Eyes of Faith: Renewed

I’ve reached a milestone of sorts… continue to journey with me over at

Eyes of Faith Renewed

Posted in this & that

Buen Camino: St Olav Waterway

It feels so weird to have had a full and busy day today and yet know that in an hour or so I’ll be starting out on the St Olav Camino … that’s one of the benefits of the long white nights here in Finland at this time of year. The forecast is good and I’m excited to be following the steps of pilgrims once again!

My friend and I are planning on doing 3 1/2 days of the St Olav Waterway.

Stage 1 (over two days)

Stage 2 (with detour 2b to the island of Bensar)

Stage 3 (finishing 2b first!)

In other words from Turku to Nauvo (Åbo- Nagu) (Later in the summer (late July) i will have at least one day more on the pilgrim’s trail!)

I’m not sure if I’ll have access to the internet and can blog or not … let’s see.

Buen Camino!

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, peregrina, st olav waterway (Finland)

Packing for Pilgrims

It feels only yesterday I was packing for the Camino. (In reality it’s almost ten months ago!) … So what have I learned since then?

1. I travelled light then. I’ll travel light now. ✅

2. Packing for a short (3 night pilgrimage) is every bit as tricky as a 40day one! 👀

Most needs, however, are the same :

Sheet sleeping bag liner and pillow slip, micro-towel, a change of clothes and underwear, extra socks, a rain jacket and fleece, cap, sunglasses, toiletries and plasters, sunscreen and a water bottle, snack box, cash (euros)

Additional items this time: mosquito repellent (a must in the archipelago at this time of year) and swimsuit.

And one big change: a different credential!

I don’t have a pilgrim route book but do have a printed out set of step-by-step directions!

I don’t have a poncho this time – Finnish summers can be stormy and there can be persistent rain as well, but the forecast is promising and anyway I forgot to ask my friend if I could borrow hers again. So hoping the rain stays away but also that it’s not too hot.

This is the season of white nights (midnight sun) so I’m not taking a torch either!

I’m really, really looking forward to this pilgrimage … time with God, time away from the normal routines of everyday life. It will be different, very different, from my Camino to Santiago de Compostela, not least because I’m not going solo this time but walking with a friend (her initiative in response to my sixtieth year celebration of meeting with friends this year), plus this is Finland so I know the people and the land (though much of it will be in Swedish speaking areas) so the culture and the scenery is familiar.

Another huge difference is that we know where we will be staying for each of the three nights (the first two nights with friends en route) AND at times our pilgrimage takes us over the water (small local ferries)

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, Finland, st olav waterway (Finland), this & that

St Olav Waterway …beyond those steps!

Remember those steps? Here they are from the top!

In preparation for our pilgrimage the week after next, and in view of the fact that we will set off from Turku in the evening, I thought I’d better see what happens after those steps.

Good thing I did, it’s not particularly straight forward!!!

I started off where I knew the pilgrim route would come out from Vaarniemi and worked back from the point where (reassuringly) there was a pilgrimage waymarker. A good start (albeit in reverse)

Since Jolanta and I had our adventure the description of the route has been amended so I knew it was futile looking for St Olav waymarkers in this particular section!

Interestingly, this is somewhat familiar stomping ground for me as we’ve sometimes walked the dogs here (though we call it by a different name) but nonetheless it’s still somewhat tricky to find the blue markings of the hiking trail. (A detailed map at the lookout tower – where there is St Olav Waterway marker would be helpful, I think)

I managed to hike up from Maastotie to the shelter (where there’s an outback toilet ( a puucee) and up the tower (and back to the top of the very steep steps) and with a bit less ease (because the blue markings are not easily visible and it’s very easy to veer slightly off piste) I found the car -and the reassuring st Olav sticker again. Success!

So far so good!

Next I wanted to make sure I could navigate with some confidence to nearby Auvainen, where we will stay the first night.

Yes! That worked. So very far so very good.

The next exploration was to check the start of the route from Auvinen (partly on foot, partly by car) through the suburbs of Kaarina until the road to the archipelago. This wasn’t that easy either (and I’d have liked a few more signs to reassure me that I was not only on the right road but walking the right direction), just having the street names isn’t quite enough … though on foot it’s a more straightforward than by car through the new builds because of the connecting cyclepaths! Fingers crossed!

One nice surprise was that the route takes you right next to Kaarina swimming beach , which was crowded today (a sunny Sunday) and looked jolly tempting even though it was only 9:30am.

The ice-cream kiosk was doing a roaring trade. If it’s as hot as this a week on Tuesday (unlikely) I’ll be hoping s/he’s open for business for us!

All in all a good morning’s preparation for our forthcoming St Olav Waterway adventure! This time next week I’ll be busy packing …

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, Finland, hiking, peregrina, rural, st olav waterway (Finland), water, winter

Trondheim: The End of the St Olav Waterway!

I was in Trondheim this morning.

No, I didn’t walk there on the St Olav Way (one day I will!) and sadly I didn’t even get close to the cathedral! It would have been cool to take a photo of the 0km waymarker!

I was in Trondheim to take part in the parkrun there. It was fabulous, though a very tough 5km for me … not only was there a long ascent from the start …but the course is a three lap one around the park by the fortress and -you’ve guessed it – on each of the three laps was a hill to get up. My endurance is better and my hill conquering muscles have been activated after a week hiking in the Swedish mountains near Åre!

Åre is on the St Olav Pilgrim Trail … and although I didn’t actually see any waymarks, I spotted this at the wonderful old church in Åre village

(Which reminds me I must get my St Olav Waterway Credential stamped at Turku Cathedral and check the route to Auvaisberg before midsummer!)

Anyway I wasn’t in Trondheim as a pilgrim today, but as a runner!

What was especially lovely about the parkrun in Trondeim was that on the final lap a Local (who was second home) came back up the hill and encouraged and coached me round for my final lap and right across the finish line.

It turned out that Frederik’s grandparents were Swedish speaking Finns from the Vaasa area of Finland … so he wanted to encourage this Finn. Nice! He used the Finnish word SISU (keep it up, don’t give up/ be determined) and that made me smile … because without his helpful encouragement I would surely have walked up the hill on the third and final time! As it was I got round the whole course without resorting to walking … even the sneaky uphill just before the line.

It was a bit crazy of course to get up at 6am to drive from Åre to Trondheim just to participate in the park run. But I’m glad I did. Trondheim is the most northerly parkrun …an honour which was held by Tampere (my home parkrun) until last October. So I’ve reclaimed that status for myself … and am willing Vaasa or Oulu (in Finland) or even Umeå (Sweden) to get a parkrun up and running!

Tonight is our final day in Sweden … tomorrow we go back home. We’ve driven a couple of thousand kilometres, hiked a lot (prob about 70-80km) and I’ve completed my maiden parkrun in both Sweden (Uppsala) and Norway (Festningen, Trondheim).

A good week’s ‘work’, and a really good holiday!

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, international, norway, Sweden, travel

Hiking v Pilgrimage

There is a difference, though I’m still very pushed to define precisely what that difference is. Maybe it simply boils down to intention … why did I set out on this particular journey? Or maybe not – I met a fabulous man, a catholic priest, from Taiwan on the Camino Francés last autumn. He reminded us Life is a Camino …that thought resonates with me still!

It’s almost a week since the St Olav Waterway Pilgrim route was officially opened. Tomorrow is Ascension Thursday here in Finland -a public holiday. The forecast is good and I’d love to be out on the pilgrims’ trail. It’s a month until I officially set out, but I’m hoping to double check the path from Vaarniemi lookout tower. Since our biking peregrine adventure I’ve had a chance to study the map better. That lookout tower is actually family stomping ground for us … but hubby told me the steps are a relatively new addition so that’s what confused me! Anyway one of these days I’ll find out how the path looks from up those steep steps!

I’d like to do that tomorrow, though I’ll probably simply be nearer home, walking the dogs with my friend and her family. That’s an adventure in itself -and quite possibly a Camino of and in itself. Who knows?

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, Finland, st olav waterway (Finland) | 2 Comments

St Olav Waterway – it’s official!

The St Olav Waterway was officially opened yesterday! And, as the milestone waymarker reminds us, its only 1200km from Turku Cathedral to the shrine of St Olav at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim. In the Middle Ages this was Northern Europe’s most popular pilgrimage destination … and now the St Olav Waterway, linking to the St Olav Way in Sweden, means it’s possible to walk there as a pilgrim once again!

Yesterday was a day of celebration and thanks. So many people – at so many levels – have been involved in making the dream of the St Olav Waterway pilgrim route a reality. There was a fantastic seminar held right next to Turku Cathedral yesterday, and it was a privilege and a joy to be part of that.

Two highlights;

Firstly, the amazing musicians Sofia Sahlin and Olle Liender. The way Sofia had researched the saints of the region, in particular St Anna (Novgorod), St. Brigitte, and the music and theology of Hildegard of Bingen in addition to the patron saints of the Nordics St Henrik (Finland) St Eric (Sweden) St Knut (Denmark) and of course good old St Olav of Norway. The music chosen from different areas along the pilgrim route was amazing, and I loved the way she opened her first session … with a recording of the chimes in Nidaros (which Olle then picked up ‘live’) It was beautiful but also resonated at a deeper level.

Secondly, the passion and enthusiasm of Åsa Ringbom who reflected on the medieval art on the pilgrim route through the Finnish archipelago, the paintings, statues and stained glass works depicting St Olav on the way.

Thirdly, the words shared by Bishop Björn Wikstöm on hospitality, particularly the hospitality of strangers, was spiritually moving and inspiring too.

Today a group set out on the first leg of the St Olav Waterway … hopefully without bikes hahaha … but also, wonderfully, a pilgrim from Portugal, who set out from Turku Cathedral at Easter is due to arrive at Nidaros this weekend too. I can only imagine his JOY!

(More maps here)

My friend and I will walk the first three legs of the St Olav Waterway immediately after midsummer. In the meantime I’ll feast on the words shared at the seminar, keep up the walking, and study those maps a bit better!

Posted in fellow pilgrims, food for thought, history, my sixieth year, peregrina, rural, st olav waterway (Finland), travel, Turku

A peregrine adventure in Finland

After midsummer I’m going to be walking the first part of the soon-to-be opened St Olav Waterway, joining Finland to the St Olav Pilgrimage to Trondheim via Sweden.

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to test out the first half of stage one of the route with a friend (as we were invited to visit friends over that way) so I downloaded the step by step instructions gave a cursory look at the map and off we set. We live here, and know the area pretty well, what’s more both of us have completed the Camino Francés, so my thinking was that this particular stage can’t be that difficult!

Getting out of Turku was easy. These were familiar roads, cycle paths and we soon spotted the St Olav Waterway signs.

So far so good.

The terrain was easy, the route was very well sign posted, and we made excellent progress.

Then we arrived at a part of town that I’d never visited before – a nature reserve near the sea, with fabulous boardwalks over the wet marshy land. This is probably the point I should mention that my friend and I weren’t on foot, but on bicycle. We were, after all, en route to a party, and as seasoned pilgrims we knew that it was possible to cycle the Camino rather than walk and assumed that the St Olav Waterway would be the same.

The boards were quite narrow and the land very wet, but that wasn’t the problem… it was the fences.

Somehow we managed to get our bikes over (or round) the obstacles (there were three of them) and push our bikes along through the nature reserve. The sun was shining, the scenery was lovely and we were laughing (a lot) at the assumption I’d made that the route would be easy on a bike!

We made it through the nature reserve and happily got back on our bikes for the next stage of the journey! It wasn’t long before we encountered a tougher obstacle than the odd fence … a very, very steep flight of stairs!

I stopped and reread the instructions. Somehow I’d missed the bit that said the view was

a reward for the steep climb up the stairs

steep stairs? .., with a bicycle? Mmm no, no, no.

We couldn’t even see the top of them! There was no way I was going to push my bike up …especially as I was fairly sure going down the other side would be just as hard (possibly even more so!) So, this was the point we abandoned the pilgrim trail, navigated a tiny path through the edge of the forest, pushing our bikes over aged tree roots for what seemed like an eternity!. It was definitely an adventure, a great work out of our upper body muscles and our nerve .- and trust me, we were still laughing – but it was exhausting!

My friend was quite familiar with the small countryside roads on the outskirts of Kaarina, but although we crossed and cycled down many of those mentioned in the step by step instructions we didn’t actually manage ever to see the st Olav Waterway sign again.

We did arrive at our destination (eventually) , about two hours later than expected, a bit hot and quite tired (thankfully we had water with us!) but we were still laughing at our naivety and filled to overflowing with wonderful stories to tell!

It took us less than 30 minutes to cycle home … Later this month I’ll head over to climb those stairs and see the actual the St Olav Waterway takes down from the viewpoint. With luck I can stop off at my friend’s cottage for coffee again!

Posted in activities, Camino St Olav Way, cycling, Finland, rural, st olav waterway (Finland), this & that, urban

Running

Today was my 25th parkrun … a milestone (though not an official one as the organisation recognises 25th volunteering status and 50 (and multiples thereof) runs)

Nonetheless it is a huge achievement for me! it marks having run 125km in parkrun settings – which, given that 18 months ago running 1 minute intervals on a treadmill at the pool was close to ‘impossible’ … is close to miraculous IMHO!

I’m still neither fast nor elegant when I run, but every time I am determined to run the whole course (the hill in Helsinki still defeats me but I will master that too!) and more importantly I’m loving it.

Posted in Finland, running

Another pilgrimage ❤️

I’d love to be planning to walk the Way of St James again. Another camino … Oh Yes I really would! Those two days on Jakobsweg in southern Germany over Easter just whetted my appetite for more … but deep down I suspect (or actually I know) that this year is not the right time to skip off to northern Spain or Portugal and start stepping back towards Santiago Compostela – no matter how much I’d like to …

A pilgrimage is not a walking holiday (though elements do overlap of course). I really like this definition

A pilgrimage is a devotional practice consisting of a prolonged journey, often undertaken on foot or on horseback, toward a specific destination of significance. It is an inherently transient experience, removing the participant from his or her home environment and identity. The means or motivations in undertaking a pilgrimage might vary, but the act, however performed, blends the physical and the spiritual into a unified experience.

A journey towards a specific destination of significance. And the right timing is essential.

Mmm … No Camino for me this year then …

So then what?

Well … there is a pilgrim route in the Nordic countries.

It’s not as famous -or nearly as popular – as the Camino Francés … but the St Olav Ways, the pilgrim paths leading to Nidaros, the cathedral in Trondheim, are there for the taking … and these historic trails have been used by pilgrims and other travellers since the year 1032.

This year -after several years of hard work (and some funding from the EU) a pilgrim route is being reopened from my home city of Turku to join up with the St Olav Way in Stockholm. What is unique about this new leg of the journey is best described by looking at a map …

As you can see There’s an awful lot of water en route!

Since it’s unlikely pilgrims will be prepared – or even able – to swim long distances with backpacks … that means finding ways to get from island to island. There are some bridges of course but where there aren’t there’s an extensive network of municipal ferries, which run rather infrequently (even at the height of summer) presumably because locals and many visitors use their own boats. Several of the Ferries (even some of the free ones) need to be booked in advance because they only run if there is demand! Another challenge is there isn’t a network of pilgrim refuges – yet! – and existing accommodation and cafes are extremely scarce! Even small shops for supplies are few and far between.

All this to say … in many ways it’s the exact opposite of the Camino Francés where it turned out that in reality not that much planning was needed most of the the time! Planning for the St Olav Way is really, really essential! And carrying supplies (including water) is needed! There aren’t wells en route either!

A park run friend contacted me a couple of months ago to say that she’d like to walk a part of the newly opened St Olav Waterway with me this summer. Was I up for it? Yes! Though my heart sank -several times – as I wrestled with the complexity of it all!

Tonight we sat down together and battled with maps, and complicated ferry schedules (in Finnish and Swedish as the archipelago is mostly a Swedish speaking area) and we think we’ve now got a plan for a 3.5 day pilgrimage after midsummer!

I’m excited!

Posted in Camino St Olav Way, out and about, rural, st olav waterway (Finland), water | 2 Comments