Today I'm bugging you with my holiday plans. I am a utility cyclist, but that does not mean that I wouldn't enjoy cycling. I love cycling in rural and half-rural landscapes where you don't have to breath the dust and exhaust gases of motorists. I love to hear the birds sing and feel the fresh breeze on my skin. I also find the sight, sound and smell of open water very enjoyable. I am also lucky enough to live really close to perhaps the most beautiful archipelago in the world, and I actually live right next to the ring road that leads there. So, my holiday dream is to take a 5-day ride in the Turku Archipelago next summer.
Turku Archipelago is a rare thing world wide. It is located in the biggest brackish water inland sea in the world. Baltic Sea is a shallow sea, and it has several thresholds. One of them is between Stockolm and Turku, and it is indicated by the archipelago' of Turku, Åland, and Stocholm. Turku Archipelago is the largest one of them and has 20'000 to 40'000 islands depending on the definition. Baltic Sea drainage is an area of post-glacial land uplift, which can be as fast as one meter in hundred years. Also Turku Archipelago is experiencing constant uplift and so small islands are slowly growing together and gaining size and islands gain contact with the main land. From the shores one can find neatly zoned succession forests with lotsa species. There are not many erosional coastal forms such as cliffs, because the uplift takes the coastline away from the wave action before they can be formed. Most of the coasts are rocky and have bare glacially eroded rocks, but there are also small beaches. Baltic Sea is getting increasingly eutrophicated due to the drainage land use and cities' waste waters, but you still come accross relatively pure areas that, if you did not know better, you would mistake for a natural state sea areas.
To get an impression of how it looks like over there, check out this link. It features an interactive map of the Turku Archipelago and when you click the items that turn yellow under the cursor, you get a 360 view of the location. I recommend that you do that, the views are amazing! The dark blue lines in the map symbolize ring roads in the archipelago and the long tour is about 250 km in length.
There are several ways of how one can explore the area by bike. You can choose a destination and stay there and do expeditions on your own. Sometimes that sort of cottage/hotel holiday trips also have guides. You can also just pack your bags and hit the road, there will be plenty of lodging opportunities on the route, for this area of Finland gets most of its income from tourism. Or, we have quite extensive civil rights here: you can pack a tent and put it anywhere you like without the land owners permission as long as you are out of their yards and crops and leave nothing behind, and don't hunt or make fire. In the Swedish-speaking area you need to be a bit more careful, for they don't care much of the "all men's rights" even though they are concerned by the same laws as everyone else. My plan is to take a semi-independent 5-day tour in the archipelago. It costs 205 euros, and for that you get a rental bike, directions, and lodging. I don't know if breakfasts and ferry tickets are included, but probably majority of them is.
So, what would one encounter in the archipelago? Many islands are more or less "barren", so many of them are forested. Natural scientist will find plenty of intersting natural features, species, formations, etc. Of course, you would have to take several different ferries between the islands too, and that is lotsa fun! That's actually when you get to see many exciting things. If you have a long distance objective in you camera, I would suggest that you to take it with you, because you can sight e.g. eagles and storks. There are also mammals like white-tailed deer, moose and foxes. Those are species that I or friends of mine have sighted. Also, the archipelago is an area of early settlement. There are many cool lighthouses, churches, mansions and other historical buildings to see. There are also tiny idyllic villages scattered here and there.
You can only take semi-independent tours from June to August. Unfortunately I don't know yet where I'll be on the summer or what will I do for living, so there's no knowing if I can do it on 2010 or will it have to be postponed until the next summer. If someone has done the tour, I'd like to know your impressions of it. Also, if you are not Finnish and wish to take the tour, I could help you find out about your options. Many of the web sites are in Finnish or Swedish. If you wish to come but are lacking company, you could come with me ;) So far I've planned to go on my own, but company wouldn't hurt me either.