We arrived at Lahti in the evening just before sundown and found our lovely Airbnb (link) host waiting for us. The house was a typical Finnish wooden house with a sauna cabin outside. You just had to cross the rail line to arrive at an amazing lake where you can swim, fish or picnic. The immersion was total and truly amazing, the stress of our busy lives, work, living in a big city like London was gone in a snap.
We had dinner at Harald Viking Restaurant, a Finnish branch which makes you feel like a real Viking (reindeer skins, reindeer meat, Viking meals – or at least what you imagine to be Viking meals…). Principally aimed at kids but we really had a good time, food price is expansive but like anywhere in Finland really. (link)
We then headed back home for a well-deserved traditional sauna before crawling in bed.
One of the things to add to your ‘to do’ list in Finland is to get lost. On our second day, we decided to have breakfast on the harbour of Lahti and… got lost. However, we arrived at the feet of some massive ski jump slopes which makes you wonder how do you train for that sport? Trust me it actually is so much higher and bigger than what it looks like on TV. We finally found the harbour thanks to our satnav (some UK satnav will have European maps on it, if not it’s really worth paying the extra at the rental car agency – it saved us a couple of times!) and had a Finnish breakfast at Kahvila (link – in Finnish only sorry).I recommend the fruits tarts, and the savoury pastries, for cinnamon fan try the cinnamon pastry – it lasted us three days! If it is a Sunday, make sure you arrive early (before 10am) as all the locals stop by after their morning jogging session. There is also a lovely park just before the harbour, if you fancy joining the locals for their morning sport routine (we didn’t!).
Our first stop for the day was Pulkkilanharju (bless you! I hope I spelled it right!) however we passed a lovely lake where we decided to try the water.
Pulkkilanharju is an area in the middle of the lakes (how many lakes/inhabitant?). You have the options to park and stretch your legs with a little walk (30min or 1h) around the island (link for walk). From there we did a detour to Sysma to see their supposed stone church, which was… painted. The church isn’t worth the detour, however I got a nice shot of Finnish boats on the bank of the lake.
Next stop: Mikkeli where you can discover a much nicer looking cathedral. Mikkeli is a modern and rather cold city and we didn’t see any tourists there. We arrived at Savonlinna just on time to catch the sun set in our little cottage (link) and decided against the warning of our host to find some restaurant open. Well, on a Sunday evening in Savonlinna all restaurants close around 8pm… However, you always have to look at the bright side and it allowed us to try Finnish fast food: Hesburger. No reindeer burger thought and the taste is unfortunately comparable to any other fast food you’ll find at the corner of your street, so if you can the restaurants on the harbour seemed a bit better to us. We also got to see the Savonlinna caste by night, casting is impressive reflection over the calm water of the Saimaa lake.