Call of the North (23): The One Thousand Lakes

August 1

The 1000 lakes are actually more than 180000 (one hundred and eighty thousand!), and this morning i didnt know what to do with them. There i was in the middle of Karelia, the Lake District, and i wndt have liked to leave without checking them out, at least a little. One option was a cruise to Heinävesi – about half way up towards Kuopio, and back by bus to Savonlinna (i like this name so much!). The second option was a small cruise around Savonlinna, about 2 hours. The third option was just leaving to Helsinki.
Another question – what to do with the luggage? Stay one more night here? Leave luggage here, but check out? Leave it at the railway station? Take it on the boat?

Eventually I decide to take it “downtown”, and see from there. So I walked down to town (no hurry this time), trying to find my way on the map. At first I ignored a car which seemed to want to stop next to me, but then I heard the honk. I look up from the map – the lady in the car was waving.

“You seem to need help”

“Er… yyeaa, I’m trying to find the way to the tourist office, for a cruise.” (in my mind i was doubting that she can help me with a cruise from behind the steering wheel).

“Well, i’m driving to the office anyway, and it’s nearby, hopp in.”

Wow. Ok. I jump in, she takes me there (while I realize that the shortcut i thought i took was a longcut), telling me that she used to be a tour guide and when seeing people in touristic need she feels the urge to help.

God bless.

“Are you traveling wiht interrail? Noo, you are too old”.

“Thanks :), but I am actually traveling with interrail”.

From the short conversation I find out that apparently “men are driving the good cars in Finland, women – what they get.” I think – this old car is perfect, my increasingly heavy backpack makes no discriminations at all.

She recommends to take a cruise even if it’s clouded like it is. We arrive at the touristic office, which is closed. It opens at 9am, it is 17 before 9. My patience is up at a quarter to 9, so I say – anyway the Heinavesi boat leaves at 9, so no point waiting here – better go down to the harbor and see what’s shippin.

I reach the harbor at 7min before 9. The small cruises leave at 10 or 11, cost between 13 and 20 euros. Well, one of these it is then, i say. Let’s just quickly check further down, maybe I can find MS Puijo, which is leaving for the longer cruise, see whats up with that, if i can find it. If not, fine.

After the first corner, i notice MS Puijo. I check it out, look around – there were two men outside, talking. The alledged captain comes out, looks around, goes back in – one of the two men outside calls him back, to see what’s with me. I ask out of the blue if they give discount for interrail travelers. no expectations at all in my mind, but doesnt hurt. The trip was ~60EUR, a bit on the expensive side. He says no, but we have student discounts. How much? 54 EUR till Kuopio. But i want only to Kerma and back. Aha. Let me look. He goes back in, but the same guy calls him back and tells him something. So the captain says – look, this man is the owner of the boat, he says you can come for 30 EUR, as an “interrailer” alright. Last offer.

…mmmmmmok. let’s go.

So off we go, immediately. Along the Savonlinna castle,

entering the Lake World.

I’m on board now, writing. Deck is full.

Cold.
It starts to rain.
Everything is blue-grey-ish. The lake, the forest, everything. It’s raining in the distance. The lady from the hostel was right, it’s not much fun when it’s raining. I imagine that on sunny weather, it must me much more colorful.

But the other lady was right to. I’m glad i took the trip. God knows when i’ll be back to Lakeland – at least i get a glimpse at what the 180000 lakes are about.

Rain has reached us. I’d better close the laptop.

(…)

Rain didn’t last long. And, miracle, a patch of clear sky!

I then had a chromatic revelation – probably one of the main reasons for the “clear sky and blue ocean” is the reflection of the sky in the water! It’s a logic thing, but for one who has rarely seen the sea, I never spent much time thinking about it. I just knew that the Black Sea was called that way because the first Greek colonists who entered it found it stormy. And if it was at night too… pretty clear, huh.

On the lake, you could clearly see how the water was blue under the clear sky patch, and grey elsewhere.

Causing general enthusiasm on deck (inhabited only by me at the time), the sun came up in the distance too! Which again changed chromatics

and finally reached us.

That didnt last for long either, we turned towards more clouds

but still. I had prayed for a little sun, just to see how it is, and i got it. Thank you!

In the meantime we entered more narrow channels, also seeing first traces of “civilization”,

finally coming close to the image i previously had about the “land of the 1000 lakes”.

The trip went on amidst this kind of landscapes,

cold, but not too cold,

clouded, but with some sunny intermezzos, received enthusiastically.

And with other things learned, for example about the Saimaa seal species, endangered, but with protection they managed to grow the population till about 300. 300, like the last Spartans of Leonidas. I’m afraid they will have the same fate…

Meanwhile, we reached the locks.

making the transition between lakes where you have level differences.

Most of them apparently made by russians, when Karelia was under their rule. Boats were the main means of transport then (even now, not many roads or railroads).

First lock was ~20cm level difference, the second one ~1m, the third one, where I got off, almost 2 metres (!).

Here in Kerma i got off the Puijo

and took a minibus back to Savonlinna. Where it was raining. I realized that I had taken this trip to Northern Europe unprepared for the most likely meteorological phenomenon I was going to meet: rain. I had taken no umbrella. I figured, my rain coat should protect me + camera alright if it rains. What i didnt think of is how it could protect me + camera + 2 backpacks, one of them huge. Luckily, rain was rare during the trip, and even now in Savonlinna it didn’t last for long.

So after a delicious salmon soup at the “Red Salmon” restaurant on the lake, on to Parikkala and finally Helsinki, for the last night in Scandinavia. Time flies.

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