Savonlinna & Tampere, Finland
Another sleep in, this one until 11 a.m. It was like we were jet-lagged. I can't wait to be back in the land of light and dark and normal sleeping patterns. It rained all night and for most of the day again, so we didn't really miss much by sleeping in. We dressed and ate quickly then hit the road to continue our drive to Savonlinna. The scenery was the same as yesterday; we also can't wait until we see something besides conifers on our travels.
One annoying thing about Finland was their speed cameras. They were placed roughly every five kilometres on most main roads, usually just after the speed limit had decreased. So we could be driving along at 100 kph, a speed sign appears stating it is now 80 kph sign and 100 metres later is the speed camera (no exaggeration). We spent a lot of time slamming on our brakes.
Savonlinna, a town of only 28,000 people and we managed to hit peak hour. Rather than sitting in traffic going nowhere, we pulled over and strolled around town while we waited for it to die down. There wasn't a whole lot to see other than a lake and that grew old pretty quickly. We stumbled upon a brewery restaurant, which Danny dashed into to taste their offerings. They also offered free internet, which kept me entertained.
Once the traffic had disappeared we jumped back in the car and headed towards Punkaharju, a nearby town close to the Russian border. It was advertised as a scenic drive, with the road dividing two lakes. We stopped just short of the town to eat dinner and have a drink while watching the sunset over the water. The sunset was amazing; our Chilean cask wine was not, but it did the job. Driving back to Savonlinna the sunset grew more and more intense, until it was bright pink in colour. I couldn't stop often enough to take photos.
Once back in Savonlinna we visited a tiny castle (closed but we could still walk around it), which was supposed to be one of the best in Europe. While not the biggest castle it was still worthy of a visit. Inside was a theatre with a production group rehearsing a play. It would make a fantastic venue for a show.
We knew we wouldn't be sleeping for a while due to our late rise this morning, so we decided to start driving towards our next destination. The sunset was with us the entire way, coupled with mist rising off the water. It was probably the best drive we had experienced since Norway. We stopped just short of halfway, in the town of Mikkeli, only because there was a McDonald's and we wanted to use the internet the next day. Sleep didn't hit us until sometime early in the morning.
An alarm woke us the next morning, ensuring we couldn't sleep in too late. With all the time we had available we decided to have an indulgent day, starting with scrambled eggs and mushrooms for breakfast. Then it was a three hour drive to Tampere, followed by an indulgent pancake lunch. To work off some of the food we fit in a short exploration of the town just before it started to rain. It didn't stop raining for the rest of the day, much to our annoyance. Danny's solution to stay dry was to visit the Lenin museum, while I wandered through the rain, getting soaked in the process. Just a typical June day that wouldn't have been out of place in Australia. I found a food market where I bought some indulgent cheeses (saganaki and goat's cheese) plus bread. Danny was upset he missed out on the market.
We met back at the car and drove to a caravan park just outside town. We indulgently snacked on saganaki, oil, dukkah and bread and drank a bottle of Bordeuax red wine. Danny surprised me by showing me a slideshow he had put together of our trip so far (we were close to the halfway point), containing photos and diary entries, plus music in the background. It was absolutely fantastic. How did he find the time to put this together without me knowing??
We caught the bus back into town for dinner, as we had both been craving steak for a while now and we wanted to put that craving to rest. It was a public holiday tomorrow (yes, another one) and we found that most restaurants were closed for the long weekend, which didn't leave us with much of a choice. We ended up in a restaurant on the lake, which would have provided a great view if it wasn't raining. After our antipasto entrée and steaks with porcini sauce, we were happily satisfied. But we couldn't finish the night without dessert, so we walked up to the only other restaurant open today and ordered a cheesecake and apple pie (both fantastic) plus two cocktails (also superb). We were well and truly stuffed by the end. We rolled back to the van and finished the night watching a movie on the computer. It was almost dark outside by the time we fell asleep.
It had finally stopped raining when we woke up and the weather actually became warm. This seemed like a good opportunity to head back into Tampere to see more of the town. Well, a good opportunity for me; Danny was too hungover to walk around town. In fact he was so hungover that at one point he was driving the wrong way down a three lane, one-way road, with traffic coming towards us. He thought it was hilarious; I did not. After an hour of traipsing around Tampere, not seeing much of note, I was back in the car and we were on our way to Helsinki.