Blue is the colour of Finland. The blue lake that stretched to the horizon, its surface like glass so that l imagined we cycled across the blue glass. The blue sky that makes the days hot but the mornings icy cold. Green complements the blue in the vast forests that fringe the lakes, cover the land and form a tunnel of green as we pedal north. And the red of the painted houses and barns that are dotted throughout the countryside are a flashy contrast to both.
Taking a boat from Tallinn we crossed another stretch of blue, the Gulf of Finland, to arrive in the smart, bustling city of Helsinki whose fashionable inhabitants were out enjoying the spring sunshine. Quick to engage with the local culture, I did something uniquely Finnish and ate a gluten free Mcdonalds quarter pounder meal. If that's not local enough, then we also ate reindeer meat a couple of days later. Not our favourite! And as I write, Bart and I are just out of the sauna, although we won't be following it up with a dip in an icy cold, blue Finnish lake. The free sauna is the only benefit of the first campground we have found since leaving Helsinki. It's otherwise a miserable place more industrial site than campsite and a contrast to the beautiful lakeside spot and dreamy sunset we found in the woods last night.
We cycled north from Helsinki a few days ago through the spectacular landscape of Lake Paijanne, the vast blue glass lake. Our bicycles were transported across its waters by a series of wooded islands connected by causeways and bridges. The islands harboured hidden reed-fringed coves where there was always a photogenic upturned fishing boat. You can't beat a good boat shot! The sun shone and there was not a breath of wind. It was heaven. Quiet back roads have taken us further north through a rolling landscape of trees, small farms and towns.
In many countries the towns seem to encroach ever more on the trees but in Finland the trees encroach on everything. Every now and then the trees open a little to allow us a view of another sapphire lake and we explore any tracks to the water's edge to find a place to pitch the tent. Its not easy as so many access tracks lead to the private cabins that dot the shorelines and cut us off from the water. That makes us grumpy! There are no mountains or hills in this southerly part of Finland but once our road came to the top of a rise and as far as the eye could see, l could see trees.
As we continue pedalling north, the temperature is forecast to drop and we had a few flurries of snow this afternoon. So let's hope the colour of Finland doesn't change from blue to white.
Daylight -18 hours
Distance - 1868 miles
Days - 31
Route- We took a ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki.The crossing takes 2 hours and there are several sailings each day. Helsinki has an excellent network of bike paths and we then tried to follow national cycle route 4 north to Jyvaskyla but it was poorly mapped and signed.This part of the route includes the spectacular Lake Paijanne national park. From there we have picked our way north on quiet roads. As we're here early in the season, not a lot of campsites are open. Finland is expensive so it's probably just as well.