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  • Writer's pictureRichard Mark Dobson

Clean n Green. Finland is neat!

The Green Machine.

A recumbent cyclist flashes by us on the road to Rauma, seemingly using our headwind as his tailwind to push his public road land speed to record highs.

Turku, the former capital of Finland, offered us an enticing glimpse into the Finnish way of life, a reality that left an indelible impression on our souls. It was here that we found an overwhelming sense of contentment, wrapped in the warm embrace of splendid hotels and a thriving café culture, where hospitality was not merely a gesture but a way of life. In Turku, everything seemed meticulously thought out and anticipated, a place where the Zen-like perfection of Japan found a kindred spirit in the heart of Europe.

Finland, with its pristine neatness and tidiness, made it difficult to yearn for any other place on earth.

Yet, this initial impression was but a prelude to what awaited us as we venture further up the Gulf of Bothnia coast towards Vassa for our ferry ride to Sweden.

Our love for Finland blossoms with each passing mile, as we discover that the Baltics, captivating as they were, had their essence re-evaluated upon crossing into Scandinavia. For here it's a realm of perfection, one that resonates deeply with our senses. Finland, with its immaculate landscapes, is a symphony of greenery and cleanliness.

What strikes us most is the profound care exhibited by the Finns—for each other, for their environment, for society, and even for those who journeyed from distant lands. Immigrants it seems are welcomed with open arms, and there's a well-organized support for the disabled. A testament to their commitment to functional care. The populace, without exception, exudes consideration in their every action.

Students at Rauma University greet Ajmal Samuel as he heads out of town.

Finnish house husbands. They can walk the walk, and talk baby talk.

Jukka Hallamaa surveys the forest for a cycling path route proposed to follow the main road. Cycle paths follow almost every road in Finland.

Ajmal, eager to continue his journey, gracefully maneuvered his way out of Turku, guided by a meticulously planned network of cycle paths and bridges.

As he pedaled through the orderly suburbs of pristine homes, the landscape felt like something out of a Rubik's Cube—a harmony of square apartment blocks, solid and double-glazed, offering cool respite in summer and warmth in winter.

The phrase "neat and clean" becomes our mantra, for everything appears just as it should, just as it is meant to be.

The orderly suburbs of Uusikaupunki

Underpasses, overpasses, and almost every road has a dedicated cycle path running adjacent to it.

Beyond Turku, nature enveloped us in its loving embrace. It has an all-encompassing presence, surrounding us with lush forests, lichen-covered rocks, meandering streams, crystalline lakes, tranquil ponds, and the vast expanse of the sea. Eagle owls soar majestically through the crisp, invigorating air, adding a touch of magic to the already enchanting scenery.

Iconography that feels distinctively Norse

Our journey took an unexpected pause as we encountered Timo, a true son of the earth, a man who lived in harmony with the land.

Timo's deep connection to the outdoors was evident in his passion for cycling, ice fishing, and bird watching. He possessed an intimate knowledge of the landscape and generously shared his wisdom. He encouraged us to freely forage for lingonberries in the woods, suggesting their tart addition to our diet. If fortune favored us, we might even stumble upon some delectable cantharelles, to be savored with butter, salt, and onions.

Timo, a person we wished had the time to introduce us to his world of wild pike and snowy owls, left a lasting impression. Our team photographer promised to return in late winter next year, eager to help him carve out an ice fishing hole, a testament to the enduring connections forged on this remarkable journey.

Uusikaupunki. Empire-style wooden house

We were captivated by Uusikaupunki, and with every reason to be so. Its center boasts one of the country's most meticulously preserved Empire-style wooden house blocks—a living testament to a city steeped in history.

Founded in 1617, Uusikaupunki serves as the primary hub of the Vakka-Suomi region. During the 19th century, it earned distinction as a pivotal shipbuilding and shipping center. The wooden old town, exuding the elegant Empire style, came to life according to a blueprint dating back to 1856.

Sanna from Kalanti brings her beloved cat Uma to Uusikaupunki for her 15th feline birthday. Sunshine, sea, sand and kippers are her treat. Oh and a walk along the tree lined canal and estuary the Crusell-puisto.

In contemporary times, Uusikaupunki proudly houses Finland's sole car factory, producing the illustrious Mercedes-Benz A-Class cars, alongside a shipyard specializing in the construction of boats and l small vessels—a reflection of its enduring industrial spirit.

A Room with a View. Sunrise and looking out over the Uusikaupunki yacht marina and distant archipelago of islands from the Hotelli Aquarius.

The immaculate orderliness of Finnish cities and villages is a reflection of the deep-rooted Finnish mindset, one that places a premium on harmony, efficiency, and communal responsibility. It goes beyond mere aesthetics; it's a testament to the Finnish people's intrinsic connection to nature and their unswerving commitment to preserving their surroundings.

The meticulous care they lavish on their well-designed homes and flawlessly tended gardens is an expression of their respect for the environment and a reflection of their inner serenity.

An immaculate conception, 10km out of Uusikaupunki.

In this land of lakes and forests, the absence of razor wire and window bars symbolizes the trust that underpins their society, a society where safety is taken for granted and where a profound sense of social cohesion reigns. In these neat and tidy streets, you find a people who value not just the tangible order but the profound peace it fosters within them, a testament to the indomitable spirit of Finland.

On the 17th day of our celestial journey along the road to Pori, we are greeted by unbroken sunshine. The thermometer reads a comfortable 16 degrees, and the air is atomizer fresh.

Vuojoki Mansion

The neoclassical Vuojoki Mansion, designed by architect C.L. Engel for Lars Magnus Björkenheim, stands out as a unique gem in rural Finland. Unlike the typical wooden manor houses, this castle-like estate is a one-of-a-kind architectural marvel. Completed in 1836, it remains a symbol of timeless elegance. Engel's influence extends across Finland, particularly in Helsinki, where his work graces the capital's central square. In its heyday, the Vuojoki Mansion reigned as the largest estate in Eurajoki, encompassing nearly the entire region.

As we navigate this picturesque route, the appointed "shadowman," entrusted with following in Ajmal's footsteps, finds himself repeatedly falling behind. The allure of capturing the profusion of beauty that surrounds us proves irresistible.

Houses, cottages, barns, apartments, and schools—each an embodiment of immaculate conception—beckon him to halt, to frame them with the utmost precision. They are perfection in its purest form, soothing the beholder's eye with their faultless symmetry. Yet, beneath this utopian façade, questions arise. What lies beneath the surface veneer of perfection that paints this land as a utopian dream?

Pyynpää school Rauma

1967 Ford Thunderbird -Road to Pori I

Hydroponics centre with robot lawnmower (middle right) . - Road to Pori II

Into the Wild - Road to Pori III

The lensman acknowledges the possibility of domestic troubles and strife, concealed behind the manicured exteriors of these abodes. There must be, one would think, for perfection so profound is often perceived as an illusion. Or is it?

Could it be that equilibrium has indeed been found here? Might these meticulously curated homes be three-dimensional extensions of the loving souls that inhabit them? It seems inconceivable that a place could exude such idyllic charm and yet be devoid of imperfections. And yet, perhaps it can. Perhaps, against all odds, Utopia does exist.

Neatness is a state mindset.

Crucially, this lensman functions as an emissary for the Ajmal Samuel Foundation, capturing images that reveal how goodness and perfection can and should permeate into every corner of life and endeavor. As we pedal along these country lanes and traverse towns and cities, it becomes imperative that we allow the iconic perfection and the Finnish calm and balance to metaphorically manifest through the lens of these residential photographs. In doing so, we carry the ASF message of purity, hope, and aspiration out into the world, a message that transcends borders and languages, speaking to the universal longing for a more perfect existence.

Doggy love outside The Royal Mustang Nepalise restaurant, Antinkatu street, Pori, South Western Finland.

At the end of the day, Pori Town Hall & Clock Tower. 9 Hallituskatu street, Pori.

Pori Old Town Hall is a former town hall located in Pori, Finland. It was completed in 1841 by the design of German architect Carl Ludvig Engel.Neoclassical style town hall is one of the few buildings in Pori that was saved from the great fire of 1852 as only the clock tower was destroyed. Tower was rebuilt in 1891.

As Day 18 unfolds, the road beckons once more, leading Ajmal Samuel toward Merikarvia, a destination 58 kilometers away. A routine has taken root, weeks merging seamlessly into one another. Before setting out, Ajmal meticulously cross-references his planned route using Kamoot and Google, immersing himself in the flight plan for the day. Ready to embark on this new day, this fresh adventure, he performs certain rituals almost reflexively.

Synchronizing apps, Room 618, Torget Apartment hotel, Pori.

Equipment checks, camaraderie assessments, business email correspondence, social media updates, water bottle inspections, and Garmin light verifications—it's all part of the meticulously orchestrated preparation. Each step is crucial, for preparation is the cornerstone of success.

Yet, amidst the rhythmic cadence of the journey, there are planned pauses. Coffee breaks, necessary pit stops, moments for nourishment, and opportunities for engaging conversations.

A technical pit stop, deep in the woodlands.

Awakened abruptly from her slumber in the back of the van, Carol graciously dons a smile, ready to heed the call for coffee duty.

Mikka Hämäläinen, a traveling salesman who had crossed paths with Ajmal Samuel the day before in Pori, catches sight of him on the main road to Merikarvia. A passionate photographer, he promptly halts his car to capture a snapshot of the man pedaling his handcycle towards him. This impromptu encounter unfolds into warm handshakes, cordial greetings, and a roadside conversation about the joys of been on the road.

These interludes are not mere interruptions; they are integral to the mobile way of life that Ajmal has embraced. The road stretches onward, propelling him closer and closer to his goals, one deliberate step at a time.

Distance Covered

Day 1 - Klaipeda to Sventāja 42.89Km

Day 2 - Sventājato Liepāja 62.11Km

Day 3 - Liepāja to Kuldīga 97.34Km

Day 4 - Kuldiga to Plieņciema kāpa 108.59Km

Day 5 - Plieņciema kāpa to Riga 60.14Km

Day 6 - Riga Rest and Recharge

Day 7 - Riga to Salacgriva 104.4km

Day 8 - Salacgriva to Pärnu 75km

Day 9- Pärnu Rest & Recharge

Day 10 - Pärnu linn to Märjamaa 64.1km

Day 11- Märjamaa to Tallin 72.17

Day 12- Tallin Rest & Recharge

Day 13- Tallin to Helsinki (Ferry ride)

Day 14- Helsinki to Turku (Car)

Day 15- Turku to Uusikaupunki 73.5km

Day 16- Uusikaupunki to Rauma 47.4km

Day 17- Rauma to Pori 57.9km

Day 18. Pori to Merikarvia 52.8km


Join the expedition, follow updates, and tag along on this inspiring adventure."

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