Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Järvenpää Culture Trail

I take a couple of steps towards the pedestrian street from Järvenpää railway station and ask what is the distance to Ainola, the former home of composer Jean Sibelius which is nowadays a museum. The answer is approximately 15 minutes' walk which doesn't sound too bad. Admittedly, I have a gut feeling that Ainola will not be open but it should be possible to get a glimpse of it anyhow. I take the pedestrian street towards lake Tuusulanjärvi and then turn left to Sibeliuksenväylä, a road named after the master. A huge flock of birds is flying across the lake. For them it is time to leave Finland for somewhere warm.
After passing the fields on both sides of the road, the first buildings on the right belong to Seurakuntaopisto (Church Training College) after which I spot a sign that indicates there is a tourist attraction on the right. The yellow building at the end of the road is Ahola, the former home of writer Juhani Aho. The poster on the noticeboard quotes Aho's words:  Varmaan olen enemmän kalamies kuin kirjamies (I bet I'm more of a fisherman than a writer). Either Juhani Aho was being modest or he must have been a truly fantastic fisherman.
Ahola was home to the writer and his artist wife Venny Soldan-Brofeldt in 1897-1911. They were a remarkable artistic couple with an unconventional marriage. It would be great to learn more about their life here but unfortunately the museum is only open from May to September. Better luck next time.
I return back to Sibeliuksenväylä which has already taken me very close to Ainola; I can already see where it is. Aho family was friends with the Sibelius family and they really lived within a stone's throw of each other. From Poikkitie road I turn to Ainolankatu street which leads me to the now closed gates of Ainola which Sibelius named after his beloved wife Aino. October seems to translate for winter: also Ainola will open next time in May. Only the coffee shop Aulis on the grounds is kept open during the winter season, weekends only.
I had hoped to get a good look of the house from the gates but the house remains hidden behind the trees. A thick spruce fence protects Ainola but perhaps I could get a glimpse of the main building somewhere behind the corner?  Jean Sibelius and his family moved to Ainola in 1904. I am sure they didn't have as much privacy behind such a fence back then.
Moving further I discover I remembered right and the tall spruces do not totally block the view to the house. You can at least see the roof and a bit of the top floor. Of course this doesn't equal to a view of the whole house and garden but it is something.
So far there have been only few drops of rain so I decide to walk just a little bit further. At a short distance from the fence surrounding Ainola there is a little sign, neatly framed. Surprise - it tells about Ainola! Another surprise - I am actually on Järvenpää Culture Trail (Järvenpään kulttuuripolku) which I never even knew existed. The signs are only in Finnish, though.
Järvenpää Culture Trail was created back in 1995 which may explain why the signs are somewhat worn and the texts have faded in the sun. The trail isn't even marked with paint or symbols; basically you just need to walk from a historically important building / area to another following a circular route upon which I happened to stumble. However, it is very easy to find your way because the area is very flat and you can almost see your next destination from the previous signpost. Lippumäki ('Flag Hill')  is an area on the left side of the path which seems to have rich history if you recognize the names of the artists or other cultural figures who have lived here. Unfortunately it is very difficult to spot the buildings mentioned in the description of the area, even though the leaves have almost fallen down.
On the other side of the footpath there is a pretty house which may or may not be an important part of the cultural heritage of the area. However, there is no story about this one on the trail.
When I arrive at old and narrow Ristinummi village road, I can just about see Pekka Halosen akatemia where you can study art, photography and graphic design. The school was named after artist Pekka Halonen who lived very close by - only 2 km from the current academy; however, his former home (nowadays a museum just like Ainola) isn't part of Järvenpää Culture Trail because Halosenniemi happens to be located in the neighbouring community Tuusula. Ristinummi area was home to Tilly Soldan who had a relationship with writer Juhani Aho. Who happened to be married to Tilly's sister Venny. Venny was quite a character: she welcomed also the child born of this relationship to Ahola. Apparently she wasn't a very jealous person.
The culture trail follows the village road for a short while before arriving at Kallio-Kuninkala and its grounds where there are quite a few buildings. The most impressive one is the main building called Ylä-Kuninkala, built in the early 1920's for Paloheimo family. Currently, Kallio-Kuninkala is home to music: the Sibelius Academy organizes courses and concerts here.
These days, Kallio-Kuninkala is owned by Leonora and Yrjö Paloheimo Foundation. The first owner of the estate was nationalist and businessman  K.A. Paloheimo (Karl Alfred) whose memorial can be found on the lawn; the sculpture Hengen liekkikruunu, or Flame Crown of Spirit was sculpted by Erkki Eronen (1978).
I descend from the main building to the lower part of the garden. The red and yellow Ala-Kuninkala was originally in Karelian Isthmus (in Finnish: Karjalan Kannas) but it was transferred from there first to Syväranta by lake Tuusulanjärvi and later, in 1918, right here.
I recognize a familiar shape in the garden. I suppose the painting Kullervo goes to war by Akseli Gallén-Kallela is well inscribed in my memory... However, this artwork is not by Gallén-Kallela but forged by an anonymous artist.
The garden of Kallio-Kuninkala is still partly under renovation, including the man-made pond which is not even half full. Time to start returning to Järvenpää; I leave the garden through a jugend style gate and head towards the footpath by the side of lake Tuusulanjärvi.
Lake Tuusulanjärvi is only a couple of meters from the road. I can't resist the temptation but step across the grass and take a deep breath by the still lake on this early evening. It is so beautiful.
Right behind me the road towards Järvenpää is fairly busy, unlike the quiet trail that I followed earlier. I need to keep my eyes turned towards the lake, the fields, the autumn colours and forget about the traffic noise.
Soon I reach the last marked destination of Järvenpää Culture Trail (there was no trail sign at Ahola but actually, it is part of the trail...). The sign is almost hidden among the rose bushes and perhaps just a little bit too far from the footpath. Suviranta (1901) is also well hidden, again mostly behind a dense spruce fence which doesn't offer a chance to have a very good look at the building which seems very nice on the photograph. Suviranta was the home of artist Eero Järnefelt, a realist painter who was very much inspired by nature.
Suviranta is still owned by the same family but unlike Ahola or Ainola, it is not a museum and thus can rarely be visited. The best bet is probably to attend a local music festival Meidän festivaali, or Our festival in the summer; some concerts are held here. I look across the road to my right - there is Ainola, the Sibelius family home. I have come almost full circle already.
The Culture Trail behind me, I get back to Järvenpää centre. On the way there you just can't miss this artwork in Ystävyydenpuisto (Friendship Park): the huge yellow sculpture Kolmisointu by U.S. artist Rolf Westphal (1979). Every time I pass this I can't help but think this is an (anti) ad for a certain fast food chain, with the letter 'M' somewhat rearranged, taking a stroll in the park...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Jyväskylä: Sallaajärvi nature trail

Sallaajärvi nature trail is located a couple of kilometres south-west (and uphill) from Jyväskylä city centre, following Ronsuntaipaleentie road towards Taka-Keljo. It is easiest to find the starting point if you turn right to Taka-Keljontie, following the sign to Sallaajärven palvelukoti. If you look closely, you will see the wooden "Luontopolku" (nature trail) sign on your right just before there is a (second) sign to Sallaajärven palvelukoti to the left. There is no parking lot so it it would be easiest to park your vehicle if you arrive by bicycle. And thanks to the uphill journey to arrive here, the reward is an easy ride back to town.
Maakuntaura refers to Central Finland Provincial Trail which is a hiking trail / cross country skiing track across the province of Central Finland. The trail was first marked some decades ago but it hasn't remained well marked in all areas that it passes through. It is delightful to see that I have once again discovered another marked stretch of this trail - it partly follows the same route as the Sallaajärvi nature trail.
Sallaajärvi nature trail is not a long one. The official route is only a little over 1.5 kilometres. However, this is not entirely flat area; Taka-Keljo area is known for being hilly. I enjoy the autumn colours at the beginning of the trail. The yellow will soon turn to brown.
The route is marked with yellow paint. This area is called aarnialue, referring to primeval forest which has not been logged. I enjoy the sound of silence under the trees. There are no cars around. At this time of the year there are hardly any birds either but it is not totally quiet: I can hear a small brook.
Although there has been no logging, it doesn't mean that no trees ever fall down. There was a very fierce storm in August 2010 which raged also at Sallaajärvi area and took down many tall trees. Since this is a conservation area, only those trees that have fallen across the trail have been cleared away.
Compared to some other nature trails, Sallaajärvi trail is very well marked and you don't need to carry a map with you. Polku means a path.
There is a slight drizzle in the air and the atmosphere in the forest is quite special on this late afternoon. I can finally hear some birds but they are no great singers: a couple of ravens are flying past.
The soft green moss shines strong and beautiful across the forest. Unfortunately I can't distinguish any of my favourite (edible) mushrooms under the trees. They would have been a welcome sight, something to take home for dinner.
Some of the old spruces look more unique than others. I single out this one - or is it one tree or two in one? She seems to be cradling a toddler on her arms.
I meet yet another small brook. To be accurate, in Finnish this is called noro (a smaller brook in which water is not flowing constantly and in which fish may not be able to swim) whereas I would simply lable it as puro which is the usual word for any little brook. I admit it is hard to imagine fish swimming there, so deep in the forest and in such shallow water.
The nature trail climbs up to 190 meters (above sea level) but it doesn't pass the highest point in Taka-Keljo  which is a neighbouring hilltop called Pirttimäki, 249 m. This is ancient dry land: after the Ice Age was over, the water level reached up to 153 meters from current sea level so the seashore used to be much lower than where I am now.
I meet more and more trees that fell down in the "Veera" storm in 2010. The storm took them down violently, snapping quite a few of them in two.
Next, the path descends a pretty steep hillside and soon I find myself at a clearing. There is a simple table and benches at which to take a break but you are not allowed to make a fire here.
The blue ribbon tied around the tree tells that I am again at Central Finland Provincial Trail. My path is already turning back to where it started from.
After a dry spell, I again feel tiny drops of rain fall on my face and the sky seems to be getting darker. It is getting later in the day and when I am walking beneath fir trees, there is not that much daylight left anyway.
Finally, I say goodbye to the spruces and arrive at an area with more light. The birches have been practically stripped of their leaves which now cover the wet ground. When I am cleaning my shoes at the end of the trail I once again stop to think how come walking the same distance may take only a moment in the city but here in the forest it takes not just minutes, but easily more than an hour.

A good way to get lost is not to lose the track, just track of time.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Mikkeli: a stroll at Tertti Manor

The lawn is still green at Tertti Manor at Mikkeli, in the South Savo region of Finland. Whoever mowed the lawn must have been enjoying himself or herself; it would never cross my mind to make patterns on the grass! If you are standing on the driveway, you may notice that the arrowhead is pointing towards the walled garden...
However, the Secret Garden, surrounded by the thick granite walls (there used to be a large cow-house) is closed for the winter. No wonder - the more than 200 different flowers inside the walls must be weary already, having been at their best in July when there are guided tours to the garden on Sunday afternoons. At other times you can only visit the garden by prior arrangement.
You can take a peek into the garden through the closed gate but there is hardly anything to see now. October isn't the best time to visit a garden in Finland...
However, not all is lost: Virginia creeper makes my day as it is covering a large part of the stone wall in flaming red colour.
Not everything looks as happy as Virginia creepers. Poor common hops have lost their colour and turned dry and brown already in their poles.
I return to the pink wooden manor house along a short alleyway lined with tall, old spruces. These days, the old Tertti Manor building serves visitors as a restaurant. Behind it there is another old style building with a couple of guest rooms. The open verandah resembles a gazebo. It would be a lovely place for a cup of tea when the pink Tertti rose is in bloom.
The front garden of the manor house slopes gently towards the nearby lake Säkälampi. There are quite a few apple trees, among others, but the greatest tree of all is the 140 years old white willow. How about sitting down on the bench with a book, under the protecting arms of the aged willow tree?
I follow the soft, somewhat muddy path to the shore of lake Säkälampi. We are not in the middle of nowhere; you can hear the sounds of the road nearby. However, the view over the fields is relaxing - this is the countryside, after all. I take a path to the right and walk through the small forest to another small field. A narrow brook is waiting for me.
There is a tiny wooden bridge over the brook. This is not just any bridge: it has a name, Ponte Hoh Hoijaa. (Hoh hoijaa can be roughly translated as a big sigh after the day's work is done...) The bridge was opened in 2001. I guess I'm now at the edge of Tertti arboretum.
A good guess... There are quite a few colourful leaves on the ground that have fallen from trees that don't grow in a regular Finnish forest. Rhododendron is also something that you need to plant there, but once you've done it it may well survive the winters at least in the southern part of Finland.
Wish I knew more about the different tree species! What on earth are these tall, slim fir trees called? They have been planted in such straight rows...
To my surprise, I spot a granite post in the middle of the arboretum - typically used to tell the distance to the nearest towns by the side of the road a couple of decades ago but now history - which has a lots of numbers on it. What do the x and y mean? What does number 10 refer to? At least I can guess that P stands for longitude, L stands for latitude.
What a great sunny day. I can imagine not just sitting down to read by the tall willow I met earlier but also here...
The stone fence is not extremely long but it is a rare sight these days, having taken days and hours to build. You can't build one with a machine. You can tell this is a pretty new fence because if it were an old one, it would already be covered with moss.
I leave the arboretum and start walking back towards the Tertti Manor house, following the narrow road that leads me past the last flowers of the summer by the side of the field.
Members of cabbage family can take many colours, not just the typical green. Wow!
The square garden close to the manor includes lots of different herbs, salads and whatever you can think of. This must be the secret behind Tertti manor's restaurant: their own herb garden. The sign promises that Lemon balm can turn old women to young maidens...
The patio in the middle of the garden has been carefully decorated. In the summer time, you can sit here and sip tea or coffee, served from the Dairy Café next door, and smell the herbs and plants around you.
The sun is close to setting. I take a last look at the garden that is so close to falling asleep for the winter, with the last bits and pieces waiting to be picked up, dried or used fresh in the kitchen. I wonder who gets to enjoy these lovely artichokes?