The car route across the Salmi Recreational Area into the deeper forest is already familiar. My assistant Laura and I are in the municipality of Vihti, in the northern part of Nuuksio National Park, on our way to Nuuksion Taika (Magic of Nuuksio). In every sense of the word, actually. Nuuksion Taika is a family business that organizes celebrations and program services for individuals and companies, but in these beautiful landscapes and atmosphere, there is also truly the magic of Nuuksio National Park. During my previous visit a year and a half ago, it was spring and the snow had just melted. I participated in the Karhunvuosi spring celebration at Nuuksion Taika, which respected folk traditions. Now it is autumn, but the sun still warmly shines. I know that Nuuksion Taika enables accessible celebrations, but I have come to explore in more detail what else can be experienced accessibly from their offerings. Nuuksion Taika is committed to responsibility and sustainable nature tourism. A big part of responsibility is social responsibility and considering and respecting different individuals. This also includes considering accessibility as much as possible within the confines of nature.
Accessible Celebrations and Events
We leave the car at the parking lot and make our way down a small sand hill to the yard of Wäinölä venue. The magnificent event venue, Wäinölä, stands majestically in the forest landscape, just as impressive as I remembered. Wäinölä is named after Kalevala and is built in the spirit of the Iron Age. The logs are hand-carved, the unique iron parts are forged by a blacksmith, and the impressive fireplace is a testament to a mason's skill. Since my previous visit, I have often used the Wäinölä venue as an example of accessible construction. Instead of stairs and a separate accessible entrance, there is a perfectly fitting wooden ramp that makes it easy for everyone to enter the building. We admire the atmosphere of Wäinölä while enjoying delicious blueberry buns at the long tables. Here, you can organize all kinds of celebrations: weddings, birthdays, graduations, or any other gathering. The parties can also be themed, and Nuuksion Taika can arrange Kalevala, Viking, or themed parties, among others. The delicious catering naturally complements the chosen theme. Wäinölä is also a unique location for meetings and development days. It accommodates up to 40 guests at the long tables.
Nuuksion Taika's second event venue is Villa Paratiisi. It is a villa located right by the shore, with space for 20 people for meetings and accommodation for 14 people. The design of Villa Paratiisi from the 1960s did not consider accessibility, but I want to see it because it may be suitable for some accessibility needs. There is a very steep hill leading down to the beach, which I start descending with my electric wheelchair. The sand beneath me can be a bit slippery at times, but by driving slowly and carefully, I manage to reach the bottom. A sign at the beginning of the hill reminds me that only a four-wheel-drive vehicle can drive all the way down. I reach the front terrace of Villa Paratiisi, where it would be lovely to sit and enjoy the lake view for a longer time. To access the back terrace, I go around through the beach and use my own detachable ramp for the stairs. In the future, Nuuksion Taika will also have a detachable ramp. The hot tub is embedded in the terrace, and some wheelchair users may be able to access it. There is a doorstep at the entrance of Villa Paratiisi, which my ramp works well for. The interior spaces are tight, and the doorways are narrow (although I can just fit through with my 66 cm wide wheelchair), but by driving carefully, I can maneuver around. The bathroom is very small and cannot accommodate a wheelchair. The shower can be accessed without obstacles, and my narrow shower wheelchair might just fit in the wood-fired sauna. One of the double bedrooms is accessible, but the room itself is narrow.
Accessible Program Services for businesses, associations, and groups
Nuuksion Taika organizes a wide range of events for businesses, associations, and other groups. Different well-being days, development days, team-building days, or even association bonding days can be combined with Nuuksion Taika's program and good food. Laura and I get to try to survive in the Nuuksio forest. In the Nuuksio Survival program, we search for food in nature, make fires with flint and steel, "hunt" for the game, and build emergency shelters. For once, I am the best "hunter" since the weapon works by blowing, and even with my weak lung capacity, I can make a small arrow move. Of course, we don't actually hunt real game, but survival skills can be proven through accuracy. It's really fun! Archery would have been another option. My hands cannot manage it, but I'm sure many other wheelchair users can. Survival requires versatile skills and teamwork, so people with different abilities can participate. Nuuksio Survival is just one program option. Nuuksio Sensory Journey, where all senses are utilized to explore and relax in nature, is also suitable for many accessibility needs.
Many of the program services can be carried out in the area in front of Wäinölä venue. The yard is easy to navigate even with assistive devices, and it's also easy to access with a wheelchair. The views of the lake are stunning. There is an accessible dry toilet next to the parking lot. Pictures of the dry toilet and other accessibility information are available on Nuuksion Taika's accessibility page. Satu de Weerd, the owner of Nuuksion Taika, is a trained physiotherapist and has worked as both a physiotherapist and an equine therapist for a wide range of clients, including myself for a brief period during my childhood. Satu has a broad understanding of various individual needs and, together with her network of collaborators, she can design programs and services that cater to a wide range of needs.
Next, Nuuksion Taika is planning to build two-person, immersive, and accessible Taika cabins in nearby of Wäinölä venue, which will also allow wheelchair users to stay during Wäinölä celebrations. For example, an accessible wedding night in nature.
This experience was part of my cooperation with the Sustainable Growth for Tourism: Southern Finland - project. This autumn (2023), I tried out sites and services in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Turku that have invested in accessibility to tell you more about them. The Sustainable Growth for Tourism project supports the recovery and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the Regional Council of Southwest Finland as part of the measures carried out in 2021–2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. -Sanna Kalmari
Hero Image: Sanna Kalmari