Monday, 5 March 2012

Meandering at Mikkeli

I stand next to Mikkeli market place and turn my head to the end of the pedestrian street, Hallituskatu. The steeple of the red brick church is reaching towards the sky on a small hill.
Up we go; granite steps lead to the neo-gothic Mikkeli cathedral that makes me think about Harry Potter films, even if its features are not as sinister.  The sign at the front door warns about ice falling from the steep roof, and not in vain. While I'm standing there, a  large clump of hard snow crashes on the ground behind the warning sign. A sure sign of spring coming!
I continue my walk behind the church and descend on Otto Mannisen katu street, named after the Finnish writer, translator and poet Otto Manninen who made his career during the first half of 20th century. Behind the wooden fence, another artist's work greets me from a tree.
Round the corner, Puistokatu street is lined on this side with wooden buildings. I stop to gaze at the tiniest river shape in the melting ice, carved across the frozen pavement by the water drops from the drainpipe.
On the other side of the wooden fence, there are speech bubbles on the wall. "Koira." ("A dog.") "Saako silittää?" ("Can I stroke it?") "Sä oot kaunis." ("You're beautiful.") This must be an art garden or something like that!
On the left, I discover another piece of art hanging from a leafless old oak tree. A mysterious, leafy lady is swinging quietly. A sign on the yard reveals that the wooden building houses an art school for children and young people, as well as art classes for adults.
No wonder the speech bubbles greet me on the walls. "Moi"! "Hello!" On the other side of the yard, there are some university buildings for more serious students.
However, the building next to children's art school is also dedicated to art. Mikkelangelot, a local art society, has its facilities here, as well as Mikkeli Centre of Photography. The rhyming sign next to the doorbell politely implies: "Ring the bell, wait a while /And you can enter / art in style" or something like that... On the broom that leans on the wall, someone has scribbled that the first to enter must sweep the stairs! I step inside the Mikkeli Centre of Photography but find it is deserted, except for the two men doing some renovation work. I check out the wall of photographs and return back outside.

On the other side of the street there is a football field below the street level, totally covered with snow of course. A cross-country skiing track has been made around the football pitch - skiing is about the only thing you can do there at this time of the year!
I turn back and follow Ristimäenkatu street which is named after the church (risti = cross, mäki = hill, mäen = genitive of 'mäki')  and stop to have a look at a solitary pillar which isn't attached to a fence although it should be. Poor man, carrying the heavy load on his back. What is your story?

At the corner of Ristimäenkatu and Hallituskatu streets, the posters insist that I must visit the corner building, Mikkeli Art Museum. Today the museum features Southern Savo regional exhibition, besides the permanent exhibitions in the impressive granite building that represents Art Nouveau style. The welcome is friendly and I get a brief introduction to both the museum and its exhibits. The building was first a post office but before becoming a museum, it has also served as a police station, including some jail cells!

A local or regional art exhibition may not sound like much but the works of some artists are really impressive, notably those of Nadia Zubareva and the human sculptures made of metal net; Anna-Liisa Kuosmanen's fabulous red double bass woven of willow;  Pippa Laurio's black and white works that create an illusion of being three dimensional, and Pirjo Vartiainen's autumnal willowherb painting in its fantastic colours.
The exhibitions is really refreshing and I return to the market place with a light step. The market place itself, right in the center of Mikkeli, is actually frozen for ice skaters so I'm surprised not to see anyone skating there on this beautiful day.
Mikkeli boasts of a new shopping centre Stella that was opened last November. The shopping centre meant saying goodbye to the old, small market hall (which was supposed to be temporary but had stayed there for decades). Something was left of the old days: the renovated gate buildings still guard the entrance to the new shopping paradise. I walk through the spacious, glass-covered square and enter a smaller adjacent building behind it to find the small shops of which most were found also in the now demolished market hall. These shopkeepers now have their stalls in a building that was earlier used for handling parcels sent by bus. Just a little bit of history left... Time for a cup of coffee or tea in one of the nearby coffee shops!


  1. thank you,I enjoyed the walk around Mikkeli. I'll be visiting there myself soon and will endeavor to find the story behind the man on the granite post with his sack.

  2. Vera, I hope you find out more about the granite post, it would be great to know what's been there. A short cut to the market place or what?