A Weekend in Sotkamo

Back in 2011 we visited my wife’s friends in Sotkamo which is in the in the middle east of Finland. From Helsinki Sotkamo is about 580km away by car which means that it takes over 6 1/2 h to get there. So why my wife has friends in the middle of nowhere of Finland? In 2006 my wife started her studies in Finland. She didn’t study in Helsinki in the beginning but in Kajaani which is roughly 30km to the west of Sotkamo. She stayed there for one year until she found another university and moved to Helsinki. During that one year she made many new friends and one of them she still considers to be her best friend and that is the one we visited back then.

Snow snow and more snow

We went there in December which means that there is snow, too much snow all around and it is cold, too cold! We left our home near Helsinki at 6am in order to arrive at a reasonable time in Sotkamo for lunch. During those morning hours we had about -16 degrees (Celsius ~ 3 degrees Fahrenheit) which was already a challenge for my poor Diesel powered Opel Astra. Nonetheless the car managed somehow however during the drive to Sotkamo the temperatures plummeted sometimes down to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit). Let me just say that in never got warm inside the car and even the car engine decided not get warm and thus many other things didn’t work such as the Turbo…(really great when the car has suddenly troubles to get up a small hill!).

It was also during that trip that we had our first (and only) car crash. The whole mess happened towards the final 100km of the journey and wasn’t fun at all. You have to imagine having a road covered in a layer own snow which is compressed and thus nearly like ice at such low temperatures. Somehow I got with my right front tire too much to the right where the snow layer was higher and then everything happened rather quick. At over 80km/h (~50 mp/h) the car started spinning around crashing on the opposite lane into the fields just barely missing an oncoming truck. I don’t know how but nothing happened to us or the car! Some driver who saw everything came to our aid and managed to call on some farmer who pulled us out of the field with his tractor for very little money. I will never forget the feeling when I lost control over the car and saw during the spinning motion the truck coming closer and closer.

Getting ready for some cross-country skiing failure

With some delay we managed it finally to Sotkamo where we had our lunch at the friend’s restaurant. Compared to Helsinki Sotkamo was already entirely in the Christmas season with too much snow all around. The little town is known for its skiing resort Vuokatti. It was there I tried my luck to teach my wife how to do cross-country skiing but it didn’t work out so well. In fact my wife gave up after a while so I decided to do a short 2.5 km round but got lost somehow and had to do a 15km round. The skiing center in Vuokatti is very famous in Finland as it offers a variety of possible activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country, ski jumping and there is also a cross-country skiing tunnel which makes training on snow possible during summer time. Though it offers so many sport activties we spent the least time doing any kind of sporty stuff there. My wife had more important things to do with her friends such as talking, eating, watching movies, eating and eating. As said before one of her friends got back then a Chinese restaurant in the town resulting that there was always more than enough food.

As Sotkamo is very small with only 10.000 inhabitants there is also not much to do within the city center. There are some shops around but that’s about it.  During winter it is a perfect place for winter sport enthusiasts and in summer time it offers great hiking trails. What makes this place also interesting is that it is not that far away from the Arctic Circle and Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi where my wife visited once with her friends in 2009 but that is again stuff for another time.

Have you visited a place with more than enough snow to get already annoying for you?

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35 thoughts on “A Weekend in Sotkamo”

  1. That was quite a trip, Timo!. Glad no one was hurt.

    A Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere!

    The only foreign food we have here are chips, pizza, beef burgers (it’s called hambugers here, lol), Coca Cola, packet of white rice (not basmati), nutella , one brand of Italian pasta and a very limited range of breakfast cereals. I think they have Sprite.

    My Turk colleague told me they have bacon here. ‘What does your bacon look like, I asked?’ What do you call ‘bacon’ that is made from beef? Beefcon?

    There’s skiing up in the mountain, some 30 minutes or so away by bus.
    Most Turks don’t ski and sailing is not common. I’m keen to have skiing lessons even if it means doing it on my own as long as the instructor speak English. I know a local who is a keen snow boarder, perhaps he knows of a Turk ski instructor who speaks English. You have given me an idea, Timo.

    My Turkish friend thinks I’m a risk taker ie I had worked in the Middle East and now I wish to take up skiiing. The Middle East is a touchy subject, partly to do with history. She said she does not wish to take up skiiing because she does not want to break her legs.

    We all are different. Quite! A number of Turks told me that many Turks are in debt because they would rather spend now because they don’t know what will happen tomorrow (I know three of them have max the limits on their credit card). Risk takers? Nah.

    1. Lol for the bacon 😀
      Skiing is fun as well as snowboarding. Nothing taught myself in my youth it then again it is so much easier to learn new skills in younger years. I doubt I can still use my snowboard after not using it for over ten years!
      Sounds interesting that so many Turks are in debt due to their way of life/ thinking. Here I know no one with a debt :p

      1. Couple of Turks told me that it’s easy to get a loan in Turkey but most people can’t afford to pay it back.

      1. So are garages not a thing in Finland?

        NH is the abbreviation for New Hampshire, a cold and snowy state in the American northeast. Right on the Canadian border.

      2. Nah, at least most people I know there don’t have a garage as land is insanely expensive in Finland. For example a 500sqm area 1 hour out of Helsinki still costs around 500.000 Euros! Anyways with a garage you still face the troubles of clearing a path every morning to the street and have to pray that the street is already cleared otherwise you are still stucked 🙂

  2. The car crash sounded very scary. Thankfully the truck missed all of you. Stroke of bad luck and good luck at the same time. Glad it was all okay in the end and it was very kind of the driver and farmer to stop and help you all in the freezing cold. Skiing? I don’t blame your wife for giving up. You need to balance well for that 😀

    1. For cross country skiing you don’t really need any balance, downhill skiing is another matter though 🙂
      The crash was a real scary experience and I hope to never have something like that again

  3. Nah, I have never been exposed to too much snow, and definitely have never driven a car in the snow…

    I went to Rovaniemi in 2005! That was fun, hehe. (And possibly the time I witnessed more snow in my life).

  4. Wow, it’s seriously winter. Hardcore. Sometimes I miss the snow of Midwestern America (contrasted against the tropics of South China; it’s 22 degrees today) but mostly I don’t envy driving in snow ~

    Though not for everyone hope you enjoyed skiing!

    1. I never experienced warm winters so far. okay right now we have a warm winter with+8 degrees Celsius in Germany but I mean like as it is in south China for example 🙂
      Driving on snow is not my favorite thing, especially not when It is so cold and dark outside!

  5. Wow, the car crash sounds scary and troublesome in such weather.. But glad everything turned out okay.
    I have never been to Sotkamo or Kajaani. I had an opportunity of joining friends for a ski trip somewhere in Finland, but I had to go to Helsinki that weekend. I never really had another opportunity or good timing to go skiing during my 2.5 years of stay in FInland. But this year I’m (hopefully) going skiing with friends of work to Tatra mountains in Slovakia.

    I have to admit that I miss the Finnish snow. Especially like what we used to have in Kokkola. The lowest temperature I experienced was -33 degrees, -40 sounds like an even bigger nightmare. I think my ideal scenario is -5 to -10 degrees with lots of nice snow.. I have yet to see as beautiful snow here in Lodz (third winter approaching) as there used to be in Kokkola.

  6. I’m very glad nothing serious happened! After living in Colorado for 6 years, I know how scary driving in the snow it! Or should I say, ice! It’s the worst feeling when the car starts to slide. Do you use tire chains up there?

    1. Tire chains are only used when the snow gets too much. All people in Finland use spiked tires eg tires with little nails which give more grip on the ice but they also destroy the streets very quickly.
      I had it more than just once that the car just slid across a street when the red lights were on, not so nice having to pray not to get into the way of any car but thankfully there are so few people that streets are often pretty empty

  7. Oh my gosh! That was so cold! What a daring trip for you to take in December!

    It doesn’t snow much here in the Seattle area, but when it does, it’s very hard to drive because of all the hills. I stay home on snowy days whenever I can.

    I’ve done a little bit of both cross-country and downhill skiing in the nearby mountains. I’ve never been good at either one, but I think I like cross-country better.

    1. Even with such temperatures and snow it is rather safe in Finland as help is usually not far away.
      Honestly I doubt that I still can do alpine skiing or snowboarding, it has been over ten years since I did it last time. I think I also prefer cross country skiing as it is also much more healthier than just going downhill 🙂

  8. Finnish winters are like ours….yup some winter days -35 to -40 degrees C. I can only bike down to -25 C without snow on pavement. I’m fussy… 😉

  9. I lived in a snowy town while I got my master’s degree, after living for my whole life in sunny California, and the first winter was the coldest winter in a long time! I had to walk to school in -30°C weather, and it was very depressing. However, now it’s already December and my new town has no snow so it feels strange!

    I lived in a town that was rural, but it was not nearly as cold as Finland I’m sure! I am grateful that my car always started and managed to get warm too. I avoided driving, not because of the icy roads, but because of the stupid people driving around and crashing on the icy roads! I’m glad you were able to get your car out quickly and cheaply.

    Do you think you will go back to the town to visit your wife’s friends again?

  10. It looks beautiful, but sooo cold. I’m scared to drive in icy conditions because I’m not used to it at all. I’ve only seen snow a few times in my life & went skiing once. Unlike your wife, I loved it, but here in Australia it’s very expensive because there’s only snow in a few places in winter, not everywhere like in Norther Europe & America. Glad you are all ok after the crash.

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