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My epic vacation to Finland Chapter 5

Wednesday, 15 of July in Kuovola
Another big day and another switch, this time, by train to Kesälahti. I had items to ship home, so after breakfast I visited the post office and mail my post cards. I boarded the train late morning for a two hour trip to Kesälahti
I bungled with my large piece of luggage by the door as we asked a conductor what to do with it. As he came to scan my ticket I asked if where I placed my luggage (by the door) was okay, he said it was fine. It didn’t really block the door, just made it more narrow. Taking the train in Finland doesn’t allow for many bags and certainly not any large bags. The trains these days in Finland are large and fast. 110 KM per hour. Smooth riding with WiFi and power plugs in every seat. You have reserved seats or so I think. My seat by the window was facing backward. I didn’t think I would like it, but the train was smooth and I hardly noticed the direction of travel. I had a seat mate most of the trip, but he bounced from seat to seat, only to be booted because of a reserve ticket. Maybe I should get an isle seat next time, easier to move around. One guy looked at me weird when I said my seat was next to him, he had quite the luggage, a backpack, a fishing rod and plenty to carry and I thought I had a lot to carry :-).

The trip was fast and on my next to last stop, we waited for an extra 5 minutes. The conductor said we may have delays due to construction. I arrived 5 minutes late to Kesälahti and A&J were waiting there for me. It truly was in the middle of the forest with just a few cars in the lot and no working buiding. 
When we arrived to my cousins cottage in Kesälahti, I was shown the three places I could sleep. The main bedroom, I could double up on mattresses, the attic, which was quite cool in the summer but also had bug netting because it was open to the outside, or the sauna bedroom, close to the water, beautiful I am sure, but a long way from the outhouse. Yes the outhouse. Many sauna cottages had outhouses, and quite common I think in other remote area, national parks for example. I chose the first room, where I could add a mattress, and extra window coverings to help with the brightness of the night. I was a lovely room, 3 bunks, as this family had many children and grandchildren to deal with.  
I have never been to this cottage in Kesälahti that I could remember. Close to a busy highway, but along a beautiful lake, one of the prettiest locations. A cottage built in the 50’s was in log cabin style wood construction, which seems quite common and as I have observed shows up everywhere. We enjoyed a late lunch since I arrived about 2pm. It was with smoked salmon, broccoli and new potatoes with a sour cream and chive sauce, and salad. I have taking a picture of almost every meal to help me remember the wonderful offerings. Soon after we enjoyed a delicious strawberry and blueberry cake. Really good!  

After we sent walking in the woods. I asked J if I should take my camera, he said it was just the woods. We would be looking for berries. After what seemed a KM or 2, we found a hill and walked down to locate blueberries or maybe cloudberries. As it turns out we were looking for both but the blueberries were not ready yet, but the cloudberries were a bit ripe, a few that we picked were at least. What a beautiful location next to a wonderful lake. So peaceful, delightful, romantic in a way, especially if I was with a partner. The moss comforted our backs though we laid on our jackets, taking random funny pictures, as we sit there discussing do we continue to sit or do we search for berries, which was our mission. I proclaim my shoes are waterproof and charge on. I learn that my shoes are NOT waterproof, probably resistant, but I press on.  
My original score of cloudberries is not so much but I’m not going to let a few berries keep me down, I become more adventurous and seek the prize. A berry is bright red when not ripe and looks similar to a raspberry. When ripe, it is a muddy yellow, and quite the prize when collected. We collected about a pint of the berries in about 30 minutes. We returned home after and sauna was in our near future and what a wonderful lake to enjoy.  
J had prepared the sauna and it was ready for me. We noticed a fisherman on the lake but that would not impede our dip into the water after the sauna. The sauna was good, with plenty of spoonfuls of water onto the stones. The rising steam envelopes ones body in gushing heat. Some enjoy the rising temperature others like the temp to stay where is. I am sure there is a science to it, I’ll need to learn with more practice. I decided that I would be aggressive this time with 2 times in the sauna and jumping into the lake or in this case wading in and feeling the chill at my ankles wondering if I am going any further. I do, I plunge in and briefly swim in the very cool water. Its difficult to describe the feeling of sweltering hot and instant ice cold water but it’s vaguely like walking through a fountain of water on a hot day. Better to be described by walking through a waterfall, if that were possible. 
J also prepared the fire for dinner makkara (sausage). Also with the dinner was veggies in foil. We spoke that this was perfected by one of their daughters. It was a great camping feel to the experience. The cottage was by a busy road and on occasion you could hear the cars. I was mostly immune to the noise and enjoyed my visit there very much! The sun was setting and it was quite beautiful! It actually does not set but drops below the horizon for a bit and then rises all too quickly again. I reached out to a friend by messenger, I wanted her address so I could write a postcard. I felt this was a good way to maintain friendships from across the sea.

Thursday, July 16 I am still staying in Kesälahti but we headed to Punkaharju for most of the day, the hometown of my cousin and her siblings. Most of them I have visited during this trip so I was very interested to visit. I think I may have visited this location before, many years ago. We stopped by the original home, in a different condition now, and there was a man in the driveway. J got out of the car to my cousin’s dismay and walked up to the man to introduce himself and our cause. 
To our surprise, he agreed to show us the house, impromptu and I am sure not ready for any guests. We saw the barn and inside the barn door was our family name on a small strip of paper adhered to the door, almost like a slip of ownership by a previous residence. Pekka had owned the home and property for 7 years and has renovated the property some degree. I’m not sure how much but was very nice. He had a mini Mercedes outside with a trailer and it his summer cottage was nicely appointed. He was an architect in a town 120 KM from Punkaharju.

My cousin saw her birth-room, in the corner of the home, the log walls exposed. The old home had many rooms and windows. This one was more conservative but large lovely homes. The owners wife was quite attractive and welcoming to us as well. I was surprised that they just let us come in, unknown, other than our family name. My cousin took many pictures as she has not been inside since their father left the home in the 50’s. Our last stop at this property was the lake where she swam in the summer, the old sauna long gone and a new one, much smaller, close to the water was in place. She remembers the bonfires for midsummer in the same location. This was some epic visit for my cousin.

We next visited the gravesite of my uncle, her father. We paused for a moment in reflection. The graveyard was near her school, which has a newer school now, but same location. “A” decided to take the old trail back to her car, much the same way she traveled when she was younger. I think she has taken it before.
We also stopped at these bunkers that were made for the civil war, quite interesting as they were on a hill overlooking a bay. A good position but as it turns out, never used. They were recently renovated to the original fortification. It was an interesting stop on our trip. On our way to Savolinna, we stopped at one of the oldest hotels in Finland, if not the oldest, the Punkharjun Valtionhotelli. 
This was the location for lunch but we were early and they were not quite ready for the noon meal. It was totally worth waiting for. Split pea soup so delicious that I could eat that every day, a salad buffet of regular salad fare but also new potatoes, wild mushroom salad, Finnish Coleslaw, salmon, cucumbers in vinegar, some great breads and tea, coffee, etc. The bread was fantastic, The main meal was some sort of country fried veal? The coating was burned and not that good and the inside was white so maybe pork but def not chicken. It also held the dessert bar, with a unnipannukakku, strawberry jam and some whip cream. I offered to pay and what turned down, as I had many times during this trip! All my relatives have behaved the same way. I am grateful.
Olavinlinna Castle was our premier stop, we were planning to participate in the 2pm English tour. I had visited 30 years before but don’t remember anything from that trip. This time it was more meaningful, much more recollection this time. We visited during the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival, quite famous now, and the courtyard was set up for an opera. The towers are what draw the interest, as one of Finland’s oldest castles. Over 85,000 guests visit annually. With beautiful surroundings, this was a fantastic place to visit. There is so much to see in Finland that I have not seen yet. As it turns out we climbed 15 floors in the castle. 
There was a new ship museum and we went to go see that. Kind of interesting inside but the gem were the ships outside. Well I thought they were until we boarded and basically just metal and seating area, no engine, no machine, just observation.
It was time for coffee and we visited one of their favorite nearby location just off the beaten path. They had a very visually stunning Key Lime cheesecake. It turned out to be quite good. During this break, which was needed, and I needed water. “A” had a chance to speak with my next cousin at my next stop to make arrangements as we were going to travel there by car the next day. I spoke to my other cousin on the way back home and we agreed to call in the next few days to confirm arrival to her location too. Once we got back home, I rested for a bit, maybe too long. Anyway I washed up with the warm water in the sauna. After we had a chance to chat with my mother. 
We had some smoked salmon again and finished off the strawberry cake. “A” asked me to write in their guestbook, like all guests do, to document their visit. I was honored to do so. it was an emotional letter to them, thanking them for their hospitality. “A’s” husband has a great way of showing love for his wife. Very moving and hopefully an example for their children who saw such an example. I later practiced using my selfie stick, this was just such a beautiful place to be and to enjoy life. That night was my time to repack again and to write 12 postcards. As it turns out I walked over 10,000 steps during our day. 
Friday, July 17, my next transition day. 
All this time and I never knew “A” was having tea in the AM. I would have as I am dealing with this tickle in my throat that I have had since Kotka. Not sure if I rec’d it during my visit to Horse Island but that is when I started to notice it for sure. So we had Rooibus tea during breakfast and cloudberries with yogurt. After breakfast I was all packed and I had the room straitened up. We packed the car and -off and away we went to Mikkeli. I didn’t really know the arrangements and as it turned out we were just heading to Mikkeli to get some items done. We listened a bit to classical music, news etc. It was a cloudy rainy day, most of the day. When we were 22 km from Mikkeli we stopped at a famous bread store and buffet. 
I don’t remember the name of it, but it was good. A good hamburger with mushroom sauce, a very good bread selection and salad. Very good dessert too and quite tasty food. We arrived to Mikkeli and it was offered that I could rest, which I took up. I also looked at some albums from recent trips. I have taken hundreds of pictures and none to show of my travels, times, my history. All I will have is journals if accessed and maybe photos. As it turns out there were some pictures from my dad that I took copies of and shared with the sibs. We were in Mikkeli for about 2 hours. Then it was time to go. As it turns out I think we were expected in Hankasalmi at 4pm. I did not recognize the home so I called T to find out if I was in the right place. Yes, yes!
Hankasalmi- Friday, July 17 at my next destination 4:00PM

We were a few minutes early, she was not ready, but enjoyed the flowers we bought on the way that were for her! I was showed where my room was, where the laundry was, so I could do mine, and the common areas. It was coffee time! Well one of the most refreshing drinks is Rhubarb juice. Quite yummy! It’s clear and in this case mixed with fizzy water. We also enjoyed rhubarb pie with vanilla cream sauce on top. We needed to depart to have pizza for dinner before the show. I said my goodbye’s to my former hosts and walked them to the door. As soon as they left we were good to get going. We cleaned up quickly and then we were off. We had a music festival to get to. It was by the train station and was called Kihveli Soikoon Festival. It has operated for 20 years. I bought 2 CDs from some great groups that were at the festival, my favorite that I am looking forwards to hearing the most later is Petteri. What a great performer. 
Of course I needed to finish drying my laundry and found a snack when I got back home. I had the whole house to myself since my hosts were staying at the cottage, and had limited room. After a little TV it was time for sleep.

Saturday, July 18- Hankasalmi
My hosts left me some breakfast items and surprisingly no fish. I think I have had salmon almost every day. It was a good break and I cut the cucumbers my way, lol event the tomatoes. It was the first time that I had been on my own for breakfast other than Poland. I packed a few things for the day and we visited my cousin’s mother for a quick visit. My cousin wanted her to get some walking in. She had hip surgery and needed to be moving around more and that should have been the job of those that are caring for her, but it became the job of my cousin. Its an all to familiar situation that takes place in too many places, but that shall be for a different place and blog, lol.
After that short visit, we visited a local flea market to check out the possibilities. As it turns out, the goods were good and we packed a few gifts for the road. Funny that I actually found a shirt my size, that looked like it was from FL, so I got it, as a memento from Finland. The town market was quite small and my cousin wanted to look at some old tools, as he is quite interested in that stuff. While there I tried some fresh fish, very small, with bones, eyes, etc. A local delicacy. While I was having the sample my cousin was speaking to a local man. As it turns out, this Matti guy, was familiar with my mother’s family. I was surprised how much he knew and who he knew. For some reason, I think he may have been to FL once or twice. He knew Uncle J and it seems these days everyone knows Uncle J, lol. Last week he was on a local TV show and this week, someone else knows him too.
We needed to buy tickets again for the show on Sunday, so we visited the train station to get those, and it’s also a place where I bought a few more shirts, this time somewhat matching shirts for Mark and I. Since I had to use cash, I was finally running out of euros and needed to visit an ATM. We found it and shouted “Praise the Lord” as we got $ from a busy ATM. We headed home for some lunch. 

Lunch was yogurt and museli, rhubarb juice too, a banana and they wanted to know what I would like to do. I said “rest” and that was good for them too as they had a few things to do around the cottage, there is always something to do there. After I rested it was time for something. I agreed to do some rowing to try to capture a picture that I had been waiting for. As it turns out, I could not get a clear picture, like the one I wanted. So we needed to row back, or rather that I needed to. I had my cousin take a few pictures of me rowing, but I have not checked the pictures, lol.
So when my cousin was available, I wanted to hike to the cabin. He was an expert of the forest, and knew right where to go. We saw the sauna and I snapped many pictures, hopefully I will have one that I can use. In my process I stepped into an red ant hill, ouch! My cousin suggested that I step into water to drown them. as it turns out, a correct move.
Sauna was available and quite good. The sauna room large, with plenty of seats and of course our Oak Vastas we made earlier in the day. I went several times to the lake, cool springs and all. Dinner was comprised of yummy meatballs, new potatoes, salad with balsamic vinegar and wine. For dessert we enjoyed this creme fresh with a rhubarb soup or more like a jello type consistency.
My 3rd cousin purchased my train ticket to VR for me online since my access was rather slow. We went to an outdoor show, a play, that has been in continuous service for many years. My cousin tried to keep me updated in English and I understood the jist of the play a comedy. This play occurred rain or shine and in our case both took place. Finland has had plenty of rain during my visit. After the play the evening snack was tea, grapes, bread, cheese and meats, to tide us over to the next day. They drove me home so that I could pack and sleep, as Sunday the 19th was a full day, and headed for Tampere.