlinna. We walked there about 3 hours. We visited some shops and Tori (Market place). Photographer of local newspaper asked us to stay for taking a couple of pictures. But he did not speak English. It seemed to be not interesting for him who we are and where from or to did we go.
small dog
Near Citymarket we saw a small dog waiting for its owner. A 50-60 years old Finn sat in front of the dog and smiled to it about 5 minutes. After that he went away and suddenly I heard woman said to her man (he stepped close to the dog) loudly in Russian: "Oh, My God, don't step on it!!!". I went to them and greeted in Russian, but they seemed to be very busy and answered to me almost nothing.But 10 minutes later two middle age Finns went to us and spoke in Russian(!). We talked about 5 minutes and it was very pleasant. They wished us to have a good trip. And then our good trip had to be continued to Olavinlinna.

Olavinlinna entrance Savonlinna
First of all we could not find the bridge to the castle. Just in that time it was turned temporally to pass some boats or cutters. Then the bridge returned to the place. We left our bikes and luggage before the bridge, because bikes are not allowed there. Walking in the castle without guide was forbidden also. So we waited for 1 hour before the beginning of excursion. There were tourists from whole world, but only we were from Russia. And it was not enough to ask for a Russian guide. So we decided to join to English speaking tourist group. First guides were French, Deutsche and Italian - speaking women in uniform. But English guide was a young man dressed in shorts and he was looking not serious enough. It was wrong impression. We are very appreciated to him for good English and sense of humor.
Orthodox church in Kerimäki We left Savonlinna by the same way via the giant bridge, but then turned left to the main road 14 and than to road 71 to Kerimäki. There we saw big wooden church, and then went toward Savonranta. After 25 kilometers suddenly thunderstorm began. We stayed in forest about 30 minutes under upper cover of our tent. After end of thunderstorm we found a place to stay for a night near Pyyvesi. A place was not the best and about 200 meters from some houses or cottages, but it was too late to look for something better. church

Chapter 8. 80 km to Karvio (July,3)

from Bridge near Savonranta Left      from Bridge near Savonranta Right

Next day no castles expected. The main purpose of the day was to reach Karvio camping in the evening. Views from bridge before Savonranta compete with each other in beauty. View to right (to Orivesi) seems to win. After Savonranta we visited pretty small Myllymuseo. It took us about 5 minutes. Next 20 km on the road 474 we went up and down the hills, it was not hard, but interesting. Pig-Svnr

Heinavesi22km - Joensuu56km

A big Rock was at the end of the road 474, so we had to choose where to turn. We decided to go to the right via Sarvikumpu. It was the best decision because of four reasons.
-We saved 15 km.
-The road surface was improved for 2-3 years since our map was issued.
-Not improved unsurfaced road was still good and fast.
-And finally we avoided thunderstorm that was 10-20 km to the west from us.
So we were dry and fresh.
When we stopped for a short rest, I found something strange under my foot on the edge of the road.
It was unopened beer bottle produced in 2001 year. Liquid inside seemed to be O.K., but we left it unopened adding label "0 Euro".
beer 2001

Karvio camping comfort

At 19:20 we reached Karvio camping. At the Reception Office we filled form in English and got the plan of camping to help us to find place for night stay. We expected to see a field with numerous tents. But we appeared to be the only tent-owners in whole camping. And places for tent were in the camping small forest (about 100m from side to side). So we chose the best place in this forest. Not far from there we found two old wooden chairs and took its with us. This night we have got improved comfort conditions to relax in Karvio camping.

Chapter 9. From camping Karvio to camping Atrain (July, 4)

This day the first place of interest was Kanavamuseo - the museum of Varistaipale channel.

Varistaipale channel

The channel was built about 100 years ago and it was very important construction of Karvio region.
laavu Next stop was in "laavu" or "lean-to shelter". It was situated near the road. And we took some water for tea preparation from nearby lake. So it took us about half an hour. In the evening we reached the end of road 542. We turned left to main road 17 toward Kuopio

The road traffic had become more alive. It was Friday evening. But we had got enough space to go near white line.
We stopped only once to see the beautiful church near Riistavesi.
church near Riistavesi

Soon we reached bicycle paths. Misunderstanding on map added us about 6 km before we could find camping Atrain. It is situated near fine lake. According to tradition our tent was the only in the camping. The place for tent was not in the forest. But it was close enough to kitchen and shower, so we could easy and quickly to get to there. Oleg asked me how to translate "Atrain"? I joked: "A Train, why not?" But some months later I have got the right answer from Lauri Hyvarinen, manager of camping Atrain:

"ATRAIN is something used long ago for fishing, there are sharp metal heads on the end of a long wooden stick. And when it is dark you go with a boat and with some bright light fishing and you hit the fish with the ATRAIN. Some people do it even now and it is little "extreme" nowadays".

Next day we intended to visit Kuopio without luggage and tent. And then to return to camping for the second night stay.

Chapter 10. One-day trip to Kuopio. (July, 5)

The way to Kuopio was easy and fast. No luggage, fine weather, good bicycle paths were our friends this day. Even when we choused the wrong bicycle path and 2 km added to our distance, it was not a problem to return to right path. Kuopio met us by a short-term rain. We waited till the rain stopped at the bus stop. Soon we got to Market place (Tori).


A lot of people watched a concert of traditional Finnish songs in front of the City Hall (Kaupungintalo). Nearby we could buy and taste various fried fish and pies in the numerous open-air cafe and kiosks. Unforgettable atmosphere of holiday…

Our next place was Kuopion Automuseo. We found it without any problem. It is really nice to watch the 100-years history of motor-car construction. Cafe Mobiili is a good addition to the museum.
Then we went toward one of the famous places in Kuopio - the hill Puijo. The road to the Puijo top was straight and ascent was steep enough. We stopped 2 or 3 times for the rest by the way up to the top. 75-meters tower at the top of Puijo was built 40 years ago. Lift inside of the tower raised us to the upper floor. Sights from the Puijo tower looked like sights from airplane. We could see really that we are in the heart of the Lake District of Finland. That was the highest and the farthest point of our trip in Finland! Puijo tower

Kuopio from Puijo

The way down was a little extreme because of next regular rain. I was glad to see Oleg safe and sound after downhilling.
Next scene was a great surprise for us. Some funny young man helped to one of them to sit at the 1-speed bicycle and to start way to the top of Puijo hill! That man was dressed in suit with a cat or devil tail behind. After he started all his friends sat into the car and went after him. We still do not understand what it was. Maybe it was his work or he lost a bet… Sometimes Finns are very fun…
Puijo spring-board
This day our distance was usual: about 75 km.
In the camping we found our new neighbours: 3 Volkswagen-Beetle and 1 Volkswagen Т1 with old 2-letters numbers. Just camping Automuseo! Cars owners were funny and loud. But after midnight they were quiet.

Chapter 11. Turn for home.

It was sad to leave this good place.

in camping Atrain

After paying camping fee I reminded of my April letter to camping Atrain manager Lauri Hyvarinen. He recognized us. He said we were the first bike tourists in the camping from Russia. We told him about bike tourism development last years in Russia, by the example of "Velopiter" ("Bicycle-Petersburg" in Russian) growth last two years. He reminded us about the web site of camping ( Then he asked were our bicycles made in Russia?:) We answered: Merida is not Russian bike. We said Goodbye and went to the East on main road 17. We passed Riistavesi and turned left to quiet road 566 toward Kaavi. After visiting two supermarkets (Spar and KKKK) in Kaavi we turned to road 573.
field near Kaavi Typical countryside view with army of haystacks on the field looked like rows and ranks of soldiers.
Next part of path we went up and down hills. Sometimes we saw road guide signs with pictures of mountain-skier. It should be mountain-biker too. Oleg near Maarianvaara
In Outokumpu we decided to go toward Joensuu instead of Särkiselkä camping. The reason was to short next day distance and save some time and money. As a result we stayed for a night near Ahonkylä.

Chapter 12. Way to Joensuu and further (July, 7)

This morning met us by a lowering sky. Two hours after start play of weather was continued in the form of rain. Fortunately at that moment we entered into Pohjois-Karjalan vanhin AUTOMUSEO. It is situated 10km before Joensuu. The museum is greatly larger in comparison with Kuopion Auotomuseo. We saw old cars, TV sets, radio within 1,5 hours and took more than a hundred of photos.

Moskvich 407

Our attention was attracted by the exhibits from USSR: tube radio-phonograph "Latvia" and car "Moskvitch 407 4D" produced in 1962.
The rain came to the end. Next two hours we moved toward Joensuu. We intended to visit another museum near Joensuu: Joensuun Bunkkerimuseo. And when we arrived there we were disappointed: the museum is closed every Monday.
Bunkkerimuseo We saw some trenches outside of museum. So we got to Joensuu rather late. Museums and sport shops were closed too. But back tire of my bicycle had become shabby and should be replaced by new one as soon as possible. We bought a new tire in KKKK Citymarket, but old one traveled with us to the end of our trip in Sortavala.
Then we tasted an exotic pizza in pizzeria "Fiesta" and went on the bridge over Pielisjoki. Beautiful panorama!


Next we could not find the right way out of Joensuu. Soon we solved that problem, but two hours later another map misunderstanding returned us to the main road 6 instead of way to Kiihtelysvaara. So we had to stay for a night not far enough from main road 6 and listen to a noise from it. And it was the first time without lake or river near the place to stay for a night. And we used water storage in the bottles that we did two hours before. Not too bad.

Chapter 13. Näkemiin, Suomi! (July, 8)

A noise from road did not disturb to our deep sleep that night. In the morning we repaired our bikes. After breakfast we began our 30-km way by main road 6 up to Onkamo. Then we turned left to road 70. It was really good rest after main road traffic.

to Tohmajärvi

The last Finnish town of our trip was Tohmajärvi. We wondered about sign-boards of the shops in Russian. At the same time a space near the road became rubbish and dirty due to a lot of empty plastic bottles and pieces of papers and so on. Russian influence… It is a pity.
We left our last 10 Euro in supermarket of Tohmajärvi. Our last short food reception stay in Finland was on a small stadium about 5 km before the border.
Custom and boundary procedures in Niirala took us not more than 1 hour. We passed it without any adventures except one: we missed Russian custom house. So custom officers were very annoyed and attempted to force us to declare at least any thing. But we persuaded them that we had nothing to declare. They gave us pass permissions - and 5 minutes later we passed the last post of control.
Meet us, Motherland!

Chapter 14. Hello, Russia! (July, 8)

Our next purpose was to get to 5 a.m. morning train in Sortavala. So we intended to go a 63-km way to Sortavala with a 3-hour stop for a short sleep near Ruskeala. The prohibition of fires remained in Finland and we could use a camp-fire that night. We sat around the fire, listened to radio and then continued our way. fire in Russia

Chapter 15. It is not Suomi, but Russia-…Motherland! (July, 9)

We started at 2.30 a.m., but a heavy rain started at the same minute. So we were very wet 1 hour later. Near Sortavala the rain stopped, but the road surface was from bad to worse. But the best adventures would be in Sortavala railway station. The train to Kouznechnoe consisted of 4 carriages. But only one door of eight was open for boarding. It was evidently not enough for a hundred of passengers (including ten boating tourists with canoes) to enter within 5 minutes. But it was very convenient for alone ticket-control officer-woman, so she refused to open remain 7 doors! And only 5-minutes delay with train departure saved us that time. So we understood: we returned to Russia-…Motherland. crazy train
Next way was usual: electric train to St.Petersburg and bike-driving on city streets to Home.


Näkemiin, Suomi!

Goodbye, Finland!


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