Friday, 14 September 2012

Jyväskylä: Women's Bank Charity Walk

On Sunday, 9 September, a group of people gathers at Yliopistoportti sculpture at the entrance to the campus of University of Jyväskylä. Women's Bank is doing a charity walk to raise money for vocational training for women in developing countries. For one woman, the cost of vocational training is 25 euros and thanks to this walk, 29 women will get that training. There are many similar events organized by Women's Bank all over Finland on this very day.

Our guides, Pirkko Veijo and Asta Häkkinen are donating us this guided walk. Our large group splits into two after which we start our walk following the footsteps of important women in Jyväskylä.
On the other side of the road is the lovely Lounaispuisto park on the grounds of which there are some statues of local people. P. J. Hannikainen was a Finnish composer, a music teacher at the Jyväskylä teacher seminary and he founded some famous choirs. His statue was sculpted by Nina Sailo whose husband Alpo made the original plans for the sculpture before his own death.  Hannikainen's wife Alli was also much into music; she founded a women's choir Vaput more than 100 years ago. Our guide starts to read aloud from some old newspaper ads that the owner of the original café at the corner of the park had placed. The lady owner advertises mostly innocent refreshments...
The red brick building next to us originally served as a granary, was later converted to a library, then became a museum of handicrafts but now houses the Rector's Office of the University of Jyväskylä. We hear about the female writer Ain' Elisabet Pennanen who was quite daring in her time and had a relationship with another writer, Juhani Siljo, who worked here as a librarian. They met secretly at the library. The previous rector of the university Aino Sallinen was the first female university rector in Finland. She has retired only recently.
A couple of steps further along Seminaarinkatu street, there is a large wooden house which used to be the "winter palace" of Ms Hanna Parviainen who owned a saw mill and a plywood factory in Säynätsalo, close to Jyväskylä. She supported financially a group of local girl scouts, Reippaat Tytöt.
The first female architect in Finland was Wivi Lönn who made the original plans for the current Kirjailijatalo (Writer's House) which its later owner however modernised radically. On the other hand, Lönn herself modernised the granary into a library...
Still further down Seminaarinkatu, we turn left to Hämeenkatu street to see the lovely house which architect Wivi Lönn designed for herself and her mother. To our pleasant surprise, the current owner Kauko Sorjonen kindly invites us into the garden so that we can visit Wivi's statue and see the house from another side. I spot beautiful flowers through the partly open conservatory windows and ask our host what kind of flowers are they. Mr Sorjonen responds: bougainvillea. 
It is time to leave the carefully tended garden and walk towards the side entrance. However, suddenly a door opens and we're in for the next surprise. Mr Sorjonen welcomes us inside to visit the conservatory!
No wonder Mr Sorjonen is proud to show us his gorgeous bougainvillea. It is very rare to see this plant in full bloom, and this big, in Central Finland. You'd rather expect to see bougainvilleas like this in the south of Europe.
We thank our kind host for letting us see much more than we expected; after all, we thought we'd just stop to hear some stories about Wivi's house outside the gates and then continue walking. I've never before been inside the building and when I look at the beautifully restored paintwork and artwork in the corridor downstairs I know that is house is indeed a treasure.
Thanks also to Wivi Lönn who created this house and lived here in 1911-1918. So glad Wivi's brother Ville managed to persuade his sister to move to Jyväskylä so she ended up designing many buildings here.
We turn to walk towards the city centre and walk past Juomatehdas, a former brewery. Wivi Lönn's brother worked there as a cashier. Next, we arrive at the south-eastern gate of Lounaispuisto park and enter the stage. The place is currently an open air concert venue but it has long traditions as a venue for choir festivals that started in the late 19th century. Our guide Asta hands the group the lyrics of Central Finland's anthem and says: let's sing. The four young men lounging on the seats politely thank us after the song...
We walk past Cygnaeus park and continue down Cygnaeus street to Toivolan vanha piha, a new attraction that consists of restored wooden buildings that will celebrate its official opening on 30 Sep, 2012. The garden is not quite ready yet, but it soon will be. Toivola is not a museum; a group of entrepreneurs who focus on crafts have moved or are moving their businesses there and aim to make this into a lively place. There is already a wool shop and a clothes designer, among others, and later a café will also open on the premises.
After the little detour to Toivola, we return to Vapaudenkatu street and pass the Old Rectory that belongs to the Lutheran parish of Jyväskylä. The Old Rectory is also a meeting place for the reading club of Women's Bank. The members donate for charity a couple of euros each for each book they read and discuss at the club.
At Kirkkopuisto, or Church Park, we look over the lawn towards the Jyväskylä City Theatre. A women's group called Minnat runs the café / restaurant services at the theatre, raising money for the theatre. The group is named after Minna Canth who came to Jyväskylä to study at the teacher seminary and later became one of the most important women writers and playwrights in the country.
Minna Canth herself is also gazing at the theatre. Minna Johnsson never completed her studies at the seminary because she got married to Mr Canth, a teacher of hers and wasn't allowed to continue at the seminary. Mrs Canth started writing already in Jyväskylä but only after her husband's death, after moving to her old home town Kuopio (widowed with 7 children) did she publish her first play. Canth was also a businesswoman.
After following the trail of important women, we end up at the Jyväskylä Art Museum for some coffee, tea and delicious cakes. This is also one of the last chances to contribute to a work of art by crocheting - if not a full 25x25 cm piece but at least a part of one. There is already an impressive pile of green crocheted squares downstairs but it seems that more are needed for a mystery work of art that will be displayed on 21 September in this very museum.

A walk can be (and do) good in many ways.

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