Finland sits in a corner of Europe. Its culture ties it to the surrounding regions although it remains very unique. It is a Nordic country which has a distinctive language similar to that of Estonia.
Historically too it is tied to its neighbours. Between the 13th and 18th Century it was unified with Sweden. Caught between the Swedish and Russian powers, it was the scene of numerous battles. During much of the 19th Century, Finland was under Russian rule. It was only in 1917 that it gained its independence. Since then it has grown into a prosperous and egalitarian state following the Nordic model. Today, it tops the list in numerous metrics including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development.
The border between Finland and Russia is some 1,340 km long. It runs through sparsely-inhabited areas including boreal forests and other rural landscape. Today it is one of the external borders of the Schengen area as well as the EU. As such, it is quite heavy surveillance. The southernmost 200 km of the border in particular are surveilled wih increasingly hightech methods. There is a border zone on each side which, on the Finnish side, can be as wide as 3 km.
In Finnish Lapland, three of the northernmost municipalities are considered part of the Sami territory. The Sami people have had traditional ties to semi-nomadic reindeer herding. It is most likely them who take care of Father Christmas' reindeers throughout the year.
The Finnish section of EuroVelo 13 is most definitely a seasonal affair. Although it is possible to cycle in Finland during the winter months (even in the northernmost section) with the right equipment, it's definitely much easier in summer when the long daylight hours enable you can cycle around the clock!
Näätämö - Virolahti
EuroVelo 13 Finland
Iron Curtain Trail runs largely in sparsely populated areas in Finland. This poses special challenges because cyclists, like any other activity travelers, are in need of the basic services of accommodation and food. The EuroVelo 13 Finland blog provides useful information to the travelers.
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The website of Outdoors Finland provides useful information about hiking, cycling and canoeing routes and packages in Southern Finland. For every cycle routes, the website provides a route description and route facts such as the length, the difficulty and the estimated duration. Only in Finnish and English, German and Swedish soon.
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