Enjoying unique Joensuu in my free time

Writer: Fernando Esteban
Master’s Degree Programme: European Forestry

Hello everyone, I am Fernando Esteban, an avid biker and an overall adventurous fellow, carrying out my master studies in Joensuu in the Master’s Degree Programme in European Forestry. The desire to spend time in nature led me to study forestry and to choose Joensuu to live, but it was only after arrival I realized the real scale of nature around and within the city.

I’ve been surrounded by nature all my life, and forests enticed me already as a kid. We often visited my Mom’s home country Chile and the Andes, and there I really fell in love with the mountains – and for winter sports like skiing, that I can now continue in Finland.

Aldo Leopold once said “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” I am one of those who cannot. Moreover, I believe we are a mosaic composed of tiny pieces that reflect our previous experience’s. Thus, if we are closer to nature, we are less likely to suffer from what Julia Butterfly named as, the “disease of disconnection.”

But be careful! Feeling connected to nature through sports can lead to serious mental and physical health. The weekly drop of medicine prescribed by any physician – a bit of physical exercise throughout the week – is what have filled my free time in Joensuu with joy and happiness.

Cross-country skiing

Wherever I go, I like to experience local things, unique ones that you can only find while there. Skiing and snow have been part of life through my upbringing in Chile, so after downhill skiing in the Andes, and in the Alps, one thing I knew I was not coming after in Finland, was downhill skiing, at least not in Joensuu region. However, I knew that the cross-country skiing scene and culture was very much unique. Joensuu is the perfect spot to practice, being both a workout activity and a cultural immersion.

Yesterday it snowed a little, and today I only had classes until 2pm. Once class was over, I grabbed lunch making sure to eat lightly, hopped on my bike towards my house and already have my mind on the trails. The snow that fell yesterday have already compacted a bit and it is just perfect for skiing.

It´s only -5o C outside, a nice weather! My flatmate, other friends and I will meet around 4pm in the trail head, which is luckily only 300 m from my house. Leaving in Karjamaentie could seem far, but I like to say that I live in the cabins by the best trails in town.

While out in the woods, one can find solitude, quietness for a meditative exercise, and also a way to interact with locals, in this case the best teachers! After all, health is wealth!

There is a plethora of outdoor activities opportunities in Joensuu, as great as the difference in temperature and daylength from summer to winter. Chances of not finding your sport or leisure activity are minimal. From cricket to rock climbing, from wakeboarding in summer in the same lake you will then ice-skate or ski in winter. From riding in a smooth concrete bike-path in summer to becoming a skilled icy-road biker in autumn and winter. From running in soft trails to running in much softer snow-covered astonishing trails through the forest. New activities, the ones you have never heard before could be fun, and help you developing body consciousness and meaningful experiences.

Stand-up paddle

This sport is for anyone, with or without experience. It is basically finding the balance within yourself and learning the technique to paddle forward. Feeling the breeze blowing on your face, and the small waves formed by the wind on the board under your feet. Touching the water and moving slowly towards an unknown place. Feeling tired after a couple strokes and recovering by dipping yourself in the water. It feels free to be on the board, in a lake almost by yourself. Such activity can be done with guidance through Arctic Trainers. In groups, an excursion can be arranged.

Picture: Rosa Ylimaula. 

Row boating

Reaching an island on a boat may awake some primitive instincts, though, just paddling a bit and stopping in the middle of the lake to watch the sunset can be already pleasant enough. For the ones who like to fish, this is one of the spots with the most pristine waters and healthy fish on the planet. For the ones willing to take on challenges, an infinite amount of connected lakes is out there to be explored. For the ones who want to just chill, find a partner who can take you and you will be better off enjoying the view from a boat than in land.

Recharging the energy and creativity with a variety of concerts

After a couple of hours skiing, I ended up going to an amazing concert. Some friends were looking forward for this concert almost three months in advance, and so I thought it must be good. I was not disappointed at all. Carmina Burana was of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever experienced. With almost 100 musicians, a choir formed of about 40 children, the concert recharged my energies.

But Joensuu has even more to offer music wise. There is a Jazz Festival, and the City Orchestra plays at least twice a month. All of these are world top musicians, right here in Joensuu.

“Enjoying unique Joensuu in my free time”  – see Fernando’s video on YouTube

Fernando Esteban
Photographer of the featured image most above: Daniela Borges