I am not sure how many years ago exactly, but around years ago, someone decided that it was time for the old ferry to retire and to build this bridge instead. They brought and and gravel to the extend the road onto the lake and then started to build this bridge. When you walk across it you can still see the docking points of the small ferry. On the Eastern shore you can still see the old wooden house of the ferry pilot. A family had bought it and renovated and I saw the father and his three children jumping from the pier one late night last summer.
Now in winter the bridge stands upon the frozen water. The metal makes a sound now and then when the temperature lowers even further than today. It is -10C.
For many year I have been living in Southeast Asia. There were only two seasons then: wet season and dry season. Temperatures staying more or less the same.
I have been back with my family in Finland for more than three years now and I re-discovered the beauty if four seasons. My uncle used to ask me when I was living in Asia: don’t you miss the seasons? My answer was no, I did not. While living there I honestly did not miss them. I was living in Asia that meant usually two seasons, warm weather, the humidity of the tropics.
Now I am in Europe, in Finland. The summer is a bit short but I am back to the four seasons and how landscapes change four times a year.
This is what I was thinking, while walking in the footsteps of Katja on the frozen lake at out cottage.
I travelled to Eastern Finland for the beginning of the year. The forest is quite, silent. There is no wind. The snow stays on the branches of the trees. I can hear a woodpecker hitting the bark up on a tree nearby. The lake is frozen and the ice is covered by a layer of soft snow. Everything is still.
We had about 15 km behind us. We followed the cross-country ski track through forest and miers covered under a deep layer of snow. At one point the track made a long gentle turn to the right. It was the Northern tip of the Pyhäjärvi (Pyhä Lake) and of the ski track we were following around it. At the end of the turn the track started to follow a long series wooden electricity poles in a straight line. The track run between the village of Pyhäjärvi on our left and vast snow-covered frozen lake on our right. We stopped when we saw a young boy selling warm coffee and juice to skiers. While I was sipping from my paper cup I looked around. Up on a gentle slope the wooden houses where deep in the snow. I imagined the dark months of December and January. How many hours of light do they have up here? and when the summer arrives, does the sun set belows the horizon or not? what jobs people have? are they all working in the tourism sectors? what other work exists so up north? do young people stay here or do they move when they finish their studies? how is it to live so up north?
We finished our drinks and skied for about 1 km to the cafe Mummola to have something to eat before the last stretch of 8 km to get back to our cottage. Temperature -14C. Blue sky. Not a cloud.
One thing you do when in Lapland during the winter is to go out in the night and look up to the sky. And so I did. I also found an app (there are many) that given 30 min forecast of the northern lights: how weak or strong they are. It give time to get ready. Put the winter clothes on. Read a some blogs about the camera set up for taking photos of the Northern lights. Switch on the head torch and get out. There are northern lights every night, but they are never the same. I learned that they come in a scale from 0 to 9 (9 being very rare and being visible also in central Europe). So, I got out at nights during our trip to Pyhätunturi and look up at the sky. The first night they were barely visible. The second night they were a faint greenish cloud at the horizon. The third night they were a bit more visible, between 2.5 at the horizon. The last night they were up above our cottage. Like a cloud of fine dust, very high up in the sky, that moves along a wind stream and slowly changes shape as it moves.
At the start I follow the track with my eyes. Two parallel lines in which the cross-country skis find their way forward. It takes me few kilometres to get into a rhythm and be able to see the landscape around me. When I do, I can fully realise where I am. When I stop to catch my breath I see sky which is totally blue. Not a single cloud. No wind. The temperature is -15C, but I do not feel it. I feel warm from the sun and the exercise. I listen to my breath slowing down and realise that around me nature is totally silent as if I were in a landscape painting. I start again moving. First the right ski, then the left one, then again the right one. And so on and on. I try not to push too much with the sticks and let the legs to the work. In half an hour I will be up at the cabin and look forward to the coffee and the wood-fire stove warming up the room.
The classic cross-country skiing style is often used on prepared trails (pistes) that have pairs of parallel grooves (tracks) cut into the snow. It is also the most usual technique where no tracks have been prepared. With this technique, each ski is pushed forward from the other stationary ski in a striding and gliding motion, alternating foot to foot. With the “diagonal stride” variant the poles are planted alternately on the opposite side of the forward-striding foot; with the “kick-double-pole” variant the poles are planted simultaneously with every other stride. At times, especially with gentle descents, double poling is the sole means of propulsion. On uphill terrain, techniques include the “side step” for steep slopes, moving the skis perpendicular to the fall line, the “herringbone” for moderate slopes, where the skier takes alternating steps with the skis splayed outwards, and, for gentle slopes, the skier uses the diagonal technique with shorter strides and greater arm force on the poles (Wikipedia).
There are no clouds in the sky. There won’t be many hours of daylight. So, better to hurry and go for a walk in the forest along the lake. The temperature has gone up and down around 0 C. During the days the ice sheet loosens up. At night time, when the temperature drops below zero, you can hear deep and mysterious sounds that runs along and below the ice surface when it tightens up again.
I need to stop the series of street photos from Padova. I am in Helsinki at Vantaa airport to get on a plane. I thoughts I had saved the photos on my hard disk and planned to continue to post them during the this coming week. I must have done something wrong while copying the files. So, I will post a series from last New Year when we spent a week at our cottage in Eastern Finland. I will resume to Padova series, when I get back in a week.
These are few photos from the short walk to the old primary school in Niinikumpu (first picture at the top). The school has not been in use for many years as there are not enough children to attend it in the area. I think the school building has been sold to a family who now lives there.
I woke up. Put on my boots and windbreaker and walked down to the lakeshore. The ice cover had thickened over the night and thin layer of dry snow had covered the ice sheet overnight. It was chilly this morning but the air was clean and crispy. A nice way to wake up. Welcome 2020!
Last sunset of the year. The temperature is dropping quickly. The ice on the lake is thickening and the lake send strange sounds of bubbling water and ice cracking for long distances and with echos that travel the hills.