Monday, August 12, 2013


It dawns on me that I am late. Over a hundred years late. Marcus Larsson may have saved Gotland from becoming the Sahara of the Baltic Sea. But he also greatly reduced the sand dune skiing opportunities in Ullahau. Planting this forest may have been a good idea, and it stopped erosion that may have started from human actions. But I honestly thought there would have been dunes in Gotland. And part of me wonders what would have happened if Marcus had allowed the nature to run its course.

But the practical question is if even a single skiable dune remains today. We walk a kilometer into the forest, on the soft sand. There is a dune that still partially sticks out from the vegetation! I put the skis on and start testing the slope.


The nearby cafe, Ebbas Mat & Caffe is an excellent place for a quick lunch. I recommend the ham and cheese pasta. And the old town in Visby, the biggest city, is a great place for evening entertainment and bars.


Gotland is a wonderful place, full of interesting medieval sights, ruins, and culture. Just the church architecture alone is fascinating. The island is full of ancient churches, some in ruins, some still operational.

On the first week of August, the medieval festival fills the city. At times, it is hard to remember that it is 2013, as almost everyone wears old costumes, camps out in the tents, or stages sword fights. Maybe next time we should come appropriately dressed. And equipped.

But the big thing for me were the adventures. Our trip to Gotland was a last minute decision. Not much preparation went in to it. And among the many wonderful adventures one can have in Gotland there was one that I missed reserving in time. The Lummelundagrottan is a cave system north of Visby. They organise tours for the regular tourists. But what would really have been wonderful is the caving tour deep into the mountain, walking, boating, wading through the water, and crawling. An underground climber's dream. I have to return to do this another time...

Gothem City. Are there Batmen here?

The Swedes are strict about this sort of thing:

Stone stacks (rauk) in the Fårö coast are not to be missed if you make a visit:

This is where our trip began, on the airport tunnel at Helsinki-Vantaa:

Photos and videos (c) Jari Arkko and Tarja Arkko

Friday, August 9, 2013


My new friend Patrick (a.k.a. "Mad Pat") asked what countries I have skied in. Since I have not counted in a while, it is time for a status report.

Below you will find a breakdown of the countries per continent, along with pointers to some of the blog articles from those countries.

There are 38 countries on the list, but I may have forgotten a country somewhere...

Europe - 23 countries:

First, the below figure shows approximate destinations. In reality, I often end up bundling several trips together, and, of course, skiing as a side activity on some other trip.

The places that I have skied in Finland are:

North America - 2 countries:

  • United States
  • Canada

The 18 states that I have visited are:

  • Alaska (Alyeska)
  • Arizona (Snowbowl)
  • California (Big Bear, Heavenly, Mt. Shasta, Sugarbowl, Squaw Valley, and Kirkwood)
  • Colorado (Breckenridge and Copper Mountain)
  • Connecticut (Sundown)
  • Maine (Sunday River)
  • Massachusetts (Nashoba Valley)
  • Nevada (Heavenly)
  • New Hampshire (Bretton Woods)
  • New York (Whiteface)
  • Oregon (Mt. Ashland)
  • Pennsylvania (Camelback)
  • Utah (Alta, Snowbird, Snowbasin)
  • Vermont (Mad River Glen)
  • Virginia (Wintergreen)
  • Washington (White Pass)
  • Wyoming (Jackson Hole)
  • British Columbia, Canada (Whistler and Blackcomb)

South America - 4 countries:

Oceania - 1 country: 

  • New Zealand (Mt. Ruapehu, Treblecone, and Wanaka)

Asia - 6 countries:

Africa - 2 countries:

In other news, my ankle is in reasonable shape. However, as it healed, my knee become very painful. When one body part is ill, you start walking in a different manner and soon another part gets overstressed. I'm waiting for the knee to finish healing, and then for my hip to start giving the next signs of trouble... but hoping for the best.

The opening picture in this article is taken by my friend Tero's summer ski explorations in Zillertal. When me met later in Berlin, it was one of the rare moments when he had skis with him, but I did not. But in a couple of days both of us will head to the winter side of the planet...

Photo credits (c) 2013 by Tero Kivinen and the Great Circle Mapper.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Biking Tourist

Heat wave. Nine day work week with only two hours of free time. Berlin. Summer! Skiing is highly unlikely this week, but fortunately I have a backup sport: biking. I used those two hours to tour around the city on two wheels. Berlin is a great city to bike in, and there is plenty to see. I've been here many times, but this is the first time that actually got to see the Berlin wall.

My Berlin experiences aside, I wanted to talk about biking as the chosen transport method for city vacationers in general. Not many tourists realise it is an option. Bikes can be rented in most places - from your hotel, from the city bike rental system, or from specialised shops. In Berlin, I took a bike from my hotel for 20 €, but shops around the city were offering 10 € for daily rentals.

And how nice it is to use a bike! Driving is pain in all cities, let alone those foreign to you. Busses and metros are crowded. Taxis are expensive and not always easy to get. And you are stuck inside a vehicle, not experiencing the city. With a bike, you can stop anywhere, smell the city and experience its weather, see the parks, ... all while getting a some exercise and keeping the city air clean.

Berlin was an easy city to bike in, plenty of routes along the Spree, the Tiergarten, for instance. Here's the route that I used. On some areas there are bike lanes or paths, elsewhere you are mixed in with pedestrians. In general, all the paths were good for the exploring tourist, but not necessarily meant for the high-speed sports biker. Taking it easy and slow is good advice in most cities. In Paris, there is an extensive network of bike paths, but the city has narrow streets, a lot of traffic, and some of the paths are on the streets. A shared bus and bike lane requires a careful biker. But Paris does have an excellent bike rental, city bikes are available on almost every street corner. And the daily rent is almost nothing, under 2 €.

In New York, there are some bike paths on the streets. I can recommend these for the tourists that look for extreme experiences, but not for others. Central Park is an easy place to bike in though. However, my favourite route is along the Hudson river. You can ride safely from the southernmost tip of Manhattan to the north end, while going through parks and stopping at tourist sights such as the Battery Park, WTC site, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, and others. A round trip from Battery Park to Inwood Hill Park can be 50 kilometers, so there are surprisingly long routes. Bike route maps are available here.

Beijing is another interesting city for bike explorations. Albeit a large city, with often bad air quality. My recommendation is to get on a guided biking tour, and visit places such as the Tianamen Square or Beihai park.


The right way to cool off after a biking tour is to visit a Biergarten. The one that I had the opportunity to enjoy was Cafe am Neuen See, an open-air restaurant and beer place. What strikes me most about these German beer heavens is their size. Cafe am Neuen See is huge, and always full of people.

Photos (c) 2013 by Jari Arkko