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.

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