Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Great Finnish Adventure, Part II

...Continued from last week

All right, I know you're wondering whether I made it out of the Turku Archipelago alive. But guess what? I did!! So, without further delay, the second installment.

Day 4, continued. When I arrive in the town of Turku I meet my second couchsurfing host, tall blonde Thomas, who kindly greets me at the train station. Next I venture into the center of Turku proper, where the only truly touristy thing I do is go to the grand 13th-century Turku Cathedral. Then I wander around the Turku Public Library, initially looking for Internet access but getting drawn in by how sparkling and hip the library is. Eventually I end up at the Turku Art Museum high on a hill, a stunning old building with a big photograph of a naked woman outside it advertising the latest exhibit (see photo below). I drink a glass of Hungarian wine in the hushed and relaxing museum cafe. (At left above: Turku public library)

The rest of the day speeds by; I meet with friendly Dafna from Saaritours who helps me plan my bike trip and arranges everything for me. Thomas and I eat dinner at a funky, delicious restaurant called Kerttu; I shop for supplies for my bike trip (1. bread 2. cheese 3. chocolate); then walk back to Thomas's place with a blister that's grown to half the size of my foot (thank God I'll be mostly biking, not walking, the next few days).

Day 5. At last I am on my rented bicyclette! I pedal out of Turku on a super-duper bike path that makes me feel as if I never want to bike in the U.S. again. I am doing part of what's known as the "Archipelago Ring Route," which takes you over several of the 20,000-some islands in the Turku Archipelago via a combination of bridges and ferries. Unfortunately it's early season so many of the ferries aren't running yet. Instead of doing a loop as cyclists normally do, I am doing an out and back route. But hey, it beats sitting at home in Seattle where it's undoubtedly raining. (Um, it's raining here too on this particular day but never mind that).

My first destination is the island of Nauvo, some 45 or so kilometers away. At first the scenery is dull and urban with a few too many cars. But when I take the ferry from the island of Pargas to the island of Nauvo, suddenly I am out in the country, surrounded by the placid Baltic sea and empty(ish) roads.

The ferry is nothing like the monstrosities we have here in Washington state that holds hundreds of cars and passengers. No, this bright yellow raft-like vehicle carries only about three cars and me. We scurry across the water in about 10 minutes. I'm glad it's sunny by this time because there's no place to go inside. Everyone stays in their cars and I stand by my bike. (At right, the ferry from a distance).

Because I fail to consult my map I end up riding almost 10 kilometers too far when I am already exhausted. Luckily a road sign confuses me and I take out the map to puzzle over it. I realize I've gone too far and missed the turnoff for my guesthouse. But just exactly where is it? (The map I have is somewhat less than stellar. Combine that with my less than stellar navigation skills and I have no idea where the h*ll I am.) Thank God for cell phones. In Finland, they actually work everywhere because that's all anyone uses.

A few calls and everything is cleared up. I backtrack, turn off the main road and find myself pedaling along incredibly tranquil roads. Leafy. Sun-dappled. With calm bays and red cottages around every corner. Finally I reach my lodging in a "town" called Gyttja. If you can call a few houses, one guesthouse, and a jetty a "town." (At left, the Gyttja guesthouse.)

To be continued! (I know, the tension is unbearable, isn't it?)