Last night, despite our peculiar list to port, we slept like logs. We must have been so busy from our frenetic weekend, that we slept in until 10am. Although that sounds bad, it was only in fact 8am UK time, so understandable under the circumstances. The rest of the campsite though must have thought us sloths – since they had clearly all been up for hours. Washing had been done, and was hanging up to dry, some camper vans had already left, and nearly everyone had finished breakfast and was washing it up. We slunk off to the wash-blocks as discretely as we could. However, when we returned, I realised that the real give-away was Oscar’s night face still stuck on the front windscreen. Still – it made people laugh!
Despite the uneven pitches, we decided to stay here another night. This spot in the woods, by Lake Saimaa is just gorgeous – so peaceful and relaxing. I can see now why the Finns spend their summer breaks going back to nature. Relaxing, swimming, boating and fishing by lakes seems to be what they like to do, and it certainly has a lot going for it.
After breakfast, which we tried to pretend was an early lunch, for the benefit of our other campers, we took a lovely long walk into the nearest town of Puumala. The route took us on a path through the woods, which looked glorious in the late morning sunshine. Puumala is a fine looking town, sitting on Lake Saimaa. It is not large, but spread out somewhat, since the Finns (unlike Germans in Big Whites), seem to value their own personal space. Attractive wooden houses sit nestled on the edge of the woods, and Howard was mightily impressed with the tidiness of some of their wood piles! Last Christmas, really for a bit of a joke, I bought him a book called ‘Norwegian Wood’, which was specifically about stacking wood. Needless to say, he loved it, and has aspired to be a neater ‘wood-stacker’ ever since. Apparently, a tidy wood-pile is the sign of an ordered mind! As we walked into town, we passed the pretty church. In it’s cemetery, were a line of immaculately kept war graves, each with a red begonia planted besides it. A gardener was carefully manicuring between the plots. A war memorial statue depicted a mother with a child in her arms, presumably a common sight after the huge losses the Finns suffered in World War II. We found a charming cafe by the waterfront, and enjoyed our morning coffee at 1.30 in the afternoon! Afterwards, we took a wander round, and took a ride in the lift up the 31 metre tower that allows pedestrian access to the bridge that crosses over the lake at this point. The view at the top was splendid, if a little windy, and we showed amazing self-restraint not to take ourselves into the cafe at the top, having only just left the other cafe.
Down at the harbourside again, we couldn’t resist having a go on the waterside ‘gym’, keen to keep fit for next year’s rowing! We then read sone of the information boards telling us about the area. During the Ice Age, the ice shelf would’ve been up to the level of the bridge. As the ice slowly melted over a thousand years, this formed what is now the amazing network lakes that forms the Finnish Lake District. Later, between the 16th and 18th centuries, this area became a disputed border between Sweden and Russia, with several land battles. Today, although part of Finland, it remains incredibly close to the Russian border in parts. In the small market in the town square, a clothes stall was selling nothing but combat trousers and jackets – the sort of thing Yeltsin might wear. Combat shorts and khaki vest tops also seem to be the ‘de rigeur’ with several of the Finnish men on the campsite. Howard won’t be getting any!
Lake Saimaa itself has attracted inhabitants since the Stone-Age. It is the fourth largest lake in Europe, and is home to rare endemic species such as the Saimaa ringed seal and landlocked salmon. The water flows so fast in this area, that it never freezes in winter, and is used to transport logs from further upstream.
We meandered our way back to the campsite, where inspired by tidy wood-piles, Howard decreed that we were tidying the van. Unfortunately, a lovely Dutch couple came over to chat with us, just at the point where we had emptied the entire contents of the boot onto the groundsheet. I don’t think that they could quite believe that all this stuff actually fitted in our van. I daren’t tell them, that we had only just relived ourselves of two holdalls worth of rubbish, by taking it back to Scotland at the weekend.
I can report though, that Oscar is now looking rather splendid. For how long, is another matter. I am so proud of him, that I’m tempted to ask the Dutch couple over for a gin, just to admire my spotless van and soft furnishings! I never thought I’d get ‘houseproud’ over a van!
Instead, with no signs of the Dutch couple, we stood and watched the sun setting over the lake – just beautiful. It also might have been quite serene, had it not been for Howard and his zappy bat. Instead, the sound of incinerating flies rung out around the campsite! Oh how he loves his new toy!!