Finnish Sauna.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Vanha-Heikkilan Merikarvia

Flag of Finland  , Western Finland,
Sunday, July 3, 2011

We've never experienced summer rain quite like in Finland. When it comes down it does so in such a torrent that when driving, even the Finns who are used to this, pull over and wait for it to subside. 

Our first day out in our hire car started off quite warm and we drove to the first town on our planned route of Rauma. We found the UNESCO listed site, but also found the information to be very scant and a map given to us by the tourist office quite impossible to follow. In fact we were given three maps and each numbered the sites differently, showed different streets and seemed to be out of scale. However it is easy to see why Old Rauma has been listed, as it is a rather unique example of a very old town constructed of wood, that is still functioning as it always has. Some of the buildings date back as far as the 18th century and the church is 15th century. We wandered around the cobblestone streets, mostly lost, viewing the picturesque cottages and points of interest.

Our next stop, of a Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmaki, was only around 20 kilomtetres away and, for the first time, I think, in our travel, we were the only ones there. The site had rock burial mounds the same kind we saw in Tanum Sweden (see story 319) of the bronze age rock carvers. As we hiked in the beautiful Finnish Woodland to see the various burial mounds the sky quickly darkened and we saw some lightening and heard the crack of thunder. The worsening weather, combined with the lack of signage giving distance to the next site and concern over the car being left unattended in a remote spot, prompted us to leave before seeing the whole site. We got back in the car and set the GPS to head to the centre of the next town, as it was time to look for our accommodation for the night, and the skies opened up big time. 

We struggled into the city of Pori and found a hotel, but were turned away as they were full, and we were advised that being firstly Summer, and secondly that there was a type of field day bringing farmers to Pori, we wouldn't get accommodation anywhere. We backtracked to a "Motelia" sign we had seen 10 kilometres back and initially I was told they had one room left and they had a sauna, but when I went to book and pay, it turned out her husband had sold it already!  We had got keen on the idea of an authentic Finnish Sauna in a family run establishment. The rain pelted down again, great masses of water hitting our car and making visibility almost zilch and turning the road into a river. We decided as our direction is North for our next sightseeing we would try again up further and as a last resort sleep in the car. Eventually we arrive at a little beachside town of Merikarvia and whilst the caravan park was full and had no cabins, the receptionist gave me an address and phone number for a bed and breakfast. We found the place, an old fashioned mansion in a comfortable state of disrepair, but there was no answer to a knock on the door. We sat in the carpark out the front with the rain pelting down and tried the phone number. It was answered and our hostess said "Sorry I am just in the Sauna I will be there quickly!". Sure enough as we ran to the front of the house again, through the pouring rain, a figure wrapped in a terry toweling robe only, emerged from the seperate building close by, pink and rosey from the sauna and greeted us with the good news that she had a room available!

So after all, we managed to experience an authentic Finnish Sauna. We also scored an extremely comfortable bed and room for the night with a wonderful breakfast. Our hostess was quite excited to have some Australians (a little blown off course maybe) to stay in her B&B and practised her English to the hilt

The next day we set off for the Kvarken Archipelago. Now this is a pretty amazing geographical concept to get your mind around.The islands in the archipelago are rising. Yes rising! By a metre every 100 years or by 8mm a year, after a glacial meltdown 10,000 yeas ago. It is estimated that in 2,000 years there will be a land bridge between Finland and Sweden, at this place due to the rising islands and land on both sides. The phenominan has been caused by the weight of several kilometers thick covering the area during the ice age, compressing the land by squeezing out air, water etc. Now with the weight of the ice gone the land is returning to its original position.   

We enjoyed driving around the islands that we could on the archipelago, had a picnic lunch then set off to find a bed for the night.  

Travel Tip: At the Sammallahdenmaki site the GPS coordinates will take you to the Sammallahdentie car park. From there it is a very long walk to cairn 31 at site 5, which we felt from the brochures to be the most interesting and a long outing to 6 & 7 at site 4. However unnoticed by us is that there is a carpark at both ends of the area. We would suggest doing Cairns 23,22, 21, 18 and 19 (sites 1&2) from Sammallahdentie then Cairns 6,7,11,14,16 and 31 (sites 3,4 & 5) from Savulaaksontie Car Park. It would be helpful to time strapped tourists if this alteranative could be sign posted at both carparks.

Travel Recommendations: The modest Visitor Centre in Vaasa hold a wonderful range of information brochures on the Kvarken Archipelago. They also had a wonderful and helpful brochure containing a section on every UNESCO site in Finland.

We can also recommend the B&B at Merikarvia as a nice place to stay Phone 0505337836 or and
Footnote: Old Rauma, Bronze Age Burial Site of Sammallahdenmaki and High Coast / Kvarken Archipelago are all UNESCO World Heritage listed. The High Coast of the listing is in Sweden and not visited.
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