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!

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