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Bike & Rail trip to Mänttä-Vilppula 



Marjo-Riitta Alitalo
Marjo-Riitta Alitalo


Näsi Lake trail, Bike & Rail

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Photos: Marjo-Riitta Alitalo

The morning sun shone across an almost cloudless sky as I climbed the stairs towards platform 5 at Tampere Railway Station. June would begin with a Bike & Rail adventure! 

In an initiative from the Visit Tampere led Sustainable Tourism Mobility project, testing is underway to assess the suitability of city bikes for tourism and complementary train connections. The service is being tested during the summer season in partnership with the Serlachius Museums, Mänttä-Vilppula, and KaaKau Oy, which provides the Donkey Republic city bike service. I had the honour of participating as a representative of the Järvien Reitit, the Lake Trails, to test the service, as our journey coincides with the Näsi route. 

The train journey towards Mänttä-Vilppula passed quickly as we gazed out the window, enjoying the scenery and getting into the vibe of the upcoming day. Soon, the speakers announced Vilppula as the next stop. At the station, we were greeted by Anni Inkiläinen, the tourism coordinator of Mänttä-Vilppula, who took us under her wing for the day. 

After getting off the train, an exciting anticipation awaited me – taking the KaaKau city bikes into use. I had previously downloaded the app on my phone, which is highly recommended. The setup went quite smoothly, although I initially struggled to unlock the bike, with a helpful tip, the lock easily opened. 

Each person took their turn mounting the Donkey Republic bikes and familiarizing themselves with them by manoeuvring around the station yard. In my opinion, the city bikes provide a pleasant riding experience, with a natural riding position. The bike had a front basket which I used to carry the new Järvien Reitit / Lake Trails paper maps. The only thing that required some mental readjustment for me were the handbrakes since I’m accustomed to using coaster brakes. 

On the first of June, when we went on the trip, the morning was still cool, and a jacket and gloves were necessary. However, the sun warmed pleasantly, and cycling was leisurely. After cycling for about five kilometres, we arrived at the Serlachius Museum Gösta, where the museum staff greeted us in the courtyard. 

After capturing photos and videos for social media, we took a moment to explore the museum’s exhibitions. One artwork that stood out for me was Helene Schjerfbeck’s piece titled “On the Jetty,” which had recently been brought out on display in the mansion area. Another thing on my mind was Finland’s Eurovision Song Contest candidate, Käärijä, who had caused an unprecedented hype throughout the country. At Gösta, they had on display Helene Schjerfbeck’s “Male Nude,” who, caught up in the Eurovision frenzy, had been adorned with a green bolero. 

After the museum tour, it was time for lunch. Restaurant Gösta has a very diverse menu, so there is surely something for everyone. I particularly fell in love with the ceramic artist Heini Riitahuhta’s coffee set called “Sydämellisesti” (With heart). 

After lunch had settled, it was time to continue the journey towards the Serlachius Museum Gustaf, which was a couple of kilometres away. The sky filled with dark clouds, and we just managed to escape the summer rain. The Serlachius Museum Gustaf is the former headquarters of a forestry company and is already a sight to see in and of itself. We explored the Genesis exhibition, which can be seen until mid-November 2023. One piece that stood out to me was the Genesis tapestry, which is nearly 9 meters long and about 2.5 meters wide. If I could have interviewed the creators of the tapestry, I would have wanted to learn more about the process of making it. 

Before we even realized it, it was time to hop on our bikes and pedal back to Vilppula station. We had a cheerful headwind accompanying us on the way back, giving our legs a good workout. 

Returning the city bikes using the app went without a hitch at Vilppula station. The Donkey Republic city bikes worked well and locking and unlocking the bikes went smoothly. After successfully returning the bikes, the train arrived at the platform. 

There was a happy feeling after the trip, even though my legs weighed a little thanks to the lactic acid buildup of the final spurt. I found that the combination of train and cycling is a successful combo that needs to be tested again in the future.