Retreat to Nuuksio

Dear reader, I’ll be visiting this blog occasionally with scribblings mostly about antiquarian bookshops, museums and generally seizing the moment in some of the perhaps stranger places of our beloved Helsinki.

But oddly enough I start by heading out of the city in search of natural solitude by a beautiful pond in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau. Well, it’s not that lonely out there, but it’s definitely a breathtakingly beautiful place of natural wonder. And it’s easily accessible from central Helsinki by a smooth train-bus combination plus a little bit of walking, as is only appropriate in such retreats. The place’s called Nuuksio and it’s a public natural park. You’ll be there in about an hour and a half from the Helsinki central train station.

Mustalampi pond in Nuuksio

For many a traveler the whole Finland, even the center of our tiny capital, is a place of natural beauty. I strongly agree! Care to wander in a true forest with big trees and all? Head for the (somewhat confusingly named) central park starting just outside Helsinki center. Wonderful place to get safely lost in the woods. How about a dip in the Baltic Sea? Be our guest, anywhere anytime. (I know it’s not the cleanest of waters this so called sea of ours, but I for one don’t mind the murkiness but go for late night swims year around accompanied with very pleasant smokes afterwards.) Anyway sometimes I long for something even more special and so do my daughters, now 10 and 12. That’s when we pack our backpacks, take the train and bus to Nuuksio and walk to Mustalampi pond, where we pitch our tent for the night. What a bliss!

Camping by the Mustalampi pond in Nuuksio

Quite a few hikers there during daytime, but come evening and almost everybody disappears. It’s just you and perhaps a couple of other tents. You’ll be a few meters from the pond, where a swim is a must between the strange floating moss-islands. There’s a place for campfires nearby for cooking and roasting marshmallows, as we always do. A dry-toilet for convenience is to be find nearby as well. The night’s sleep is always distracted by ducks and other birds breaking the otherwise total silence, but no matter, anyway you’ll be tempted to stay outside the tent watching the moon and starscape otherwise quite invisible in Helsinki area because of too much light-pollution. When we were there in late September it was a cloudless sky lit by a supermoon so big and bright I almost felt like reaching for my sunglasses! Was it cold? Definitely, but only for me with the too thin sleeping bag. The girls slept beautifully with proper equipment. Did I mind? Absolutely not. Anyway I mostly stayed outside sipping rum and shivering not because of coldness but due to the natural wonder happening before my eyes and because of the sheer joy of sharing this with my daughters once again, so close to our home.

Swimming in NuuksioIn the morning, after the obligatory dip in the pond and a nice breakfast prepared over fire, we packed our things and took the very nice 5 kilometers hike to the natural center Haltia for exhibition visit and a huge lunch at the cafe’s plentiful buffet table. There’s a direct bus from there back to Helsinki center.

It’s not Thoreau’s Walden, but close enough and probably better for the kind of city dweller as myself. If you’re a nature lover and visiting Helsinki, don’t miss Nuuksio. (But having said that, if you’re a REAL natural lover and an experienced hiker, there’s plenty of truly wild nature upper north, about which I don’t know much).

Next time very likely about bookshops. Until then!

Eero

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