Sunday, 3 August 2008

Fantastic Finland- Friday 25th July- leaving Jyrki and Mari's.

We were up early again, as this was our last day in Finland, and we had to drive south-west 300km to Helsinki for our flights home later in the day.

A last look at the lake by Jyrki and Mari's house.

Outside Jyrki and Mari's house.

Olivia, with Laku the cat!

Once we had had breakfast, we loaded the car up and said our goodbyes to Jyrki, Mari and the boys. It had been a fantastic time, full of wonderful experiences, and we were all sad to leave Varkaus. More than anything though, we were so happy that we had met and made new friends in Varkaus. I've said earlier that Jyrki and Mari were exceptional in the way they made us feel so at home, and how they welcomed us into their house, and the fact that we spoke non-stop all the way to Helsinki about the things we had done together over the previous days showed how much these few days had meant to all of us.

Both families together in Savonlinna.

We hope now that we will be able to welcome the Ikonen family to Scotland soon, to allow us to repay some of the hospitality that was shown to us in Varkaus!
Once again- thanks for making our trip to Varkaus so memorable!

Of course, it had also been a very successful return to Kotka, and Santalahti, and it was especially pleasing for both Anna and myself to see how well Sandy and Olivia got on with Baboushka and Dayadushka. We hope to return ourselves to Finland soon. Undoubtedly, it's our favourite holiday destination!

Finally, on the road south from Varkaus to Helsinki, we didn't see one cloud in the sky for over 150 miles! The temperature rose to 28C, making us very sad to be leaving.

Fantastic Finland- Thursday 24th July- A trip to Jari's Summer Cottage!

We were up early, as Jyrki's headteacher Jari had promised to take us out on his boat to his summer cottage, a 20 minute boat trip down the lake. This proved to be another wonderfully relaxed day, where we ate, drank and had great fun with Jyrki, Mari, the boys and with Jari and his wife Kirsi at their cottage.

We also experienced a sauna heated solely by logs, which proved to be a truly fantastic way of achieving total and utter relaxation of body and mind. The lake was really warm, and we swam in it several times throughout the day. By the time we returned home to Jyrki and Mari's we felt that we had spent one of the best days in Finland- in a magical setting, with great company. Brilliant!

Olivia waits patiently for Jari and his boat on the jetty at Jyrki's house.

On the boat now, Jari explains the route, while Anna looks pretty unsure at this point!

Jari, Jyrki and me.

Antti-Jussi and Ville-Veikko.

A bit further on, Anna looks more relaxed now, despite some high-speed "slalom" from Captain Jari!

Jari and Kirsi's summer cottage, 20 minutes in the boat from Jyrki and Mari's house.

Upon arrival, we toasted Kirsi, (far left) and Jari, (far right) as they had celebrated 25 years of marriage the day before. Jari put an announcement in the local paper- with a bit at the bottom advertising a moped for sale!

Olivia, happy to pose!

Lunch is cooked on the barbeque.

Looking back down to the lake, Jari, Jyrki and Mari relax over lunch while Anna and Olivia explore by the lake.

Playing the Finnish game, Molkky.

We watch closely as the expert throws!

Time for the amateur Scots player to try to match up to the Finns' scoring power!

Mari and the boys relax.

Jari kindly presented us with our very own game, which we have already been playing since returning home. We are looking forward to the re-match!!

Sandy swimming with his snorkel in the lake. The water temperature was very warm, around 21- 22C each day. That compares very favourably with the sea temperature here in Scotland of around 12C during the summer!

Antti-Jussi, Jyrki and Jari.

This is a truly beautiful setting!

Three Suomi-boys together!

Discussing the return route, with "The Captain."

My pal, Jyrki!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fantastic Finland- Wednesday 23rd July- Savonlinna

After breakfast, we left in both cars to drive south east around 90km to the town of Savonlinna. Jyrki had explained to me that it was a very attractive town, and was where he and Mari had met when they were at teaching college, quite a few years earlier! It also is where Olavinlinna, one of the finest medieval castles in Finland, which dates back to 1475, is situated. In July, the town is very busy, with lots of tourists who come to the castle to see the month long Savonlinna Opera Festival.

We ate lunch first, in a lovely wee pizzeria restaurant, then headed towards the castle. Once we arrived, Jyrki arranged a tour in English, which we all enjoyed very much. It's a very beautiful castle, as the pictures show! After the castle tour, we walked along to a park beside the lake where the children played for a while, went on an hour long boat trip and looked around the market, before returning to the cars and began our trip home, with an excellent value meal at the ABC restaurant just outside Savonlinna. What a brilliant day- and many thanks to our hosts for taking us to such a fantastic place!

Approaching Olavinlinna Castle.

As Jyrki said, this spot where I am standing has had very many photos taken- and no wonder, it's the entrance to the castle.

A group picture

Another one of the two families!

Look at the view from inside! Click on the photo for a bigger version.

Looking out, from one of the castle's windows.

Again, looking out, from inside the castle.

Sandy, with Antti-Jussi and Ville-Veikko!

Back on the outside, Mari and me.

Jyrki shows the ram who's boss!

At a cafe close to Olavinlinna.

Olivia enjoys a cooling drink.

What a view!

Another lovely view, of a lovely place- Savonlinna!

Sandy on the Flying Fox, in a park close to the lake.

Sandy, with Ville-Veikko, as we take a boat ride around the area.

Olavinlinna Castle. One of Finland's finest, without doubt!

How about one of these lovely houses, next to Lake Saimaa? Oh yes, I'd love one!

Our hosts, Jyrki and Mari!

Sandy with Ville-Veikko on the boat trip.

Sandy with Antti-Jussi, enjoying the trip.

Enjoying the ride.

Me, with the boys!

A picture postcard view of Lake Saimaa!

The Captain kindly allowed the boys to visit his control deck, and let them each have a shot at taking control of the boat!

Approaching the end of a most wonderful day in Savonlinna.