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