Hämeen Härkätie or the Häme Oxen Road is a historical road in southwestern Finland leading from Turku to Hämeenlinna; the country's oldest city to today's city of Hämeenlinna which was established the late 13th century by the building of Häme castle (Hämeen linna).
There are traces of this routing being used as early as the 9th century. The road connects two important places settled during the Iron Age, the Aurajoki river valley and the surroundings of Lake Vanaja. A route for merchants and military, it's possible that the original name wasn't about oxen ("härkä" in Finnish) but a military road ("härväg" in older Swedish - Finland was a region of Sweden back then) that then over the years got modified into a different meaning.
It was in 1556 the route was first described, according to the present-day "Hämeen Härkätie" road signs and as in the itinerary below. By then the length was an equivalent of 162 km, and it took 4-6 days to travel it. In 1938 it was labeled as Highway 10, and in 1962 a new straighter highway was built to connect Turku and Hämeenlinna (and Lahti further east). Today the old route is tourist road, in addition to connecting towns and smaller communities to each other.
Starting from 1 Turku, the present-day streets Hämeenkatu and Vanha Hämeentie were part of the Härkätie, though they are not labeled as such. Signage takes you along the modern highway 10 until Lieto and past it. Nevertheless, just after passing the ring road (national road 40), a street named Vanha Härkätie forks off the highway and goes closer to Aura river past the districts of Vanhalinna and Hakkinen.
Past 2 Lieto, local road 2230 goes north and follows the right bank of river Paimionjoki. This is the first time (seen from Turku) where Härkätie goes along another route than national road 10. It goes up to 3 Tarvasjoki and road numbering changes to 2250. Still following the riverbank, it crosses highway 10 again, gets a new number (2264), and continues to 4 Marttila.
From Marttila, the road still follows Paimionjoki, going between it and national road 10. Just before 5 Koski Tl (literally Koski Turun lääni/Koski Turku province to distinguish it from other places with the same name), the road briefly leaves the river and takes a shortcut into the town. After Koski, Härkätie is numbered 2810, and still roughly follows the river, but taking shortcuts, now following the river along the left bank. At Hovirinta dam it crosses over to the other bank and follows a series of lakes and short bits of river until arriving at a larger town, 6 Somero, home to many Finnish popular post-war musicians such as M.A. Numminen, Unto Mononen and Rauli Badding Somerjoki.
Making a zig-zag through the town, Härkätie then heads northeast, numbered 2802 along Pajulanjoki river. The provincial border to Tavastia Proper is followed by the hamlet of 7 Letku, the crossing of highway 2 (between Helsinki and Pori) and Ruostejärvi lake. The road number is now 2824. There are two national parks nearby, 1 Torronsuo to the northwest and 2 Liesjärvi to the southeast. They're part of the Tammela upland area, featuring many lakes at more than 140 m above sea level.
Passing the hamlet of 8 Porras, the road heads east and passes near a few minor lakes and Räyskälä airfield. Härkätie then forks off straight north as road 2831, crosses highway 54, and on to national road 10, which it follows until the town of 9 Renko. In the town, right next to the church, you can find Härkätien museo, a little museum in a 19th century grain barn presenting the history of the road. From here Härkätie takes a longer route to Hämeenlinna as road 2855, making a turn to the northwest and entering the present day city at its northern edge, north of the Ahvenisto district. Finally the streets of Parolantie, Härkätie and Tampereentie will take you to 10 Häme Castle.
From Hämeenlinna you can start exploring the lakes of the Finnish inland – in the summertime you can take a lake cruise on Vanajavesi from Hämeenlinna. If you continue in the same direction by road you arrive in Lahti, and further on, the Finnish Lakeland.