Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ilomantsi: Church yards and Poetry Path

The morning sun is partly hiding behind the clouds at Ilomantsi. I walk up to the old Lutheran church on top of which a rooster is keeping an eye on the parish and telling which way the wind blows.
I boldly try the colourful church doors, but unfortunately they are locked and I can't get in to see the colourful pictures inside. Ilomantsi Lutheran Church will actually be open during the summer, as part of the Tiekirkko (Road Church) program so that travellers can visit churches more easily also outside the times of church services. However, that is on during the holiday season which starts towards the end of June, so not just yet.
The old Lutheran church dates to 1796 and it is surrounded by a lovely rocky fence, almost totally covered in moss. The dew still remains there...
I leave Henrikintie road and turn to Kirkkotie road and its combined foot and cycle path. Actually, the painted symbol on the asphalt reveals something about the local population: zimmer frames are quite common in the village. This is the first time I see it painted on the road.
I walk past the war memorial and the graves before arriving to another simple, yet beautiful church. The orthodox church is dedicated to prophet St Elias. The wooden church has five cupolas and it is the largest wooden orthodox church in Finland. Unfortunately the church doors are locked here as well.
Opposite the orthodox church, there are black and white signs that point to Iljala and Kalmisto. Kalmisto is an old Finnish word for cemetery so I decide to follow the road through Iljala yard. Although this is no valley, lilies of the valley abound. Can I feel the scent in the air?
The meadow is also in full bloom, with yellow dandelions spotting the pasture. I feel I am stepping back in time, looking at the scenery. The old traditional wooden fence, no nails used when building it, reminds me of times long gone. I can almost hear a cowbell although there are no animals in sight.
There are more and more lilies of the valley. I spot a sign with a medieval prayer dedicated to this flower, and soon I see another wooden sign, with yet another poem about lilies of the valley, this time by poet and writer Katri Vala who lived in Ilomantsi for a while. What a simple yet great idea!
As I walk a bit further, I discover there are more poems in sight and start to follow them. I'll visit the old cemetery a bit later... The path winds close to lake Ilomantsinjärvi shore and soon I arrive at a meadow spotted with lovely birches.
I walk under the birches, mostly young and straight, but there is an older one among them, still going strong. It feels great to fill your lungs with this fresh early summer air, the greenness, the dew.
A little shelter in the meadow indicates that the area is probably taken care of by a flock of sheep during the summer months. Why use lawnmowers when sheep can do a much better job? However, they are not "working" currently.
This morning walk in the poetic Karelian landscape feels like meditation, with the birds singing around me. You can simply label it peace.
I advance slowly, taking in every moment and enjoying every breath. Almost too soon the path arrives at a red and white outbuilding and the dirt road next to it. Simanantie is the end of the Poetry Path (Runopolku). Or actually, it is the beginning; I simply walked it in the opposite direction, having found it accidentally.

I'm glad I followed my instinct and the poems. Poetry Path fits this village of poems and bards perfectly! 

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