Travels: Beyond the Wolf Border

Museum of Mechanical Music in Varkaus, Finland. Photo: fictivestina ©

August is here!

There are a crazy amount of concepts in the world that have a peculiar meaning that only certain people understand – regional inside jokes if you like. In this travel story, let me introduce you to one of them – the wolf border.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term “wolf border” (susiraja in Finnish) refers to a border beyond which street lighting ends and one starts to fear for wolves. In a humoristic sense this applies to areas outside the Ring highway III in Southern Finland.

Wolf. Photo: Pixabay
Wolf. Photo: Pixabay

The concept of wolf border is not so much a physical place but more like a mental state of mind. Very importantly, it should not be taken too seriously.

The concept could be both a limitation and an opportunity. The meaning of the concept might change depending on the perspective you choose to look at it from.

This imaginative concept – loosely based on reality – does not apply to bears that often come barging in the metropolitan area. Apparently there is need for a bear border as well.

So, why is there a concept such as wolf border? What is its purpose? I guess people have a tendency to categorize themselves and most of all others. Putting labels on others seems to come easily, both positively and negatively. I guess it might have something to do with the ability to cope with differences etc.

Rocking it at a hostel in Koli, Northern Karelia. Photo: fictivestina ©
Rocking it at a hostel in Koli, Northern Karelia. Photo: fictivestina ©

This July, I took a trip to Karelia and Savonia in Eastern Finland. Both regions are among my favorites. I have to admit though that my neutrality in the matter is questionable. Well, blame the relatives who used to live in those areas.

As an urban dweller, let me introduce you to the Finland that lies beyond the wolf border. With the photos, I will find you reasons why the Finnish countryside and Finland in general are worth visiting.

Five reasons to go beyond the wolf border

Reason One: Avoiding the crowds.  

Finland is sparsely populated. If you are sick with the queues in continental Europe and elsewhere, don’t panic. There is a solution: Finnish small towns and the countryside in the summer. Also, if you visit Helsinki during midsummer, you might wonder whether there was a zombie apocalypse that took all the people.

The crowds of people in small town Finland are overwhelming :) The market square in Varkaus in Northern Savonia. Photo: fictivestina ©
The crowds of people in small town Finland are overwhelming 🙂 The market square in Varkaus in Northern Savonia. Photo: fictivestina ©

Reason Two: Great history of the water ways

They don’t say – and this is based on facts – for nothing that Finland is the Land of a Thousand Lakes. At least once during your lifetime, you should check out the Saimaa lake area and Punkaharju with its lovely esker formations. The lake area also hosts a number of still working canals and old canals turned into museums.

More info: Land of a Thousand Lakes by VisitFinland

The old canal at the Taipale Canal Museum in Varkaus. Photo: fictivestina ©
The old canal at the Taipale Canal Museum in Varkaus. Photo: fictivestina ©

Reason Three: Small town Finland blooms in the summer

Once November hits the calendar, something dramatic happens. Finland turns grey and dark. By this time all the colorful leaves from the trees are gone and the days are shorter. The summer idyll is gone and what seems like an eternal winter strikes.

There is a drastic difference between Finland in the summer and in the meanest of periods, the last two months of the year. A proper winter is another chapter but as this is a summer story, let me leave it at that.

However, during summer is storybook pretty with breathy forests, bird watching and hiking opportunities and a vast number of berries and mushrooms one can pick in the woods.

Nurmes in Northern Karelia from a distance. Photo: fictivestina ©
Nurmes in Northern Karelia from a distance. Photo: fictivestina ©

Reason Four: Special delicatessen in Karelia and Savonia

The culinary life in Eastern Finland is exotic for those from Western Finland. You can find all kinds of things you might never have heard of: Kalakukko (fish baked inside a loaf of bread), karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pies/pirogs), karjalanpaisti (Karelian hot-pot), lepuska (bread from barley and potatoes), mustikkakukko (blueberry pastry baked with rye flour) and a special taste from the city of Lappeenranta in Southern Karelia, vety/atomi (meat pasty with e.g. eggs and ham).

Delicious chocolate pastry at Café Houkutus in Joensuu. Photo: fictivestina ©
Delicious chocolate pastry at Café Houkutus in Joensuu. Photo: fictivestina ©

Reason Five: Stress relief from forests and nature

According to the Natural Resources Institute Finland, “[n]ature helps us recover from the effects of stress and forget our everyday worries. It also lifts our moods. The effects are manifested in lower blood pressure and a stabilised heart rate.”

According to the Finnish Forest Research Institute, even a 20-minute walk in the woods impacts one’s health in terms of lower blood pressure and anti-allergy benefits.

This should be enough to lure you into visiting Finland. Especially if are into hiking in national parks, this research on the health benefits of nature and forests should do the trick for ya.

Lake Pielinen at Koli in Northern Karelia. Photo: fictivestina ©
Lake Pielinen at Koli in Northern Karelia. Photo: fictivestina ©
Highlights of Northern Karelia and Savonia
  • Koli National Park and Lake Pielinen in Northern Karelia: A classic nature resort that was already popular more than hundred years ago.
  • City of Kuopio: A relaxed atmosphere with great restaurants and cultural activities. Also possible to do an idyllic lake cruise. A special recommendation for sports fans, the Puijo ski jumping hill.
  • The old wooden houses in Nurmes in Northern Karelia.
  • Museums and exhibitions:
    • Museum of Mechanical Music in Varkaus, Northern Savonia. One of the weirdest experiences I have had. It’s hard to describe the place, you simply have to experience it for yourself.
    • Puijo tower in Kuopio, Northern Savonia, offering a fantastic view over the Kallavesi lake area.
    • Taipale Canal Museum in Varkaus, Northern Savonia. The canal in Taipale is still active but you can also visit the old canal that is no longer in use.
  • Taking a tour in architecture by visiting churches: you find architectural styles of various kind.
    • Examples of beautiful church buildings in Karelia and Savonia: Kuopio, Nilsiä, Varkaus, Juuka, Nurmes and Kitee.
Koli National Park in Eastern Finland. Photo: fictivestina ©
Welcome back to the 1970’s! Koli National Park in Eastern Finland. Photo: fictivestina ©

Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary of independence, so you should definitively be here. There are a lot of events happening, both in Finland and abroad. Or you plan for next year! Either way, feel welcome.

Check out the 17 reasons to visit Finland in 2017 by VisitFinland.com.

Actor and comedian Michael Palin‘s Finland100 greeting on YouTube.

#sauna #santaclaus #metalbands #coffeedrinking #sisu #suomi100 #finland100

“The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.”
~Jack London, White Fang

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Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

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