Helsinki to Kouvola: 148 kilometres
Helsinki is draped in low-lying, grey clouds this morning and a cool, continuous rain is falling as we head downstairs for breakfast at 9:00. There is chaos in the breakfast room as clearly every hotel guest, their sleepy children in tow, are arriving for breakfast at the same time. The room clearly cannot handle the rush. We wait patiently for a table for two. Some oatmeal and cereal later, Greg heads downtown to the internet café to update the site and I have a leisurely morning, reading and exercising.
Russia Beckons, In the Rain
We are driving to Kouvola today to catch the train to St. Petersburg tomorrow. The plan had been to make an adventure of it, stopping in the pretty little towns and villages that dot the route. However, it pours all the way. We travel through tall pine and birch forests; they trap the rainy mist on the forest floor. It is very familiar Canadian landscape to us, but the barns and houses tell us that this is not home. Bright red, mustard yellow, pale green, and cream coloured wet clapboard greet us over the green, rolling hills. Greg points out that the Finns have beautiful yet practical barns!
The Wooden Homes of Porvoo
We do stop in one place, Porvoo, where the old wooden homes are well preserved and the streets still look like traditional Finnish towns. From the licences on the cars, we deduce that the tourists Porvoo is crowded with are Finnish, enjoying their summer vacations, shopping for souvenirs in the quaint shops – despite the wet, fall-like weather. We have a light lunch in a small café: vegetable soup, a salad and some bread all served up by some lovely local women. We drive the rest of the way to Kouvola, another 95 kilometres. Our hotel is right across the street from the train station, and they are happy to have us leave our car in the parking lot while we are away, as we will be staying here when we return.
A Change of Plans
On the drive, we discuss contingency plans – our original intention had been that after we return to Finland from Russia we would drive north, above the Arctic Circle, cross back through Sweden to Norway, and take a ferry down the coast of Norway to see the fjords. We agree, however, that if it is still raining when we come back, we will probably skip all of that, as there will be nothing to see but fog; instead, we will take a ferry from Helsinki to Germany, cutting short our Nordic adventure, but perhaps finding some decent weather a bit further south.
Ahh, the beauty of travelling on a whim!