To Porvoo and somehow back 
Sunday, 22 .May, 2005, 18:59 - English Entries, Finland, Cycling, Photographs

Yesterday, on Saturday the twenty-first of May 2005, I fixed my bicycle and did a first one-hour round in Helsinki. I went from Töölö, where I live, to Lauttasaari and back via Ruholahti. Somewhere along the beach between Hietaniemi and Meritalli I took a break, gave the evening sun a chance to shine on me and ate an apple. The world can be such a nice place.

Today when I woke up I knew that I would go furhter than just around Helsinki. I took out some maps and looked and thought and decided to go towards the east. For three years I have had no training with the bike, therefore I was not sure how long and far I could go, but I knew that Porvoo would be the furthest. At 12:30 everything was prepared, my sunglasses jumped into my face and I went down and found the day much more hot than expected. Ok, that's acceptable - back to the flat, exchaning long jeans with short bicycle trousers. Perfect and off we go.

Content of my little bag, that can be fixed to the handlebars (German: Lenker) – in order of priority:

The famous bag I was king of that road

It is not easy finding your way of Helsinki with a bike, even if you have the outdoor map that you can get at every tourist information. Helsinki has very good cycle paths, but most of them show you only the next hop and not some bigger destination. So you can read "Pasila 1.5 km", but if you never have been there beofre you would like to know if it is in direction of Kulosaari or not. Ok, that's part of the adventure, I agree and Helsinki has enough good looking inhabitants that are worth stopping and asking for direction, even if you maybe already know your way.

I went through Pasila to Kulosaari, further to Itakeskus and then along Itaväylä. The cycle paths there are very good and it is not problem to go quite fast without killing to many pedestrians that all run around with boxes of twelve beer Lapin Kulta or Koff beer cans and sometimes also a folding chair.

A typical wooden house - somewhere on the way to Provoo take me down to my boat on the river

Road 170 took me further and further away from Helsinki, the sun was shining and I knew I would not need the sweater that I brought with me. Soon I found out that Finns are very modest when they talk about their countrie. They say it is nothing special, but it is very beautiful. But they also say they do not have any hills or mountains in the south. Ha ha. You might not care about the ascents when you drive a car, but when you are on a bike you feel them in your legs and after some time also in your arms (always grab the handlebars tight when going up a hill) and finally in your butt. But of course that was why I was here – destination exhaustion was calling for me and I followed its siren-like sing sang.

Also I learnt that a valley is not only the thing between two hills, it is also the place inbetween forests. You immediately notice you are entering a valley when the wind blows from the south. In my case it came only from the side, most of the time and it was bearable. But wind can be a bad companion on such trips. Anyhow, there is always the next forest visible in front of you when you go through Finland. In fact they do not have several forests, they only have one – the whole country is covered with it. At least this is how it looks from the air.

entering Porvoo area Speed Limit, also applies to bicycles

After 25 or so kilometers I felt a little exhausted, but at that point more than half of the road to Porvoo lay already behind me – it was only logical that nothing would hold me back from going there. The road was esy to drive, the directions were excellent, the sun was hot, my mood was perfect.

The ride brought me all the way through one of the bigger mainly Swedish speaking regions of Finland. All the signs show first the Swedish name of the locations and below it the Finish name. Unfortunately I was not able to talk to anybody in Swedish, as nobody could keep up with my speed.

There were other cyclists of course. I could not stand that any of them was in front of me, most of them were only Sundy cyclers, i.e. an easy piece of cake. I did not even need to speed up to make them feel miserable by passing by. Nothing could stop me. A filling station came up – I bought two 0.33 liter bottles of water and a snickers, my body said "thanks a lot" and I told him that it was a pleasure.

I never saw one More than half (of the way there)

Altough from a certain point on there was no cycle path anymore and I had to go on the main street it was all not a problem. The speed restriction on the road is 80 km per hour and most of the Finns stick to that, as it is written on these round signs that are placed next to the road. Finnish people do not obey rules, they just live them. Germans obey them and then they feel miserable from all the heavy obeying and just break them and say thinks like "Scheiss drauf" or pretend to just this time cross the traffic light when it switches to red. Finns do not have to think or do such things – they do not even believe in the rules, they just follow them and it is all easy and cool. Why would one like to break them? Why would they be here, if they would not be good? Right – it's a very lovely attitude, as long as the rules are simple and people here are pretty smart: they know when the rules turn against them. So don't worry.

You can guess that every car that breaks the speed limit has either a foreigner or a swedish speaking Finn as a driver. There were only few anyhow and although I tried, I did not manage to go over 80 km/h. Only close to.

Porvoo And again Provoo - it is really worth a visit

Around 15:30 (for those of you not familiar with the way how some people in Europe measure time, this is 3:30 pm – it can easily be calculated: 15:30 – 12 = 3:30 – always good to know such things, isn't it?) I arrived in Provoo, a little exhausted but very happy and I sat down by the river and made some pictures with my mobile phone and sent some messages to people who I thought would never believe that I went that far by bike. After a short break I looked at the maps again and as my mood was good, I decided to go back not the same way as I came. That was the beginning of the more interesting part of the journey.

Boat on Porvoo river The wooden houses of Provoo

The map showed the eastern kings road (Itäisen Kuninkaantie as it obviously is called in Finish language – you pronunce it as it is written, letter by letter and you stress the first syllable. Try it. Yes, it really sounds that way.), which goes north of road 170. The sun was shining, the river was flowing, I ate an apple, drunk most of my water and then went on my bike again.

The road to Kiala Entering Kiala

Already leaving Porvoo in the right direction was a major problem. The map showed Kiala as the next bigger town, but there were no signs towards it. An elder couple finally told me how to go there, but even with their help I was not sure whether I was right. The feeling of insecurity came by, sat on my carrier (German: Gepäckträger) and dangeld its legs. But who cares, the sun was shining (did I mention that already?) and after few minutes I found the alley that the couple talked of and entered in Kiala – a beautiful village with some big farms and a huge villa on the top of a hill.

The Villa in Kiala ...and one of the farms

Leaving Kiala brought me to the railroad tracks and the map told me not to follow them. So I followed the country lane quite a while south, a little bit longer and further into the wide and colorful fields around Kiala, until I reached a dead end. Smiling about my inability to find the right way I rode back and found shortly afterwards what I thought to be the trail that was in the map. Well, I drove several times into directions which were not the right ones and finally I gave up and decided to follow just the railroad tracks – the map showed that the kings road anyhow later on would go along them and so that was for sure save. For sure.

There was no asphalt on the trail along the said railroads and there were some bumps. Then these bumps invited all their family and I went through the finish miniature of Grand Canyon – my bike started vibrating at an uncomfortable frequency and I was sure that if I lost the way I would never meet anybody around to ask for help. I lost the way shortly after, when the trail went away from the railroad and I reached the next dead end – a big wooden house with three cars in front of it. They must have built these cars there on their own, because it is impossible that they ever made it along the railroad trail.Two guys were playing a ball game in front of the house and they told me to cross the railroads, I would reach the main street there. I thanked and praised them, crossed the railroad and went on.

The main road also had no asphalt but less bumps. And it had not signs either. So I followed my instinct and decided to go West, because that was were Helsinki should still be. With a Bob Dylan song on my lips (Isis, oh Isis) I road on along and came to a collection of houses that were distributed into the open space by a random number generator. They were all beautiful and I road on. Now the street made a curve, but a smaller path went on straight along the railroads. Not having learnt anything, I kept my railroad fixation and went straight. Straight into the next dead end. Back on the guaranteed asphalt free road I looked out for somebody to ask.

The houses I rode by had all cars in front of them, but the people had either not moved in or were sitting inside, worshipping the air condition. During that phase of the journey the feeling of insecurity tipped again on my shoulder and asked whether I would like some water. Yeh, for sure mate. But the water in the bottle was nearly gone. That was maybe also the moment when I thought that the sun could dim down a bit.

There was another small path to the West, I followed it and what I found was of course a dead end and a very funny looking broken car, of which I decided to take a picture. I took the picutre whilst riding my bike of course - anything else would have been weak and unefficient. The front wheel of my bicycle came across a pile of sand that I had not seen. There was not much to do - my phone was still in my hand, the other hand trying to steer the bike, the front wheel was blocked by the sand and based on these circumstances it seems natural that I got off across the handlebars.

Last picture before falling

Things going through my mind while falling:

  • Scheisse
  • Will I break my arm?
  • I should wear a helmet
  • I should have stayed at home
  • My keys, my keys
  • How should I get back?

I lay there, cursing in different languages. As that surprisingly did not help I came up after a while to investigate the details of my luck. I have to admit, I was really lucky. My right elbow was bleeding a little bit and the skin on the hands was greased. Nothing worth mentioning. But at that moment I did not feel happy about the fact that my bike still was working properly and that I could ride it without any problem. Some items had fallen out of the bag and I collected them in order of their priority, starting with my notebook. While taking up my stuff from the ground, a thing, which was originally meant to become a feather duster but turned out to be a dog during a genetic engineering experiment, showed up and barked at me. I barked back. It looked at me with a certain amount of surprise and stayed that way until I left. Most likely it is still there and tries to come up with a single thought.

It took me several more trials until I gave up on the main road and just drove back until I reached some asphalt. In fact, I came out only few meters from the place where I left Kiala an hour before. My mood went not directly to the skies when I noticed that. Soon I saw a sign that told me that Sipoo was only 25 kilometers to my right. That town was on my way and I turned right, letting a cycling couple go first that came from the other direction and also wanted to go there. I would anyhow pass by them in some minutes. They were not very fast. The road went up a small hill and I heared a strang noise. It took me a while until I noticed that it was just my breath. It would be a lie to say that the couple slowly put some distance between them and me – they just drove off and away, left me more and more behind them, feeling as if I was hiking, not cycling.

Signs indicated that the next town, named Hinthaara, was eight kilometers away. Good, there I would get some water, something to eat and I could also clean my wounds. The first four kilometers took long, the next four even longer and then I found out that Hinthaara was not a town but just a ... a ... "§%/"%"§$%. It did not even have a filling station, at least none that would have been placed next to the main road. They hide their filling stations in Hinthaara. They have plenty of them, but they hide them in order to kill poor German cyclers.

Sipoo was only twelve kilometers away. My tongue was bigger than my right hand, my lips were dry as a well in the Sahara desert and my thoughts circeld around some essential issues about this day and why I ever wanted to go to Porvoo. I made a stop, kicked the feeling of insecurity from the carrier and killed it shortly behind Hinthaara. It was a good feeling to do so, but some minutes later my brain searched again for all the songs that I knew, that talked about water. Laurie Andersons "Muddy River" was my all time favourite on the road to Sipoo.

Here a city starts (you need the sign, else you do not notice) Blurry picutre of a church

During these twelve kilometers I remembered, that this was not the first and also not the worst time I was in such a situation on my bike. Still I was not excusing to a higher power – in which I do not believe when I am not running dry while cycling – for my miserable life. Maybe I got older, wiser and harder. But that was unlikely, besides the age related part.

At last I reached Sipoo, which was not indicated as Sipoo anymore from a certain point on, but as Nikkilä. That is very helpful for somebody who lives there and does not find his way home in the middle of the night. For the rest of mankind, especially for creatures like me, it was just breathtaking. I came to crossroads where I had to decide whether I go to Korsoo, Nikkilä or Tamptadingsdabumsda – all of them I could not find on my map. My map showed Sipoo. The streets were carrying cars, but nobody was there whom I could ask. Ah yes, the sun was shining. In deep delirium I finally found Nikkilä on the map and went there.

There was no sign that this is a city. I became doubtful. Would they have a filling station? There was a hill and I became anxious. Would this terrible ascent kill me? What about my loved ones? I crossed the hill and saw several supermarkets dancing some hundred meters away and in the middle of them stood an Esso filling station, waving towards me, tears in its eyes about my visit. I could not just go by – I had to make a stop.

A liter of Lähdevesi and a Tupla later I could no resist and ordered a coffee, two Twix and a Snickers. The supermarkets stopped dancing. The sun shifted some clouds between her (the sun is female in German – I always thought of her as female. Hope I made my point clear here) and a fresh wind came up. A refreshing wind. There was a sign to Helsinki. I kissed aunt Esso good-bye, jumped on the saddle, sang a great song with an impressive voice to celebrate this day and cycled towards the last 35 kilometers of my little trip. It was 19:00 (that's seven pm) by then. Nothing could stop me anymore.

Besides the combination of my map and the cycle route indications of Helsinki. I must have been literally everywhere between Sipoo, Vantaa and Espoo without ever finding a clear signal that told me: This is the way to Helsinki Keskus. I followed main roads, but the cycle paths went away from them – I told them not to, but they were ignorant. I gave them names, they just led me further away from my flat. I asked taxi drivers and they said "you have to go right" but never got more clear on this issue. There was so much right all along the way that I just could not decide which right was right. I asked beautiful females and they told me to ask somebody else. I smiled at them and they walked away. Then I found another bicycle rider and he was able to show me on the map where I was. Somewhere Norteast of Itäkeskus. He told me how to get through a park and it all worked out.

and tomorrow Lahti ... but I have to work on Monday

I passed by Itäkeskus and went on and there was a hill and I switched the gears and then something moaned and before I could recognize the voice of my bike, my back wheel already blocked. As I was slow I this time did not need to go off via the front of the bike.

My bicycle is around six years old. I took me all over souther Bavaria, we had a ten day trip through Austria and I also showed him a little bit of Espoo, when I still lived there. And now, after this little excursion to Porvoo, the gear switcher on the back wheel broke. It was not the chain – it was the gear switcher who decided to break into two parts. Right in the middle. Dissident! Self-centred miserable object! Monstrosity of an ill Engineers mind! Malicious incarnation of a erroneous blueprint! Oh my lovely, my beloved bike. The back wheel was destroyed.

I leaned over it and smiled. This whole day was too good for being angry about a broken bike. I took it, went to the next taxi stand and arrived home around 22:00 (now you should be able to calculate the pm-time on your own).

Lessons learnt:

  • never trust a map that makes you think the way is easy to find
  • if you want to know the way, ask somebody with a bike
  • no asphalt - no go
  • civilization is most missed when absent
  • never trust a smiling taxi driver - he does not lie, but what does that mean?
  • if you are in doubt which way to go, follow the bigger road
  • take the complicated way when going there, not when going back

That's all. I'll soon let you know how it got fixed again.


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