Finland, Travelogue

The St. Olav Waterways – Part two

After a good nights sleep we wake up to a grey and rainy day. While hoping / waiting for it to stop we load up on energy with a nice, hearty breakfast with oatmeal, sandwiches and eggs. I drink a little too much coffee and we make sandwiches to bring as well. Then it’s time to pack up and get ready to leave.

Mikael, the owner of Hotell Stallbacken and Grännäs B&B actually gives us a ride by boat – allowing us to see more of the archipelago. This is something that he plans to offer to pilgrims in the future as well and I think it’s a great concept to mix the hiking with a little trip along the water. It was a nice start to the day and we got to see a lot of small islands and beautiful houses and cabins along the way, it truly is beautiful here in the archipelago!

≫ this post is a paid collaboration with Visit Pargas and St. Olav Waterways ≪

hiking the St. Olav Waterways
hiking the St. Olav Waterways
hiking the St. Olav Waterways
hiking the St. Olav Waterways

All photos of me are taken by Kathrin

This map shows where we stayed at Grännäs (the black circle) and the route we took via boat. We we’re dropped off at a spot where it was easy to hike up and join the trail again. The full interactive map can be seen at Visit Pargas website

hiking the St. Olav Waterways

Day 3: Grännäs – Korpo Island, 10km

As we got on the boat and headed out we drove away from the bad weather and once we started hiking it had cleared up and the day was just lovely. I cannot believe how lucky we were with the weather during our trip! It was a very relaxed day hiking through forests and the countryside, once again surrounded by warm autumn colors.

≫ Part one of the hike can be found here

As we walked we pointed at pretty mushrooms (no edible ones as far as I know) and found some of the last blueberries that me and Kathrin happily munched on. Oh and I found another baby snake on the road, it almost got run over by a car but luckily made it and then I used a stick to move it into the forest.

hiking the St. Olav Waterways
hiking the St. Olav Waterways

Sadly after this beautiful walk through the countryside the trail continues on the highway. There’s not really an alternate route to take and so for this part one just has to power through. It’s interesting how quickly the difference is noticeable. We can’t walk next to one another so it’s very quiet all of a sudden. Except for the cars that zoom by us of course… And the feet and legs instantly start to hurt more because you’re walking on hard asphalt. One would not think that it would matter that much compared to the gravel paths we walked before but they are softer and offer a lot more cushioning.

After a while we reach another ferry that takes us out to the Korpo Island and from that the walk is not very long until we reach our destination. It feels long though because it’s still along the highway and we’re just hoping to see our accommodation around every bend. But finally we get to turn right off the road and onto gravel again, past cute red houses, apple trees, sunflower fields (sadly they we’re no longer blooming) and then it’s there in front of us. The last and final stop on our journey.

hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways

Hotel Nestor and Restaurant Back Pocket

Oh my gosh. This place is not what we expected to find here out on the countryside “in the middle of nowhere” . We both talked about how it was probably a cute little bed and breakfast run by a nice, elderly couple. Boy were we wrong. Regardless of wether you’re hiking the pilgrimage or not – this place is most definitely worth a visit!

We are met by a very young man in black skinny jeans, a long scarf and what I call a hipster beanie named William Hellgren. We learn that this place used to be his grandparents home, and he came here a lot as a child. Now he and his family has taken over and transformed Hotel Nestor to the wonderful oasis it is today. When he started there wasn’t even a restaurant but now he runs the place and works as a chef here.

It’s an old house and barn that has been transformed into a cozy hotel. The rooms feel warm and homey yet have a little bit of a Scandinavian design to them. Also, there’s a huge pine cone painted on a wall!

hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways

As we arrive I get the opportunity to get a massage treatment offered by Marika from Skärdgårdshälsan who works here. Because of Kathrins’ cold she is advised against it, counting myself lucky I say bye for a bit and head into the relax room. She explains a bit what it is she does and that it’s not a typical kind of massage I will be getting.

We work together going through my body, making me stop and actually feel every single part of it and becoming aware of how things actually feel. Together with Marika I practice mindfulness and to be aware of my own body. My left leg is stiffer than the right, probably due to me walking a bit differently because of an old injury and the fact that I always carry my camera on my left shoulder which puts me off balance. Marika works through my body making it softer and more flexible again, getting the blood flow going, treating some areas more to bring the balance back to my body. After hiking for a few days it feels good to actually take a moment to feel how my body is doing and to give it some love.

After the treatment I feel energised and decide to go for a walk in the area. Kathrin is still feeling her cold pretty badly so she has settled down in our room for a nap. Because of the treatment my body is soft and relaxed and since I’m not wearing heavy clothing or gear I feel very light – I’m almost skipping around taking photos of the house, plants and more awesome art painted at the back of the house. I also meet some fun chickens that I chatted with for a bit.

hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking the St. Olav Waterways

Then I get a text from Kathrin who’s done napping and wants to join me. Together we follow a little trail that takes us down to the water and the beach. Once again I am amazed by the beautiful landscape here in the archipelago, and how peaceful it is. Everything looks like something from Pettson and Findus.

Especially here by Hotel Nestor – I feel like could stay forever, just sit here and watch the trees, islands and water. Study the plants with my camera. It is so serene. We walk around with our cameras for a bit, chat and just sit by the water enjoying it all.

hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways

We both felt we could’ve stayed longer, and I wondered what the sunsets here are like. However, it is time to head back for dinner and we are of course very curious to see what food we’ll be served, so we slowly start to walk back to the hotel and their restaurant.

We are greeted by William who offers us drinks and Kathrin has her first glass of wine since getting sick, while I enjoy a delicious, local beer from Kimito Brewing. Then William goes on to explain the “simple” meal he’s made us. It is simple in the sense that few ingredients have been used. But the experience and food itself are nothing but simple.

He is an amazing chef that really made the flavours of the few, well thought out ingredients stand out and they worked so well together – we kept “oohing” and “aahing” a lot.

“Our love of pure Nordic raw materials makes up the fundamentals of our cooking and philosophy. The seasonal menus and the playfulness in flavour combinations contribute to making every visit different from the other. “

William Hellgren, nestors back pocket

The starter was a lovely, creamy and smooth butternut squash soup with thyme, chicken and chanterelles, hand picked by William in the surrounding forests of course. The main course was a warm, healthy fall stew and for dessert some amazing home made ice cream.

This genuinely was the best food during this trip, well the best food I’ve had in a long time actually.

hiking along the St. Olav Waterways
hiking along the St. Olav Waterways

The downside to being photographers, content creators and in love with food is that we need to take a lot of photos before we can finally sit down to eat. Kathrin has a specific interest in local food culture and it’s interesting to hear her thoughts on food – as well as see her in action, she’s very good at capturing the meals and the atmosphere around dining!

After dinner we head back to our room, Kathrin brings her wine and I have to grab a second beer because it was so good. We sit and chat for a bit about the trip as well as plan for the following days to come. Since Kathrins cold is still not good, and her knee has started to trouble her so we decide to not walk to last bit to Korpo in the morning. That stretch is mostly along the highway which will not be good for an injured knee. So we go to sleep and during the night a big storm rages outside. The rain beating against the roof and wind shaking the house, even blowing some pots from the kitchen out a window (we think that’s what happened).

It is calm again when we wake in the morning and I really wish we could stay here and explore the area some more but the buses on the countryside do not leave very often so we have to go after breakfast. I sit in the window for a bit just enjoying the views and flicking through a photography book that’s in the room. Then we go down for breakfast which is just as delicious as the dinner the night before.

A photographer from Spain who now lives here has his art up on the wall and he’s here packing up some prints. We chat with him about how the younger generation is starting to come back to the countryside and bring new life to it which is so great to hear. Seeing him and his work here next to William with his lovely hotel and amazing food is incredibly inspiring and I get this feeling of wanting to be a part of it all. I definitely need to come back here again. We say our good byes and head towards the bus that will take us back to Nagu.

Our hike has come to an end and it’s weird to return to normal life after walking for days, carrying only what you need. It is a mix of feelings; I feel both relief but also a little bit of sadness, I know the trail continues further and that there is a lot more to explore and a lot of lovely people to meet. To see more of Finland has been a wonderful experience, and as a hiker along a trail people really open up to you and are incredibly friendly which I truly appreciate.

And it felt so good find the hikefulness of putting one foot infront of the other, to enjoy fall and to get to know my friend Kathrin better. We are already talking about coming back to hike other parts of the trail next summer, and maybe spend some time on Åland with our partners.

But, it is time for us to leave this adventure behind and head off to the next thing: A fall workation at Villa Nagu. Thank you Finland and Visit Pargas for this opportunity and a huge thanks to all the people we met along the way, you really made our trip!

Published by Rania Rönntoft

In the forests of Sundsvall, the small northern town between two mountains, Rania found herself and her passion: living a slower life rich in experiences instead of things. Here she works as a freelancing photographer, content creator and photography teacher. Through her pictures she wants to inspire others to spend more time outdoors and show that the adventure is not far away. She travels a lot in Scandinavia and works with other destinations to promote our beautiful country, she also arranges workshops on visual storytelling and local adventures.

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