In May 2015, Bob from the Nature Travels team travelled to the provinces of North Karelia and Kainuu in Eastern Finland to visit our new experiences in the area. In the article below, Bob visits the Island Cabin with Sauna in Eastern Finland.
Cuckoos, bears and complicated cars
A 2am start from Dorset for the bus to Heathrow, a flight to Helsinki and short hop to Kuopio later, I collected my hire car at Kuopio airport for the 2.5-hour drive to the Island Cabin with Sauna in Eastern Finland (normally guests travelling to the cabin will come to Joenssu, which is just 1 hour 20 mins away, rather than Kuopio, but on this occasion Kuopio was the best option for my onward plans).
I’m a bit clueless when it comes to modern cars (we have an old and very simple VW Fox at home, which does me just fine), and I was a little daunted to be left in charge of a shiny new automatic Volvo complete with Satnav (I’ve never used one before– yes, I know) and a bewildering array of flashing lights and buttons. It took me ages just to work out how to start the damn thing and release the parking brake. And as for operating the stereo…. I set off beneath the afternoon sun into the pretty Karelian countryside, remembering of course to drive on the right side of the road.
The first thing that struck me is that there are an unbelievable number of speed cameras on the main roads in this part of Finland – car hirers beware, the speed limit is often lower than you think! But aided by local host Katri’s helpful directions (the Satnav was useless once I was onto the tiny track leading to the cabin), I arrived on time and without incident.
And what a lovely place to come to after a hard day’s travelling. Words like “tranquil” and “relaxing” don’t do it justice – it’s simply a beautiful spot, completely private, surrounded by forest and water on a small peninsula jutting into the lake. And the cabin itself is a joy – compact yet spacious, with everything centred around the welcoming fireplace. If you really can’t live without a cyberfix, the wi-fi connection is very good too! Though I strongly recommend any visitor here to use their stay to discover life away from the sterile world of smartphones and laptops.
After dinner and a chat with Katri, I was left to enjoy the cabin all by myself for the night. Katri’s parting comment was, “You can run around naked if you like, you won’t see anyone!” But it was still a bit chilly for that, so I turned in early and enjoyed the deepest, most peaceful sleep I can remember, waking to a stunning, bright, calm morning with only the sound of a cuckoo echoing over the lake to break the silence.
Katri met me for breakfast and we spent the day exploring the local nature trails (including, very excitingly, finding signs of a bear foraging for food following its winter hibernation), buying an ice-cream from the Kaupa-auto, the weekly “shop in a truck” that passes through, eating locally-caught pike accompanied by Karelian pies (a local speciality) with lingonberries picked from the forest, and generally soaking up the early spring sun beneath a cloudless sky. I tried to steel myself for a dip in the lake, but chickened out (after all, the last ice only melted a few weeks ago!).
All too soon it was time to tear myself away, wishing I could stay longer. I was heading north to Minna’s guest house, a converted school house and one of the accommodation stops on Cycling and Canoeing in Eastern Finland and Cross Country Skiing in Eastern Finland.