Friday, 31 August 2012

Jyväskylä: Misty meandering

It is at least a couple of minutes past 8 a.m. Where is everybody? Still asleep?
The morning mist is still hanging over lake Tuomiojärvi and won't let the sun come through properly; a thin layer of grey surrounds the scenery.
Only few steps from the lakeshore at Kortesuo, Jyväskylä, you can stand and gaze at the lake from a simple wooden platform, accessible also with a wheelchair. However, this morning the view is more or less eerie. In the early summer, a huge number of gulls keep the noise level in this bay pretty high but this morning it is strangely quiet.
It is hard to admit that I can already sense a whiff of autum in the air, on the ground, in the leaves.
I slip to the narrow footpath from Kortesuo to Viitaniemi - not to use it as a shortcut, but to enjoy the atmosphere. The route feels wider than before. Oh yes, the tall weeds surrounding the duckboards have finally been cut. Moreover, the old duckboards have been either repaired or replaced with new ones! Fantastic! The old ones were already in pretty bad shape.
I reach the archery field and have a peek at the allotment gardens on the other side of the footpath. The gardeners who have cultivated their own allotment all summer have a reason to be proud. There is an abundance of wonderful flowers and vegetables. It is harvest time.
I take a left turn at Taidepolku and when reaching the end, head towards Jarolavl square, named after Jyväskylä's twin city Yaroslavl in Russia. The white row houses in Tiedepolku can hardly be seen through the mist.
The top of the 13-storey Viitatorni apartment building, designed by architect Alvar Aalto, disappears from view as soon as I have walked to Aatoksenkatu street. Where should I go next?
I choose Möyrykatu street and arrive next at Sepänaukio square which is already getting busy with its Saturday morning flea market. The flea market is for early birds. If you want to secure a certain spot for yourself, you need to arrive here already before 7 a.m., and of course the best bargains can be found here early as well.
Sepänkatu street takes me down towards the city centre and its sleepy streets where only few cars pass me by. Harjunkulma area is where Jyväskylä's bus station used to be before it moved further down, to be located next to the railway station. After the bus station was torn down, the area became a construction site and soon the final piece will be in place: the last of the large apartment buildings that form a full circle.
Unfortunately the last missing apartment building will also hide the current view from Väinönkatu street to Harju ridge.
Since it is so early, Jyväskylä market square is fairly quiet but most stalls are ready for the first shoppers of the day. There is a smell of coffee in the air. I opt for fresh strawberries and decide to have a late breakfast at home instead - and then return back here with a large shopping bag to stock up on fresh berries, apples and vegetables. 
A short distance away, at Yliopistonkatu, Lyseo school (Lyceum) stands tall at the top of Asemakatu street. This is the first high school in Finland with Finnish as the teaching language, and currently there is a great debate in Jyväskylä about the future of Lyseo. Some say that Lyseo should be merged with other high schools in Jyväskylä to create a high school for about 1000 students, whereas the defenders of Lyseo wish to keep this traditional school right here. I really hope Lyseo's history will continue here. The decisions will be made this autumn.
The pedestrian streets downtown Jyväskylä are also deserted. That is of course understandable on a Saturday morning when the shops are not yet open. It is a strange feeling to walk here in (almost) full daylight, with mist hanging overhead, and listening to my own solitary footsteps.
I make a little detour via Kirkkopuisto before returning to Yliopistonkatu street. The wide street looks like a huge pedestrian avenue until I hear and see a car approaching.
The granite steps of Harju ridge bear the name Neron portaat, somewhat erroneously named after Mr Oskar Nero who did not even plan or lead the building project of the steps. Perhaps his name simply sounded better? If architect Alvar Aalto's plan had become true, there would be a sauna standing at the top of the steps. In that case, I could have enjoyed a sauna on this morning walk, gazing at Jyväskylä at my feet...
I climb to the very top of Nero's steps and finally get a glimpse of Harju water tower which was not at all visible from down below, as it usually is. It really is time for the weather to clear up! I descend from the ridge via the wooden steps down to Mäki-Matti.
I choose the long Kortesuonkatu street which leads me to an almost empty piece of land. This is where an arson took place last winter, destroying the old Nisula villa which had for years been the home of Jyvälä open college and a nursery. Such a sad ending for the lovely wooden building. This has been a beautiful, nostalgic morning walk.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Jyväskylä: messages by the lakeshore

I descend from the main campus of University of Jyväskylä to the Mattilanniemi campus which is by lake Jyväsjärvi - just what I need. A view to the lake, sitting on the bench which is almost hidden among the bushes. The lakeview includes the lovely footbridge leading to Ylistönrinne on the other side of the lake - and more university buildings.
However, I get an itch for a walk a bit further along Rantaraitti, the footpath round lake Jyväsjärvi. I am further encouraged by the white sign by the side of the road. Unelma näyttää suunnan. A dream shows the way.
The sign is a temporary one, put up by Occupy Jyväskylä camp that is about to disappear soon after their event is over.
The evening is approaching and I wasn't actually thinking of a longer walk today - I'm wearing light canvas shoes, not sneakers - so I wonder if I really feel like going round the whole lake (about 12,6 km). The second temporary sign Unelmasta energiaa, promises Energy from dreams. Alright, I can always change my mind when I'm almost halfway, and return via Kuokkala bridge to the city centre.
A gentle soul has drawn a loving message on the pavement. To be noticed as well as walked / cycled / roller skated over. Was it made for someone in particular or for all passers-by?
After passing the Mattilanniemi-Ylistönrinne footbridge I stop to examine some rocks by the side of the footpath. The artwork is called Kiveen kirjoitetut (Written in Stone), made by Aino Kaarina Pajari of messages that she collected from anonymous people. Elä unelmasi. Live your dream. 
Above the advice carved in several stones there is a more temporary work of art, a smiling gentleman attached to a birch. Rain will probably wash the smile off his face soon...
Vapauta mielesi. Free your mind. I decide to free myself for a nice walk around the lake and not head back halfway. Walking makes it easy to free your thoughts to wander here and there. Soon I am past Ainola, Kuokkala bridge. When I reach the gates of the allotment garden, I can discern that there has been writing on the asphalt but the letters are already indecipherable.
Äijälä, Viherlandia. Lake Jyväsjärvi on my left, a motorway on my right, and the center of Jyväskylä a couple of kilometres away. No clear messages in sight for a long time; I ignore the unreadable scribbles on the benches. It is only just before I arrive to Schauman 'castle' close to the city centre that I see the next writing, already fading: Hajotkaa. I wonder, does it mean Disperse! or telling the passers-by to fall to pieces? The word is ambiguous.
The rest of Rantaraitti footpath is surprisingly messageless. At Lutakko, two swimmers get off the lake at the beach, pick up their large towels and step bare-footed across the footpath and enter the apartment building only few meters away. Their wet footprints are another fading message that will soon disappear with the help of the rays of the setting sun. I walked here.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Kuopio: something old, something new

I get a friendly welcome at Kuopio: a beautiful, sunny day. My first stop by the side of the market place is the information board in front of the Kuopio City Hall; it illustrates what we pedestrians will get as a result of the massive construction work which has taken over half of the market place and the streets surrounding it. 
Besides what the new pedestrian area in Kuopio city centre will look like, there are also images of new lamp posts and gratings that will protect the cherry trees and red ashes that will be planted on the streets, as well as of flower pots, bicycle racks and the hitching post where a horse and carriage can be tied to.
Next to the City Hall there is a simple granite memorial which I have never noticed before although I have walked past it many times. The memorial commemorates the very first church in Kuopio that was built here in 1552 but which was burned down already in 1611.
Only few metres away, a shoemaker is hammering the heel of a boot in place. This statue honours the shoemakers who founded a business called Kansalliskauppa (literal translation: 'National Store) in 1890.
I take a turn to the left, between the apartment buildings, and climb up the stairs to Hatsala Cemetery. The cemetery is more like a friendly park, with old iron crosses scattered here and there on the even grass. The oldest residents seem to have been born already in 18th century. Fredrik Tornberg (1793-1847), a dyer by profession, was dearly beloved by his wife; the text in Swedish behind his cross refers to a faithful and thankful spouse (Af en trogen och tacksam maka).
There are also some old tombstones, in addition to the simple iron crosses. The white marble tombstone of Flora Katarina Ramn is surrounded by a partly broken fence; the other remaining fences that protect final resting places also seem to have suffered along the years. I bet there are loads of great stories of people buried here but unfortunately I am not here with a guide or a guide book.
On the other side of the cemetery, the straight lines of graves with their red flowerbeds immediately reveal that this is where soldiers who died during WW2 have been buried. I proceed diagonally to the corner of Suokatu, to return back towards the market place.
On Suokatu street, Mostly Out of Cardboard doesn't explain much but I suppose there will be products made of cardboard for sale - at least lamps! The notice on the window promises that the lights will be on in August. 
Further down on Suokatu, I try the door of art gallery Tila 33 but it is closed. As it often is? The newspaper boy (Lehtipoika (Raimo Utriainen, 1961) in front of the local newspaper / media company Savon Sanomat is trying hard to be heard above the traffic, but nobody seems to hear him. I walk round the church park, stop briefly at the Kuopio Art Museum but decide to walk and and visit a museum I've never been to before.
A new museum, a new opening. I am almost there. At Kuninkaankatu street, on the wall of Muotoiluakatemia (Design Academy), I spot the first electricity cabinet with a piece of art on it. Artist: Unknown.
On the other side of the street, at the corner of Kirkkokatu, the street sign is in three languages. Weird! It must tell a story of the old times, when - during the reign of Russia - all three languages were spoken here. The corner building is part of Korttelimuseo, or Old Kuopio Museum which is my destination. I've had a cup of tea there a couple of times but this time I plan to visit the exhibition as well. However, I'll have a cup of tea and sample something fresh at the cosy café first... Should I sit inside or in the garden?
Old Kuopio Museum includes a collection of old wooden buildings, forming a closed area inside them. Some of the buildings are in their original places, others were moved here from nearby areas.
It is nice just to take a slow stroll in the garden, perhaps sit down on a bench, but I want to take a peek inside. One of the buildings includes furniture and objects that used to belong to Minna Canth who was a writer and a spokesperson for women's rights, in addition to running a shop to maintain her family of many children after her husband's death. However, Canth did not live in the building.
In the temporary exhibition area there are lots of Finnish national / regional costumes on display, each with their delicate decorations. The embroidery in Sakkola and Rautu folk costume is simply stunning! The permanent exhibition takes me through local history and I learn there that the narrow local streets called rännikatu are 12 cubits (or 7,1 metres) wide.
In the wooden buildings you can see where a shoemaker, weaver or apothecary have worked in the old days.  The interior of a city home from the 1930's seems more familiar than any of the others; it's not so long ago that I have sat on a similar chair. There is also a real outhouse but it is no longer in use...
Leaving the museum, I walk downhill towards the passenger harbour and its lovely boats. If only there was time to do a cruise on the lake Kallavesi as well! A local art market is taking place at the harbour, for the very last days.
The most interesting piece of art at the harbour is Tuikkukukko, a rooster whose 'feathers' are made of no other material than tealights, or rather, of their metal cups. Visitors are invited to make a contribution to the artwork (there are plenty of old tealights available) by attaching a newly shaped tealight somewhere on the metal frame. After the art market event is over, the sponsor of this artwork, the local garbage collector Jätekukko, will take Tuikkukukko to a garbage dump nearby... No, not to dump it there but it will remain there as artwork!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Jyväskylä: A keyring walk

Drifting - a walk in the shape of a keyring? It is one of the 'recipes' that Meiju Niskala, an experiental city consultant gave me in March when she was visiting Jyväskylä and I had an appointment with her and her assistant. Meiju asked me for something from my pocket and I was asked to drop the keyring on the map of Jyväskylä, but I declined and asked the consultant to do it, in order to not choose the area myself. Meiju took a marker and drew a line round my keys: my drifting route. The tricky part was to be the crossing of lake Jyväsjärvi because the ice wasn't strong enough to cross it in those areas in March so we decided that I'll do it in the summer. Boats allowed!
I start my Drifting assignment (which is not really drifting because I have a plan and a map in my hands) at Rauhalahti where there are quite a few rowing boats, among them the one I'm borrowing for the afternoon. The day is warm so I am grateful for the light breeze when I start rowing across the bay. On the other side of the lake, there is Lutakko with its apartment buildings, behind them the Jyväskylä city centre.
I get ashore at a small sandy beach. The fields between Viherlandia garden center and lake Jyväsjärvi don't look like much but that is about to change. I start walking towards Ansaritie road which is drawn on the city map already although it probably doesn't even exist yet.
The forthcoming national Housing Fair (2014) area is right here, and work has already begun at the construction site.  Rauhalahti power station is not too far away. Quite a few ducks are swimming happily in the narrow, quiet canals that have already been dug through the fields.
It is hard to imagine that this area will be full of houses in two years' time. The application period for pieces of land was closed in May 2012. I wonder if the berry bushes and other plants that are part of the garden centre next door will remain there.
I drift a little further and turn back at an old farmhouse. Looking at the worn tractor and the cow shed, I feel like I've stepped back in time.
I must admit that I don't stick exactly to the route drawn on my map when I'm walking on the fields which have partly turned into a construction site. I should actually continue straight across the river but since I'm not planning to swim but prefer a boat, I turn and head back for the rowing boat, enjoying nature on the way.
There is a wild meadow, absolutely in its natural state, behind the field. I try to cross it to reach the shore of lake Jyväsjärvi only few meters away but the ground is so wet (and I'm not wearing rubber boots!) that I decide to turn back and find an easier way to the boat.
After a little detour, I visit the only public pier on this shore. The footpath called Rantaraitti that goes round lake Jyväsjärvi doesn't yet extend right here. However, there are clear signs of a better footpath being built here as well, so perhaps the route of the popular Rantaraitti will change! I take a look at the map and can discern Ruulahti, my next destination ahead. Unfortunately, before reaching my rowing boat, I also spot a Do not trespass sign that refers to the Housing Fair area. A little too late for me because I didn't see one earlier.
I start rowing the tiny boat towards Ruulahti. I see a steamboat, s/s Suomi, coming and let it pass me by before crossing Äijälänjoki river.
There are lots of white and yellow water lilies about. The only thing I don't like about rowing is that I can only see where I am coming from, not where I am going! Also, a kayak would be able to handle the reeds much better, especially when trying to pass through them. Oh well, better turn back and take the easy way instead.
Ruulahti, Jyväsjärvi, P:62° 13.78' I:25° 47.588'.  The sign is decorated with exactly the right image: a rowing boat. I step off the boat, have a look at the map and start heading for the Pirttimäki forest above me.
I can't see a path so I climb up the cliff, manage to get my foot off a hole easily and stop to taste some blueberries. I had no idea there was such a nice little forest here. A bit later, I find a path or two and follow them for a while, then stray off the track again and walk the short distance straight ahead to Pirttimäentie road.
Next, I meander back to lake Jyväsjärvi, passing through a residential area and the Sulkula allotment garden. My rowing boat is patiently waiting for me. Before I get off the shore, m/s Suomen Suvi goes past, and as I'm sliding to the lake, m/s Rhea follows her to Äijälänjoki river. It is such fun to be drifting like this - seeing something new once again and from a new angle.
I return the rowing boat back to Rauhalahti and get back to my own element: walking. The motorway hums above me when I stop to have a look at the two thoughtfully decorated pillars. The top of the next tunnel ahead is painted blue and red.
I climb up Vaajakoskentie road, making a little detour compared to what is marked on my route map; you can't jump across the railroad tracks anywhere you want. Also, I don't want to climb over people's fences and private gardens... So I make my way via streets that are almost in the right places. The neat hand made sign of Tiirantie guides me to a street with houses both old and new.

The original houses at the old Halssila area are fairly small and they don't have large gardens either. This area bears resemblance to Pispala at Tampere - also in that you need to climb up and down.
There are nice details to look at in the gardens, such as the clever flower bicycle. It seems also that this will be a good apple year... I slip through a school yard, past Halssila library, descend to Vaajakoskentie road and start ascending to Halssilanmäki.
The massive stone fence must have been built of rocks from the quarry that used to be up here in Halssila - Aittovuori area.
I have another sip of water; the path is really going uphill. Above me there is a new housing estate, surrounded by this forest. I bet most people drive there instead of cycling or walking! The paths are really nice. This drifting trip has brought me to the highest place along the route: this lovely forest from which you can get a glimpse of lake Jyväsjärvi somewhere down there, behind the treetops. More blueberries, anyone?
I find my way back down along narrow streets and footpaths. After the sports field I arrive at the white Halssila church and find the footpath with the cutest name today: Tassupolku - literally 'Paw path'! The street names in this area are typically names of small mammals that live in the woods or of birds.
Oravankuja (Squirrel Alley), Majavankuja (Beaver Alley). I am getting closer to lake Jyväsjärvi. Originally, the lake shore was closer to these houses but the motorway required a landfill beneath it. Again I cross the railroad tracks, after tasting my first wild raspberries this summer.
The skyline of Jyväskylä and especially of Lutakko area is bathing in the sun. I am very close to where I started from.
Should have thought about bringing a towel...

Drifting... I didn't let the boat drift and I didn't really drift myself and walk at random. I followed, or tried to follow a route marked on the map of Jyväskylä, but the route was given to me randomly. Perhaps you could call this planned drifting? A drifting trip? Of course, I was free to throw away the map but felt more like seeing where my keyring would take me.  This was a fun afternoon in the sun with something old, something new by the lake Jyväsjärvi where I had never been rowing before. Thank you for the city experience, consultant Meiju!