Southern Finland

The remainder of our holiday was spent on the Finnish mainland.  After catching the ferry back from Brändö, we drove up the west coast via the beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage town of Rauma and then on to Yyteri beach, which is one of the longest sandy beaches in Scandinavia at around 6km.  From there we turned east to our base for the next 4 nights, which was a self-catering wooden lodge, or chalet, next to Lake Vesijako.

We returned to spend 2 more nights in the delightful city of Turku, which is the oldest town in Finland, with stops en route at the towns of Lammi and Hämeenlinna

Some other things I learnt during this trip (which you might also like to know):

  • As well as having thousands of islands, there are 100’s if not also thousands of lakes in Finland as well (and the Finns take great advantage of these by having weekend lodges close by).
  • There are a huge number and variety of mushrooms and toadstools in the woods. (During one walk, I met a man and his wife foraging.  They had collected at least one big bucket load of one particular type).
  • The woods are not all conifers as I imagined they might be.  There appears to be an equal number of deciduous trees as well.
  • The people are extremely welcoming and friendly.
  • The Finnish language seems to specialise in very long words, which often include double A’s, E’s, I’s, K’s, M’s, N’s or U’s.  The longest word I encountered, which I don’t think is exceptional, was 25 letters long.
  • I don’t know the significance, but many (most?) street or track names end in ‘antie’, ‘entie’, ‘ontie’ or ‘untie’.
  • The peak summer holiday season is from mid-June to mid-August and, before and after that period, you may find some things are not running or closed.  (Though the ferries appear to run all year round – when it’s not completely iced over of course!)
  • In the depths of winter, when conditions allow, it’s possible to drive over the ice to some islands. (No doubt special tyres and a brave or trusting nature are required for this).
  • Last, but by no means least, the beer in Finland (and Stockholm) is pretty good.  They certainly know how to make a tasty IPA. 😊 Cheers! 🍻

Swiss National Route 6, Gruben to St Niklaus (Day 3 of 3)

Unusually, I was up at the crack of dawn for the last day of my walk.  Well, the hotel bar shut at 10pm, so what else was there to do but got to sleep and even I can manage on 8 hours!  So it was that I set off well before the ‘Brits’ (see previous post) and, if you don’t count cows or birds or butterflies, I never saw a soul until I got near to the Augstbordpass, where I espied someone on the horizon.  (I later caught them up on the descent – see pic 17).

The weather was dry, but rather dull, with high cloud, so not great for photography,  The highlights on the ascent were spotting and capturing (on camera, that is) 3 birds – one I knew, one I thought I knew, but didn’t, and the other I have no idea… (Help!?)

The descent was ‘interesting’ shall we say, as there was still a lot of snow around and I’m not happy walking across, especially sloping, snow in what are effectively trainers – oh yes, and without walking poles.  (Although they are useful in some circumstances, like 1% of the time, I’m not a fan of poles as, to my mind, they are extra baggage and they get in the way when things get a bit bouldery and some scrambling is required – which it was on this trip).  Anyway I survived about 5 or 6 short(ish) sections and my leg only disappeared once up to the knee.  I should have taken a picture – there was already a big hole and now there are two… 🙂

Later, the sun started to come out and the last section down from Jungen was a joy to behold, with butterflies everywhere.  I was being teased by Apollos and even a Swallowtail fluttering around my head but, when they landed, they were out of reach and I would have needed to hang off the cliff face to get a picture.  I saw more Marbled Whites than I’ve ever seen in my entire life (and that’s a few – well, maybe 12) and a host of others, not shown below, simply because they either didn’t land or I have no way of identifying them and there’s enough in this gallery anyway.

I couldn’t leave this post without highlighting two flowers…

Pic 12: I’m 99% sure are called King-of-the-Alps.  They look like Alpine Forget-me-nots, but they only grow to a height of between 1 and 6 cm (unlike their look-a-like, which grows to 5 to 15cm).  My book describes them as “Rather rare” and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them, certainly posted a picture of them.

Pic 27: Has the delightful name of Swiss Treacle Mustard and if that’s not a name to conjure with nothing is.  🙂

Transhumance

As you may know, I like to educate as well as entertain, so…

Transhumance – what is it?  It’s a word that I’d certainly never come across in all my long years until my very learned friend, Pete, told me about it.  Dictionary.com defines it as:

“the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains.”

Although a noun, it’s derived from the French verb transhumer – to shift ground, which itself is modelled on the Spanish, trashumar.

This activity takes place in our local villages twice a year, but I’ve never got involved until yesterday, when I accepted an open invitation from Marius of the Ferme de Clos Lombard to accompany his cows up to the meadows near Lac d’Arbey.

The cows spend most of the winter down in the valley inside their sheds, only coming out if and when the weather allows.  So you can imagine their joy at spending the summer on the open fields high on the alpage (that’s the verdant area of open land between the valley and the high, rocky mountain peaks).

After setting off through the village and briefly along the road to Lannaz, the procession of cows and people took to the path up to the far side of Lac d’Arbey.  About half way, there was a short pause for the cows, and some of the people I might add, to catch their breath. (I know how they feel after a winter of inactivity!)  Two or three (cows that is) made bids for early freedom, but they were soon brought back into line by the helpful followers.  And then finally, after a few more short breaks, we all arrived at the lake where not only the cows took to wading in…

 

Haute Nendaz to Euseigne (2 Bisses) Walk

As you may know, I like to bring you something new on this site, ideally with a little bit of knowledge or information, so, today, I will introduce you to two of the fifty or so bisses in the Valais region of Switzerland.  As the Valais website says:

A bisse is an open ditch delivering priceless water from mountain streams – often by daring routes – to arid pastures and fields, vineyards and orchards. Many bisses are still in use today and so are carefully maintained. Numerous trails accompany these historic watercourses, inviting visitors to varied hikes on historic trails.

I should add that some of them were built as early as the 13th century and they vary from simple ditches, to wooden or metal troughs and even through solid rock sometimes (as you will see below).

Now, I’ve been meaning to walk one of these routes for a while and, since they tend to be at a relatively low level (in this case around 1400 metres / 4,600 ft) they are currently free of snow.  Looking at the map, I decided to take the Postbus up to Haute Nendaz, then walk south along the Bisse Vieux before following the Grand Bisse de Vex all the way around to Héremence.  From there I took the footpath down to Euseigne to catch the Postbus back home.  In total it was a distance of 25.5 km or 16 miles, though, of course, the going was either gently ascending or descending alongside the bisses.

Along the way I was initially disappointed with the number of flowers and butterflies on view, though that soon picked up as I rounded the corner into the Val d’Hérens.  There I spotted a Comma butterfly (or two) for the first time ever and several ‘new’ flowers, which unfortunately I haven’t yet found (or had the time to find) in my Alpine flower book.

My apologies for posting so many pictures, but it was hard to decide which to leave out.  I hope they give you a good feel for the many and varied things you can see on the walk(s).

La Forclaz to Les Haudères (Walk 6)

Yesterday morning, I went for a short (8k/5 mile) run to test out my ribs, with the intention of running at what Mastersmarathonrunner calls a ‘jokingly slow’ pace.  I like this expression as it makes me smile – triggering thoughts of a really easy, enjoyable run.  I guess it sits below ‘Easy’ in the pecking order of running pace terms.  In the event, my ribs were a little sore, but fine, and I ran at around my marathon pace.

It was a gorgeous, blue sky day, so in the afternoon, I also took off for an 11.5k/7 mile walk from the chalet up to La Forclaz (Valais) and then down to Les Haudères and back.  After the recent warm temperatures, I wasn’t expecting to see as much snow, especially on the south facing slopes.

HandiCapRando* trip to Saillon

Before I retired, I put my name down to help with a group of Nestlé volunteers, who give up their time to take disabled people into the mountains.  They use a specially designed  ‘Joelette’, which has one wheel supporting a sort of modern sedan chair. (See pic 5 or link below).  It has a disc brake to slow the descent and a little motor to help going uphill.

The weather forecast for the afternoon of our trip (i.e. last Friday) was not good, so the route was changed to be a relatively straightforward meander through the vineyards above Saillon.

I’ve been to Saillon a few times, but I learnt so much that day from Jean-Michel, the organiser and leader of the group.  For example, I learnt that:

  1. The vineyard region is named after a guy called Farinet (1845-80), who escaped from an Italian jail and was a famous counterfeiter.  You would think that this would make him unpopular, but he became known as the Robin Hood of the Alps, because he helped the poor.  He’s now buried in Saillon and there’s a ‘Fausse Monnaie’ museum in the centre of the village in his honour.
  2. The world’s smallest registered vineyard, which has just three vines, is located above the village.  Each year famous personalities from the world of sport, art and politics, come to ceremoniously work on the vines.   (Some of their names are painted on signposts in the vineyard).

    For a long time, the vines belonged to Abbé Pierre, but he bequeathed them to the Dalai Lama, who is still the owner today.  There are hundreds of hand-written plaques placed near the vineyard with religious or spiritual messages.

    Unfortunately, due to the rain and my hands being busy holding the Joelette, I didn’t manage to capture any images of this particular area. Sorry !

*For more information on the HandiCapRando organisation please see this link (in French).

 

English Lake District Walk, Day 2 (of 4) – Rosthwaite to Wasdale Head

Reposted as I forgot to add the watermark and I promised Pete I’d give him the credit for his photos !

It’s a rather strange anomaly but only one of the many ‘lakes’ in the English Lake District is actually called a Lake, i.e. Bassenthwaite Lake.  The rest have their own names, like Buttermere, Derwent Water or Wast Water.  Smaller bodies of water are called Tarns.  Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is. (The hills are also called fells for some reason too !)

Today’s route takes us from Rosthwaite, over Glaramara (@783m) and down via Sprinkling and Styhead Tarns, to the very welcome sight of the Wasdale Head Inn – said to be the birthplace of rock climbing.  While there, I was reminded of home, as there were some black and white photos of the Arolla valley. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Cabane des Becs de Bosson (Walk 25)

Another day and another great walk to a cabane with fantastic views.  Although the day started well, a veil of cloud soon descended to take away the bright sunshine.  It did not detract however from the enjoyment of the walk and the thrill of finally spotting some Edelweiss in the wild.  Yesterday was the first time in nearly 10 years that I’ve seen any growing naturally – and there was loads of it !

It’s a fascinating plant, for example, did you know that :
– Edelweiss is not really a flower as such, but a set of 500 to a thousand tiny florets grouped in several heads (between 2 and 10 of them) surrounded by 5 to 15 white velvety leaves ?
– It originally comes from the Himalayas and was practically unknown until the late 19th century?
– In former times it was used as a popular remedy for diarrhoea ?
Sources: Swissinfo.ch and the Swiss Alpine Club’s “Our Alpine Flora” book.