Lahti is the seventh largest city in Finland, lying about 100 km north of Helsinki. While visiting our friend Noora’s kesämöki outside of Lahti, she showed us some of the highlights from the city and the surrounding towns – there’s lots that we didn’t have the time to see, but we’ve definitely got a good idea of the area.
For those coming from the south, Lahti is the gateway to the country’s lake district (covering much of central and eastern Finland) – the city is, in a sense, a port town due to its harbour on Vesijärvi (“water lake”) which is connected to a large network of other lakes via the Vesijärvi canal. Lahti is also famous for its many top ski-jumpers and for the Lahti Ski Games which it hosts annually – the sight of the three massive ski-jumps above the city seems iconic to me.
While exploring around Lahti we were staying in Noora’s kesämöki, which is one the banks of Urajärvi lake. Only a few kilometers away is the Urajärvi Manor, built in 1812 and currently undergoing extensive renovations. We were not able to explore inside (and will have to wait for it to be reopened next year… see the National Board of Antiquities website for more detail and a thorough history of the place), but enjoyed the beautiful lakeside forest and the unusual manor gardens.
The forest around Urajärvi was quite beautiful – lots of berries (blueberries, lingonberries and raspberries made for a good breakfast snack) and flowers, and a few interesting animals (first decent views of Crossbills and a glimpse of a European Pine Martin).
Just north of Lahti on the main highway into the lake district is the town of Heinola – if you are just passing by you will at least see the town’s rather beautiful bridge. We had a quick stop to visit Heinola’s bird sanctuary where injured birds are rehabilitated (the “lintutarha” on the road signs) – it was good to read about how many of the birds had been successfully released again. We felt pretty sad for the injured owls – but it did at least give me a chance to study some of the species up close (since I’ve had very little luck with seeing owls in Finland so far… with the exception of in central Helsinki…).
We were lucky to visit the town of Vääksy during their weekly flea markets (Brigitte found us our own Afrikan Tähti) and their annual two-day fair (the “Anianpellon markkinat”). There was lots of good food on offer, and we decided to try nettle pancakes (same idea as the nettle bread we tried in Turku) with cheese or blueberry fillings – pretty good (although difficult not to spill the blueberry filling everywhere).
We also took a stroll along the Vääksy canal that was built in 1886 – where I saw my first Red-Necked Grebe from a little cafe on the shore of the lake. We really enjoyed exploring around Lahti – so much still to see there that I hope we’ll be able to return soon again.