Following a morning ride from Lahti, we met with Marja and Miiko at the Pajulahti Sports Institute. The facility serves as both an Olympic and a Paralympic training center, but also acts as a vocational high school for athletes and hosts summer camps and private training for younger children. It is one of seven sports institutes in Finland, each of which specializes in different types of activities. The competition for the best students between sports institutes is similar to that described in LAMK but not as intense. Institutes both collaborate and compete with one another in Finland.
The lake around Pajulahti is named Iso Kukka Järvi (Big Flower Lake). We reserved a private sauna and, for a true Finnish summer experience, cooled between sessions by jumping into the lake. I’d estimate the water temperature to be around 55°F (13°C). We also played a game called Mölkky in which you use a small log to “bowl” down pins. Marja told us it’s the unofficial pastime game of Finland, often played at parks and often while enjoying a drink.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to do some cycling while the others in enjoyed a well-needed rest. Pajulahti has a network of overgrown forest roads that are perfect for a cross-country mountain bike. Unfortunately a suitable mountain bike was nowhere to be found, but I was able to borrow a single-speed, hub-brake equipped, Finnish city bike. With its wider tires for rough city streets and compliant steel frame, it actually rode surprisingly well on the gravel, rocks, and mud of the forest roads.
Our experience at Pajulahti was entirely and overwhelmingly positive. From the facilities to the hospitality to learning about the school, its mission, and its role within the Finnish education system, the Pajulahti Sports Institute, like so many things in Finland, was well worth the trip.