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The Scandinavian Road Trip, Part I


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3150 miles in 25 days (and at a staggering 35.7mpg indicated, 34+ actual).


Was it all worth it?


An unreserved and resounding yes.


It was always going to be a bit of a road trip, but I've wanted to go to Finland for a very long time, and, though the amount of time we could spend between family commitments was limited, this was the year it could happen.


I requested input some time ago on the forum, and posted a couple of times whilst we were on tour, which elicited some interest, so I've resolved to post our experiences, with apologies to anyone who doesn't want to read a number of fairly long posts.


In the planning stage, we'd decided that late May and into June was the best time to target; earlier, and many of the campsites we might use weren't open; later, and the "beasties" were likely to be more abundant, and both Sweden and Finland kick off with major holidays for midsummer day and after. (Much earlier and the roads in the North might be difficult!)


Having reasonably recently visited Northern Germany and Denmark, a repeat trip via a short-sea crossing, and the long drive up to Scandinavia from Calais was less than attractive, so the overnight DFDS Harwich-Esbjerg route was researched, and whilst expensive, fully-costed the difference between short-sea (ferry, fuel and stops) and this crossing were, at best, marginal, and the time saving of 5 or 6 days was critical to our plans. So, the ferry was duly booked (C&CC at 10% discount - which at the web price was a significant saving - roughly two year's membership fees).


We considered targeting mainly Finland, (crossing Denmark and using the bridges to get to Stockholm, then return ferry to/from Finland), but, having enjoyed our previous visit to Sweden, the alternative of a one-way crossing to Finland, and driving North and round the Gulf of Bothnia (via the Arctic Circle - our second such crossing) and back through Northern Sweden (further North than we had previously achieved) attracted us.


Research indicated that the night ferry from Stockholm was the recommended option (for evening views and the route via the Åland Islands), and accordingly a one-way crossing from Stockholm to Turku was booked, via the web on TallinkSilja lines. (though not without some hiccoughs, as my credit card was bounced for a Finnish transaction, and the booking was left "hanging", and not easily recoverable via the (buggy) English language section of the website - the situation was eventually recovered via the (bug-free) German language version, and a long technical discussion commenced with TS customer services).


Arrival in Finland would be on a Friday, and as we wished to visit Helsinki first, given that it was the first weekend in June, I booked two nights at the Rastila campsite there by email. (easy, despite the incomprehensible Finnish language). This was the only firm site/destination plan made.


The Ferry timings allowed for an overnight stop in Denmark after arriving at Esbjerg, a mid-Sweden stop on the way to Stockholm for the late-evening ferry, and then an outline plan of 9 2-night stops, and a last single night near the bridge in Southern Sweden before returning to Esbjerg for the ferry back.


Stockholm is an attractive destination, but one we have visited before, so for the purposes of this trip, it was simply a drive to the ferry.


This "plan" would involve a sustainable (but greater than our normal practice) average of just over 200 miles between stops, though we fully expected to vary our itinerary depending on the weather and attractiveness of location.


So, on 27th May (Bank Holiday Monday) we set off for Harwich, Sirena Seaways, and our big adventure.


For tales of reindeer, elk, midnight sun, saunas (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-(), watch out for the next exciting episodes.



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Thank-you Robin.

We are really interested in your thread as we too are off to Scandinavia at the end of July for six weeks- we are confined to school holidays and so far that has never been a problem.


We look forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.



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Having had an uneventful journey down from Nottinghamshire, we arrived at Harwich in ample time for the ferry, and after diverting to the sea-front for a stroll and an ice-cream, we joined a smallish queue of cars, a few motorcaravans and caravans, a set of "travellers" in multiple vehicles, including a large tag-axle motorhome, and two new and personal-plated his n'hers Bentleys (how the other half lives, eh!) in the queue for the boat.


As an aside, Harwich must be high in the list of most unprepossessing departure points from these islands, and it fits quite nicely with its Essex surroundings.


In the past, we've used the former Color/Fjiord line and DFDS crossings from Newcastle to Bergen and Gothenburg respectively, but of course, these no longer run, and the Harwich-Esbjerg crossing is now the only regular car ferry to Scandinavia. Unlike the previous crossings, (and reputedly unlike earlier incarnations of this particular crossing) this is much more freight-oriented, with limited, though acceptable, public areas on the boat, and a huge, open RoRo deck monopolising the rear of the boat. (also used as the in-voyage dog-walking area - so mind how you go, sir!). On-board food and drink was expensive, though somewhat cheaper if pre-booked (though you have to be a good sailor or an optimist to do that for a North Sea crossing, even in early Summer). We carried our own provisions aboard.


It is roughly an 18 hour crossing; we departed slightly early with a less than full ship, and a smooth sea ensured a good night's sleep, and a timely arrival in Esbjerg at 13:00 local time, one hour ahead of the UK.


During the previous evening, we had hardened up on our first night plans, and decided that attempting to make Sweden for the first stop was probably an hour too far. Accordingly, we changed a small amount of Sterling for Danish currency on board (at a surprisingly good exchange rate), in preparation for an overnight close to Copenhagen. (We had some Swedish currency, and some Euros already).


We knew we could make the site we used for Copenhagen (at Hundige Strand) in reasonable time, but would prefer to visit somewhere new and different, and so settled on Køge, which has two sites within walking distance of the town, is listed as having interesting architecture, and a Wednesday market worth visitng.


We arrived at Køge Sydstrand Camping somewhat before 17:00 in drizzle, and were allocated an overnight pitch with electric at 176 D Kroner (£20). Decent campsite, though it backs onto the dock area (which is being tarted up - sorry, redeveloped), and took a short walk into Køge as the evening cleared, and then indulged in some arty photography on the beach.


Next morning, we visited the much-vaunted market before resuming our journey, and though Køge itself largely lived up to its reputation of being attractive, the market singularly underachieved (at least on this occasion) against its reputation, and provisions were bought at the nearby supermarket.


So, the next leg of the journey was over the Storebaelt and Oresund bridges, and to a pre-researched "aire" at Vadstena as a stopover on the way to Stockholm.


Now, neither of these bridges is cheap in a motorhome, and they have somewhat different charging policies.


The Storebaelt bridge (entirely in Denmark) has a weight-related break point at 3.5 tonnes (and sub-categories for over and under 6m), which means we paid 355 D Kr (£41). A van over 3.5 tonnes will pay almost double this, and even more in the unlikely event it is longer than 10m).


The Oresund bridge (from Denmark to Sweden) dispenses with any weight relation, but has a break point at 6m, which means we paid the over 6m rate of €90.


Both bridges make for a spectacular, if somewhat disturbing in cross-winds, crossing, and for any viewers of "The Bridge", the body isn't still there (and the border isn't in the centre of the bridge, either!).


We reached the "aire" at Vadstena mid-afternoon, and what a find! I'd checked the location on Google Streetview here:




....but as significant extra work has been done since it was "Googled", it really doesn't do it justice. There are now hard-standings for around 20 'vans in double bays, complete with electricity (if required). Payment is to the harbourmaster (either at the office on the quay, or by envelope drop), and from memory this was 130 S Kr with elec (roughly £14). I've attached a picture below, which reveals in the background the most stunning part (the location next to the harbour and "Slott"), a picture of which I've also attached.


It was beautifully quiet when we arrived (with only four other 'vans for company) and we managed to find the Harbourmaster and pay. Over the next few hours, however, things changed. An endless procession of classic (mainly American) cars arrived (several hundred) and parked all around the harbour and the Aire. This was accompanied by several thousand "rubberneckers" (well who wouldn't), a "Country" band, and ultimately by the local "youf", who proceeded to do doughnuts and tyre burn-outs up and down the main through road (mainly in fairly dodgy looking Volvos of varying vintages). In all the coming and going, I omitted to take any pictures, being too busy simply watching.


I think Sweden must have more classic American cars than anywhere outside the States (other than possibly Cuba), as they became a recurring theme on our travels.


We were fairly apprehensive about the coming night, but by 21:00, everything had disappeared (and at the point, when all was quiet, the local Police cruised round, timing things, like police the world over, to perfection!).


Vadstena is a hugely attractive town, one we enjoyed an evening walking around, and we spent the next morning in rain (the last for almost two weeks) doing much the same. If we hadn't had an appointment with the ferry in Stockholm, we could happily have stayed another day or two.


....to be continued


(well, we haven't covered the reindeer, elk, midnight sun, saunas (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-() yet, and of course, there were also the "scary women" 8-) )





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Guest JudgeMental

Great stuff, look forward to the rest. We have been up to Scandinavia 3 times but never bothered with Finland, as from what I have read not really worth the effort...but will read with interest. I just love Sweden and this report may well give us the impetus to get back there.....


The dinner on ferry well above average...worth it IMO..nothing like the channel ferries!


It was possible to overnight in car park of Roskilde Viking centre in Denmark ( worth a visit) not sure of situation now


Have used the Oresund bridge the month it opened and had it more or less to ourselves..since then we have used the ferry north of there as cheaper...


Campsites when we visited relatively cheap, you can pick up a guide at first site

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Thanks Robin;

appreciate the effort, and I agree with Flicka, send it to MMM.

Our plan for a Sweden trip may still be on for October; but your trip is tempting me to leave a longer trip until next spring; I'll see what mrs B thinks.

Looking forward to the rest of your trip

alan b

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Guest JudgeMental

He might have to edit it a bit :D


Good but short summer season. October to late....It can snow in late august *-)

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....the third episode


We left Vadstena shortly after a locally bought lunch, and with some temerity set off for the riot-torn (really!) City of Stockholm.


Route planning had revealed that Stockholm is yet another city that has implemented a "Congestion Charge", policed by ANPR technology, and that the TallinkSilja terminal was firmly inside it. Further research, however, revealed that, in true Scandinavian enlightened fashion, non-nationals are exempt (the more cynical amongst you may alternatively attribute this to the difficulties of international billing).


The evening ferry departs at 19:30, and we had plenty of time to get there, even though Stockholm was gridlocked as a result of roadworks, ironically much of them seeming to be targeted on delivering traffic more efficiently to the ferry terminal we wanted! Having eventually arrived at the Ferry terminal, and following the appropriate signs, could we find a way to get a vehicle in? No way. We'd passed the freight entrance, and we were outside the huge terminal building, and could see vehicles inside, but no entrance! So, we parked up in the adjacent bus station, and went into the terminal. After much rolling of eyes and checking of booking, a desk clerk reached under the counter, pulled out a large pad of printed maps, complete with hand drawn arrows, giving instructions on how to get to the vehicle entrance. Why do I think this was a common occurrence. (there was about a mile's worth of discontinuity in the road signage).


On checking in, we were pulled to one side to check the gas - On confirming it was turned off at the cylinders, the "loadmaster" retorted, "are you sure? People lie you know! I tell them, I don't care, I'm not going on the boat with them".


He then pulled me to the front of the queue, and said, "I'll put you on first, then you'll be off first"......for which I thanked him. He smiled, and added "of course, you won't be able to sleep, because no-one will be able to get off until you do!". And he was right, the 'van was loaded from the blunt end, and placed like a cork in a bottle at the sharp end - no-one was getting off before me! (The ship calls at the Åland islands in the middle of the night, and dis/embarkation for here is at the stern end).


The ships on this route are seriously big - the Galaxy on which we travelled is a 50,000 tonne boat, with a thousand cabins, multiple restaurants, bars, nightclub, casino, etc. and they are firmly aimed at cruise traffic between the two countries taking advantage of the tax-free status. I've been warned on previous visits to Sweden that the weekend cruises are not for the faint-hearted, and indeed working out our booking indicated that the prices increase and availability decreases from Friday night.


The ship had a natty paint job - I'm considering similar to make my 'van a stealth vehicle (might need to go a bit lighter on the penguins, though).


The tip about using the overnight crossing paid off. The evening was beautifully sunny, and the low light as we threaded our way down the Stockholm Fjord was absolutely stunning. Despite having a very comfortable outside cabin, we weren't going to get much sleep!


We were followed out by a fairly large cruise liner which, as it was part obscured by bends in the channel, looked like a block of flats moving across the land behind us.


We finally made it to bed, but managed to look out on the unworldly scene at the stop in the Åland islands. The sea was absolutely flat calm, and the half-light at 02:00 rendered everything both washed-out and mirrored (in the sea) at the same time - absolutely beautiful (but impossible to photograph through the porthole :-( ).


So, up bright (I'm lying) and early the next morning, at 06:00 ships time (07:00) Finnish time, as it is an hour ahead of Sweden (i.e. now two hours ahead of the UK). Sure enough, I was first off at Turku and ready to provision up, and drive to Helsinki for our city visit.


For those of you with the stamina, we will eventually get round to the reindeer, elk, midnight sun, saunas (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-() yet, not forgetting the "scary women" 8-)


........to be continued




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A ferry of DFDS "Sirena Seaways" has sustained some damage after hitting the dock, bow on at Harwich today at 12pm. An onlooker said "It's got a hell of a list to port"


All passengers are safe and off the ferry,so that's good news.


Just got in before me RH.





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So, now we were in Finland, land of the unintelligible language, and a complete new experience for us.


Having arrived at Turku in the (very) early morning, the first destination was Rastila campsite in Helsinki, for a two night stop. On the way, however, we needed to stock up with (perishable) food having had various parts of the journey so far where the fridge was, of necessity, turned off. The quickest route to Helsinki was via motorway standard road, but that would deliver us to the campsite somewhat earlier than pitch availability was implied. The need to shop also dictated that we took the by-ways, hoping to happen on a supermarket.


(The booking confirmation email I'd had from Rastila implied that earliest check-in time was 15:00, but I'd emailed them back, and they confirmed that 15:00 was in fact the latest check-out time, and the chances of having a pitch available before then were generally good, but that our first night (Fri 1st June) was the start of the School Holidays (early enough for us to have discounted this possibility!) and that they were expecting a major influx, so they couldn't guarantee early availability. We resolved to arrive around 12:00, giving us 1.5 full days in Helsinki).


We soon encountered a huge supermarket, and had the delightful experience of buying rather a large amount of food on appearance only, as any description was totally non-understandable. The selection and pricing was generally pretty good, though we found bread expensive (the varieties available were diverse, and ultimately through our purchasing we tried all sorts of bread, all very nice, trying to decide on our favourite).


Finland is, of course, a Euro economy, and we had cash if we needed it, but this supermarket, and just about every other outlet we used for any service, readily took credit card (in fact, we saw very little cash used anywhere by the locals).


Two other bits of commercial background; of the countries we passed through, Sweden had the most expensive (diesel) fuel, followed by Denmark, with the cheapest being Finland (at around €1.40/l). Both Denmark and Finland were cheaper than the UK, and on this leg of the journey we managed to "jump" Sweden on Danish fuel.


For the drinkers amongst you, whilst Scandinavia is no longer the "alcohol desert" it once was, the prices (wine in particular) in the Swedish Systembolaget, and the nicely named Finnish Alko are a good mark-up on those at home (though the selection isn't bad). We were well-prepared; for the first time we had stocked up on wine boxes (as it turned out, a very common sight in the recycling bins throughout our tour) and judged it to a T, with the supply running out on the last night of our holiday. Beer is a slightly different story; local (Carlsberg, Tuborg, etc.) even high strength lager (8% upwards) is quite affordable in Danish Supermarkets. Swedish supermarkets can only sell low-strength (lower than the general UK home market) beer, anything else is in the Systembolaget. Canned beer of UK strength in Finnish supermarkets is just about affordable (around €1 a can) and given the temperatures we experienced, was an item we sampled (and took a supply back into Sweden).


Throughout our tour, we had little problem in finding fuel (many automat only, with English Language prompts) or supermarkets (with a general opening throughout Finland and Sweden on Sundays).


So, we arrived at Rastila shortly before 12:00, and took up our booking. The site is a typical large-city site, in fact overlooked by blocks of flats, and with "pull-thru", hardstanding pitches of two widths, broad and narrow, the latter costing slightly more, and providing for parallel parking of a caravan and car, or a full awning. They'd allocated one of these for my booking, and though I could have managed with the narrower pitch, I wasn't going to argue. It's an entirely acceptable, though very busy site, its main advantage being that it is the closes to central Helsinki, and adjacent to the Metro for rapid access to the centre.


Sweden has always had it's own "camping card", and many, though not all, sites will not allow you to book-in without one. The latest incarnation is the "Camping Key Europe", which is a chargeable purchase. Whilst its use is not compulsory in Finland, almost all sites recognise it (similar in use to a CCI carnet) and, more importantly, many (unlike Sweden) also give discounts if you use it. Hence, it made sense for us to buy it at our first site in Finland (for €16) and gain the advantage of the discounts. Though the systems were down at Rastila when we arrived, we paid on departure, bought the (temporary, cardboard version) card at the same time, and immediately benefitted from €8 discount on charges. Subsequent use and discount in Finland more than paid for the card. After the discount, the pitch plus electric cost was €31 per night (€2 less if we had gone for the narrow pitch).


By this time, the temperature had reached the mid 20s, and was rising, so, a quick lunch, then off to the Metro station to buy a two-day (actually 48 hour) travelcard for €12 each (valid on Metro, Trams, Ferries, Buses, etc), and to explore the city. Helsinki is a bit like a slightly downmarket Stockholm (and none the worse for it). The sights in the main aren't quite as spectacular, but it is sufficiently new and different to make up for it. We made the most of our travelcards for a day and a half, covering the area by Metro and tram and much walking, the highlights being the waterfront, the markets, the ex-military island of SuomenLinna (with picnic bought at the market), and just generally drinking in the difference of the place. Sadly the "art nouveau" frontage of the train station was covered up for restoration, but there were other good sights. The common sight of Russian registered vehicles added to the sense of difference.


One thing that dawned (no pun intended) on us at this stage was that, if you were prepared to push yourself a bit, the late evening light (even this far South) meant you could easily cram a full day's activity into an afternoon and evening - this augured well for our planned two-night stops.


So, slightly sadly, but looking forward to the more rural areas, and knowing we had left enough for a future visit, on the Sunday morning we headed North with the temperature still rising.


to be continued........


(since we still haven't covered the reindeer, elk, midnight sun, saunas (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-() yet, nor indeed the "scary women" 8-) (though I might prefer to forget them)










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For our potential campsites in Finland, we were working from the Finnish Campsite Guide, downloaded from...




...and stored on the netbook. By cross-reference with Archies Camping POIs it looked reasonably comprehensive, and to make things easier, we had picked up a printed copy at Rastila.


The closest site to our intended driving distance North from Helsinki was Visulahti at Mikkeli, but a quick check revealed the nature of the site, and its association with "Dino Park", making it not our bag at all. The next alternative was Juva Camping, a little further North.


This turned out to be a good choice. A little out of the small town of Juva (and not far from the main road junction with the, now seen by us as customary, cluster of petrol stations and supermarket), this was pleasantly situated under pine trees on the edge of a pretty large lake (and on a major canoeing trail).


Our drive North had indicated that Finnish roads (at least the main ones) were generally very well surfaced and remarkably short of traffic. This remained our experience throughout, and the traffic reduced even further as we proceeded Northwards, diminishing to another vehicle being in sight maybe every half-hour or so!. Accordingly, the 'van was run for miles on cruise control at an indicated 50mph (the lowest feasible continuous speed in top gear). This no doubt accounts for the remarkable fuel consumption figures already highlighted, and contributed greatly to the relaxed feeling of the whole trip.


It should be noted, however, that though the trunk and secondary roads were well maintained and tarmaced, anything lower down the chain was likely to be unsurfaced, and varied from reasonably small and relatively smooth gravel surface, to rough-strewn stones and rocks; which extreme proving entirely unpredictable from our maps and the size of the settlements served. We became more confident of assessing which roads would be surfaced as we progressed, and thus adjusted our route to be more adventurous, but without going "off piste".


Another thing became obvious this early in the journey; with no real point of reference for the language we weren't really picking up many words (and I'm usually pretty good at assimilating stuff as I go along). We passed a multitude of Nordic "site of interest" signs (see picture below) with associated descriptions, but were entirely unable to decipher them. As a result, we didn't know whether we were missing some otherwise unmissable sight (though, to be fair, almost every one would have taken us a good few kilometres up a rough, unsurfaced, and often very narrow road, so blissful ignorance might well have been the best policy). In reality, some sort of dictionary might have proved useful!


So, Camping Juva gave us our first taste of more rural Finland, and a chance to slow down a bit. Temperatures by now had reached the upper 20s, but the "beasties" were still largely absent, and we spent two nights here filling our time by chilling out, cycling round the lake and visiting Juva itself. Oh, and ultimately the temperatures made the lake look so attractive, we did a bit of swimming as well.


With a €2 discount for the card, the nightly price for a pitch and electricity was the princely sum of €15 - a veritable bargain.


For anyone who hasn't used Scandinavian campsites before, invariably the facilities will include a basic to well-equipped kitchen, complete with cooking facilities, and often fairly comfortable dining accommodation, all included in the price. Though it is a provision for general use, it is there because campsites almost always have some rudimentary cabin accommodation, often utilised by people without their own cooking facilities. Many of the sites we used, being on the edge of lakes, also offered affordable boat, canoe, bike etc. hire, and in Sweden and Finland it wasn't unusual to find a sauna for hire, often with a free communal (though sex-segregated) session thrown in at a fixed time.


Oh......and Juva was our first encounter with the scary women!


Fairly late a couple of caravans pulled onto the site, and then even later, in the dimming light, an apparition of a woman with a strange costume and no visible means of perambulation drifted between the trees and disappeared. 8-). Shortly after, another identical one did the same, and then another and another! It was all fairly strange and a bit like a scene from Dr Who, with the latest "monsters" appearing and multiplying.


The illusion was destroyed slightly when we realised they'd all walked off in different directions to have a fag and converse on their mobiles (something that they seemed to continue to do for the rest of our stay there). It didn't look like traditional Finnish costume, so we tended towards the theory that they were Romany, something that further experience consolidated, and research since getting home confirmed. The archive picture below isn't quite accurate, but believe me, in the half light, with them apparently floating soundlessly across the ground and multiplying, they weren't half scary!


So that gets the scary women out of the way, just the reindeer, elk, midnight sun (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-() to do now (though, the scary women may re-appear next episode).


To be continued..... (if, of course, anyone is bothering to keep reading all this).







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Yes agree with others, would love to see a report in MMM, with a breakdown of costs, map route etc. Even the obvious is not so, if one has never been before. I am eager to read more and it has wet the lips, so to speak.

On another point, what do you think of your Hobby?


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Currently sitting on the Arctic Circle at Santa's Village Napapiiri Finland where we have wild camped for 2 nights along with other motorhomers and caravans as well. We are just about to go and fill up with water foc before heading south to Helsinki and across Baltic to Tallinn. We crossed into Norway on 7th May and travelled all the way to Gamvik, which is the furthest north you can travel on MAINLAND Europe, and have never been in a campsite yet. We are using Santa's free wifi connection to post this.




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So, onwards and Northwards again.


Having now gained some confidence that more of the roads were surfaced than we were previously relying on, we amended our possible route to move us much further eastwards, towards the Russian border.


The Rough Guide intrigued us with its description of Nurmes as being Russian influenced in its architecture and layout, and the campsite there, Hyvärilä, looked somewhat intriguing (and daunting), being a conglomeration of Hotel, Sports Centre, Summer School, Golf Course and what have you.


Accordingly, we departed from the main North-South E5, and headed East to find ourselves joining a tourist route signed as the "Via Karelia" (at last, a sign we could almost understand!).


The weather was still holding out, but heading West the storm clouds were building, and, just before lunch we were hit by a torrential thunder and hail storm, which lasted only about 10 minutes, and then we were through it and out into bright sunshine again.


Hyvärilä was another good choice, the complex had a very large, dedicated camping area, well grassed with with hard standing pull-throughs, and was adjacent to the obligatory large lake. As with our previous site, there were few 'vans there when we arrived, though a couple more arrived later.


The complex had facilities for all sorts of activities, the Hotel did reasonably priced set meals (all day), and also breakfast if you wanted it. The nightly rate here, including electricity, was €22 (inc. a €2 discount for the card).


As a further aside, all of the sites we used on the trip, without exception, were either manned late into the evening, or had instructions to pitch and pay later. Arrival times if you got delayed, or simply wanted to travel late, were not a problem.


The site was within walkable distance of Nurmes, which we visited, and found the layout as the Rough Guide had described; rather different to our towns so far. Having strolled round on a very hot late afternoon and evening, we passed the local "pub" (well that's what the sign said!) and stopped for a beer (ordered by sign language, as they use the same marked glasses for two different capacities). Sitting outside, a conversation ensued with the locals, which encompassed everything from the weather (much better than last year), the effect of the PIGS countries on the Euro, and the perils of potentially opening the Russian border. (in retrospect, it all feels a little surreal).


The next day remained hot and sunny, so we had a stroll to the adjacent "Karelian" village (a reconstruction) and then a long walk on a marked track, through the trees and to the further part of the lake. What a beautiful day! As we found in the rest of our journey, the forest was criss-crossed with paths, snowmobile tracks (inevitably leading out over the lakes, which would of course, then be frozen), remote bbq locations, free camping huts for walkers and canoeers, etc. Oh, and the odd swing seat or two ;-).


We also had a second encounter with the Scary Women (or at least, another coven). Several 'vans on the site contained them, and their behaviour was much the same as previously (fag and phone). Our then impression that these were probably travellers or Romany was reinforced when the Transit Vans parked next to one of their caravans were eventually opened to reveal large loads of "liberated" copper piping!


Our two nights being up, North again.


This time, the target was to be Hossa, very close to the Russian border, and this time nowhere near a town of any consequence.


Provisioned up, we set off, and experienced more than our usual difficulties in getting a reasonable lunchtime stopping place. Whilst the roads are delightful for views, most of the many parking places are simply not well placed for them, and the lakes are generally set slightly back from the road, behind trees (ample parking for a car at the roadside on many of them, to support the fishing, but nothing big enough for a 'van). Decent stopping places ARE available, but you have to wait for one. On this occasion, the obvious spots were already taken by motorcaravans (French), and we encountered a bunch of them when we pulled in to walk round a visitor centre and monument to the Winter War with the Russians. (indeed one French 'van conversion was setting off from there down one of the worst unsurfaced roads we had seen which bore a signpost to some (unintelligible) sight kilometres away towards the Russian border (rather him than me). We got away from the French by departing quickly, and immediately then found a stopping place that they hadn't colonised.


So, we soon found ourselves at the campsite at Erä-Hossa. This is so close to the Russian border that if you went East from the road, you were almost immediately in the 3km marked exclusion zone.



To be continued..... The reindeer (:-)) and mosquitoes (:-() are imminent, and you haven't heard the last of those damn frogs ;-)












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Hossa was bl**dy brilliant. Miles away from anywhere, on the edge of a huge, trail-marked walking area, (and, of course, the obligatory lake) and only one caravan and one motorhome on site.


The site itself was a bit like Juva Camping, under the trees, and with non-grassed, non marked-out camping areas. We booked in (the site was run by an older couple, and this was the only place where language difficulties intruded, solved by the arrival of the young assistant - probably the daughter, who spoke some English - we'd undoubtedly have got by on sign-language anyway), and carefully selected an isolated position with the best view on the site. Cost was €20.50 with elec per night (after discount).


Having got ourselves settled, and having had a stroll, a brew, and getting ready to walk along the lake, the peace was interrupted by the arrival of a French motorhome............to be followed, in small groups, by another 22 8-). So much for the splendid isolation!


Now....the campsite itself wasn't small; it had a plethora of electrical connections, but somehow, the aire mentality seemed to prevail. They all proceeded to park much closer to each other than was necessary, and jump each other's electrical connections in order to get power! Having circled the wagons, they also circled the chairs, got the wine out, and appeared to be planning the next day's journey. I suspect they were in convoy off to the Nordkapp, and we expected to find out by chatting later, but no..........


...After some frantic activity involving watering the 'vans and invading the laundry room, and despite a beautiful warm and light evening, (why would you want to miss the evening views?) they all retreated to bed (or possibly to the dubious delights of satellite TV - or maybe something else!). No sign of any of them taking a meal or indeed (and luckily, since the site only boasted two for each gender) a shower (which goes some way to reinforcing my views of the French).


In a similar manner, the first one was off before we arose the following morning, and we saw little evidence of any breakfast either! (lots of wine boxes in the recycling bin though!). We never did find out where they were going.


Anyway, when all the fuss had died down, and they'd disappeared to bed (or whatever) we went for the late evening walk along the lake, and spooked our first reindeer (when I say spooked, it's a bit of an exaggeration, since it was pretty tame and simply ambled slowly away from us when we got to within 6 feet or so).


The next day, we bought a schematic walking map from the site (much sign language over where to walk, and the availability of kahvi at an isolated visitor centre some miles away) and set out for a long day's walk along a series of marked trails, following ridges, lake shores, bridges and forests for some 20 miles or so. An absolutely glorious day (and kahvi - and dare I mention, a doughnut - on both the way out and back!) A big thumbs up all round when we got back to the site. (well, I did say sign language would suffice).


Two downsides to this site, one minor and one major!


Firstly, and a minor price to pay for the delightful location, this was the only place on our travels where we didn't have (or couldn't somehow get) a WiFi connection. Throughout our travels, we managed to get free WiFi; mainly from a free site service, (two had chargeable services) but where this wasn't available via Tourist Offices, Community Centres, or the odd open "guest" network. Hossa didn't have a site service, and there simply was nowhere within miles likely to have an open connection.


The major issue was that this was the first site at which the "beasties" really struck. At times, there was enough breeze to keep them at bay, but when the wind dropped, things were quite, quite different. Now, the Scandinavian midge is a mere amateur compared with the its Scottish cousin, but the mozzies are something else. Even well covered-up, you're going to get bitten, ......a lot, and by heaven, do they bite! A quick retreat to the 'van was in order - the fly screens proving quite effective, except on one evening when I swear they built a tunnel!. I still have the lumps as I type. (For anyone who needs reassurance, walking around, even with mozzies present, was reasonably OK (arms and legs covered up though!). They were only a major issue when sitting still in the open, which, given the weather, it would have been nice to have done in the evening.


We could happily have stayed at Hossa a few days longer, but we were still on our 2-night stop schedule, and the weather forecast (by TV in the site bar) indicated it might be sensible to move further on.


We had considered Rovaniemi as our next stop, with a quick trip up and over the Arctic Circle (though we've been over with a 'van before, in Norway, you don't get that close without doing it, now do you?). The descriptions we'd seen of the town were less than flattering, and having come further East, the roads were naturally guiding us instead towards Kemijärvi, which is above the Arctic Circle, and had a campsite that looked pretty good.


So, off to Kemijärvi it was.


......To be continued (with lots more reindeer, the midnight sun (:-)) more mosquitoes (:-(), an elk, (but not yet) and happily, no more scary women (the current Mrs Hood excepted 8-) ).




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Guest pelmetman

Well what a disappointment Robin :-( ........................







I thought the scary woman would turn out to be .............MelB :D

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The day clouded up as we headed North, and we began to despair of actually getting any view of the sun, let alone at midnight :-(.


The road took us past (or through in some cases) numerous herds of reindeer, complete with calves of varying colours (such pictures as we have are on Mrs H's phone still, so you'll have to take my word for it that they were (very) cute).


Crossing the Arctic Circle on this route, we were surprised to find it denoted only by a smallish road house (Oh.......and a very large inflatable snowman!). Very low-key!


Kemijärvi was a pretty uninspiring town (reminding me quite a bit of some of the smaller East German towns I visited not long after unification) with a splendid setting. The campsite was OK as well; again, of course, on the lake-side. Pull-through hardstanding pitches with grass accompaniment, and hedged off from each other (a mixed blessing for the beasties, though they weren't as bad here, as they blocked the breezed). The site was unattended when we arrived, but with an invitation to pitch and pay later. I paid cash, so I can't remember exactly, but the cost with elec (and €3 discount), was in the region of €20 per night.


We spent the afternoon walking around the town, and the evening strolling a few miles along the lake. During dinner, The Rough Guide's assertion that the Finns have an entirely un-Scandinavian aversion to public nudity was disproven, as the group that had hired the Sauna exited in their pink and crinklies, and dived into the lake!


....and, great news; as the day wore on, the sky began to clear, and the prospect of the midnight sun re-emerged. At this point, it became obvious that Kemijärvi was a very good choice. Though the campsite was on a small lake effectively with a view South, the town itself straddles a huge lake which runs North-South, so walking a few hundred yards over the main road would give us an uninterrupted view of the (non-)sunset.


Accordingly, at a quarter to 12 we walked to the lake-shore and joined a few other hardy souls ready to take pictures. And of course, I have a series, straddling midnight and showing the sun descending almost into the lake, and then rising out again.


In addition, at just before midnight someone came out of the sun down the lake in a powerboat, headed towards the shore, and promptly fouled his propeller on something, much to the amusement of the watching crowd. Luckily, the boat drifted out of shot in short order, so no worries there, then (well, not for me, anyway).


One thing that occurs to me at this point is that, though this was the only stop where we actually had the midnight sun, from first to last stop (though much reading of books took place) we never turned the 'van interior lights on (other than the wardrobe lights a couple of times to retrieve contents).


As previously stated, our original plan was Roveniemi rather than Kemijärvi, and the leg after that was to take us into Sweden and on to Arvidsjaur. This was always going to be a long leg, and it was now going to be best part of 60 miles further. Accordingly, having seen the midnight sun, and everything Kemijärvi had to offer, we decided to depart from our 2-night strategy, move on the next day, and add a one-night intermediate stop at Tornio, on the Swedish border.


So, to Tornio via the Santa Claus village and Rovaniemi it was.


........to be continued, complete with tales of the sauna!



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