Oh my goodness, we went somewhere!! Since travel is so crazy right now, we decided to stay in Finland and have a long weekend getaway while Little Man’s daycare was closed for staff training. Alas, I still have mom brain and got the dates mixed up, so Little Man will have a four day weekend at home this week. I’m sure I’ll find something fun to keep him occupied. *fingers crossed*
Back to the travel! After much deliberation, we chose Savonlinna as our destination. Aside from hearing about how beautiful it is, and the fact that there’s a castle there (linna is Finnish for castle), it’s easily accessible by train from Helsinki. We would’ve been happy to rent a car, but something like 90% of them were sold out, and we’re iffy about our licences being valid here, so we went for the safe option. Besides, LM loves trains, and it seemed easier with Young Miss. (She’s never actually been in a car so we have no idea how she’ll react to a car seat.)
LM went to daycare as usual on Thursday, then Hubster, YM, and I picked him up a bit early, and we all walked to the train station. We took the normal commuter train to the Helsinki Central Station, then boarded a long distance VR train bound for Jouensuu. The family compartment had already been booked when we looked at tickets, so we reserved seats in a business compartment instead. It seats four and has a closing door, so it was pretty easy to keep LM contained. As YM didn’t require a seat, there was one extra. It only remained vacant for one stop before we were joined by the chattiest Finn I had ever met. He was very nice, incredibly interesting, and helped pass the three hour journey enjoyably.
Hopping off the train at Parikkala, we boarded the next (and final) train to Savonlinna. This was only about an hour ride on a smaller, and much older, train. It was nice though, because the windows opened so we could catch the scent of the forest as we plodded along. The scenery was beautiful. From the Savonlinna station, it was about a twenty minute walk to our Air BnB. We checked in, got settled, then YM and I went to the nearby grocery store to get a few things for dinner. Little Man was not too pleased that we’d messed with his routine, even though we’d been talking about this trip for at least a week, and Young Miss had never been away from home for so long, so they both took a while to settle, finally falling asleep at 9:30.
At least I have babies who sleep well (for the most part); Young Miss woke up at 5:30, and the two of us enjoyed some quiet girl time, complete with coffee and copious amounts of spit up.
Happily full of pastry and coffee, we set off in the direction of Olavinlinna Castle, walking along the waterfront. It was a bright, mostly sunny morning, perfect for enjoying the rippling water, and a long stop at the playground that was on the way.
After that, we decided to call it quits (I had carried a sleeping baby through most of the castle, including some fairly treacherous staircases because I had forgotten to bring the carrier), and headed back to the entrance to pick up the stroller. As we were walking through the courtyard, it began to rain. This is where I tell you that we had zero rain gear, other than Little Man’s rain coat and an umbrella each. We then made the decision to go back inside and have some coffee in what was once the great hall, and wait out the rain.
When it eventually let up, the sun came out long enough for us to get a few nice photos outside the castle, and stop for ice cream. It was my favourite part of the afternoon, and I think LM would agree.
The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to guess the weather. We successfully made it to a restaurant near the square, where we enjoyed some drinks (beer for Hubster, a latte for me, and a huge glass of milk for LM), and a bread plate, before deciding to chance it and walk home. Of course, it started really raining the closer we got to the apartment, so we ducked into the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner. Unfortunately, the rain hadn’t let up any by the time we finished, so the ten minute walk to the apartment was pretty wet. LM didn’t seem to mind, and YM was quite cozy with the rain cover on her pram (though not happy; she cried the entire way home). We stayed in for the rest of the night, happy to be in a home setting and able to relax.
Saturday morning was a slow start, with Hubster making a run to the store for breakfast, followed by the two of us trying to convince Little Man to go on a steamboat. He was adamant about not going on a boat, for whatever reason. Finally, we figured out that he wanted to go back to the tunnel slide. After that, it was easy to say that we would go on the boat first, then go to the playground.
It was supposed to rain off and on all day, so we weren’t in any rush to get out. Of course, that meant that it was gorgeous and clear all morning. It was a bit windy and starting to drizzle by the time we made our way to the harbour; the perfect time to go on a boat tour. We got there about fifteen minutes before departure, right as they were boarding, but early enough to get an excellent seat inside. We parked the pram on the deck and Young Miss proceeded to sleep for the entire hour and a half tour (and longer, taking a two and a half hour nap in total). I think the gentle rocking of the steamboat, along with the rhythmic chug-chug-chug of the engine kept her asleep.
We enjoyed some refreshments along with the views. Little Man was happy watching a movie on the tablet, only occasionally glancing out the window. (I didn’t expect a four-year-old to be excited about scenery. As long as he was content, I was happy.)
That being said, the scenery was spectacular. Having grown up near the ocean, and often spending time on rivers and various lakes, I love being near water. It soothes my soul.
We cruised around the archipelago, content to be inside, while also admiring the many islands and signs of life on them. I always like to imagine what life would be like in these places, probably romanticizing it to the extreme (that’s what I do best). I then forced myself to remember that this is Finland, and, knowing what winters are like, realizing how nice it would be to have a summer home here, but not loving the idea of the icy wind and meters-deep snow. Sigh.
As promised, after disembarking from the steamboat, we made a beeline for the playground. It was ugly windy at that point, and lightly raining. I continued a short way passed the park to the public bathroom; Young Miss had finally woken up and needed a diaper change. Normally, I’d be fine to do that in the pram, but with the weather, it was nice to get out of the elements. Little Man happily spent 45 minutes at the playground before we gave in to the cold (I should also mention that the only “coat” I had brought was a lace sweater with three-quarter length sleeves. Apparently I have no idea how to dress for Finnish weather), and went back to the same restaurant as the day before.
Amazingly, it was packed. At 5:30, we had expected the dinner crowd not to have arrived yet, but we were lucky to get a table. We all enjoyed burgers and a nice atmosphere before once again making the trek back to the apartment. Both kiddos fell asleep pretty easily which was nice, as they both slept in the living room: LM on the pull out sofa bed and YM in a travel cot.
Sunday was our travel home day, so we spent the morning cleaning the necessities in the apartment and doing last minute packing. Our train left at 12:30, but we went into town a bit early so we could try another dish that is well-known in Savonlinna: muikku. A friend of mine had suggested a restaurant on the square that serves them, so we went there when they opened at 11:00. Also known as vendace, muikku is a white fish commonly found in Finland and other northern European countries. Here, they are served fried and eaten whole, minus the heads. The bones are soft enough to not be a problem, but every now and then, I’d get a poker. Still, they were quite delicious. Even YM wanted to try some.
After that, we stopped for one last ice cream before hopping back on the train.
It was so nice to get away for a few days and see another little part of Finland. Hopefully we’ll be able to explore it more before we move.