Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Järvenpää Culture Trail

I take a couple of steps towards the pedestrian street from Järvenpää railway station and ask what is the distance to Ainola, the former home of composer Jean Sibelius which is nowadays a museum. The answer is approximately 15 minutes' walk which doesn't sound too bad. Admittedly, I have a gut feeling that Ainola will not be open but it should be possible to get a glimpse of it anyhow. I take the pedestrian street towards lake Tuusulanjärvi and then turn left to Sibeliuksenväylä, a road named after the master. A huge flock of birds is flying across the lake. For them it is time to leave Finland for somewhere warm.
After passing the fields on both sides of the road, the first buildings on the right belong to Seurakuntaopisto (Church Training College) after which I spot a sign that indicates there is a tourist attraction on the right. The yellow building at the end of the road is Ahola, the former home of writer Juhani Aho. The poster on the noticeboard quotes Aho's words:  Varmaan olen enemmän kalamies kuin kirjamies (I bet I'm more of a fisherman than a writer). Either Juhani Aho was being modest or he must have been a truly fantastic fisherman.
Ahola was home to the writer and his artist wife Venny Soldan-Brofeldt in 1897-1911. They were a remarkable artistic couple with an unconventional marriage. It would be great to learn more about their life here but unfortunately the museum is only open from May to September. Better luck next time.
I return back to Sibeliuksenväylä which has already taken me very close to Ainola; I can already see where it is. Aho family was friends with the Sibelius family and they really lived within a stone's throw of each other. From Poikkitie road I turn to Ainolankatu street which leads me to the now closed gates of Ainola which Sibelius named after his beloved wife Aino. October seems to translate for winter: also Ainola will open next time in May. Only the coffee shop Aulis on the grounds is kept open during the winter season, weekends only.
I had hoped to get a good look of the house from the gates but the house remains hidden behind the trees. A thick spruce fence protects Ainola but perhaps I could get a glimpse of the main building somewhere behind the corner?  Jean Sibelius and his family moved to Ainola in 1904. I am sure they didn't have as much privacy behind such a fence back then.
Moving further I discover I remembered right and the tall spruces do not totally block the view to the house. You can at least see the roof and a bit of the top floor. Of course this doesn't equal to a view of the whole house and garden but it is something.
So far there have been only few drops of rain so I decide to walk just a little bit further. At a short distance from the fence surrounding Ainola there is a little sign, neatly framed. Surprise - it tells about Ainola! Another surprise - I am actually on Järvenpää Culture Trail (Järvenpään kulttuuripolku) which I never even knew existed. The signs are only in Finnish, though.
Järvenpää Culture Trail was created back in 1995 which may explain why the signs are somewhat worn and the texts have faded in the sun. The trail isn't even marked with paint or symbols; basically you just need to walk from a historically important building / area to another following a circular route upon which I happened to stumble. However, it is very easy to find your way because the area is very flat and you can almost see your next destination from the previous signpost. Lippumäki ('Flag Hill')  is an area on the left side of the path which seems to have rich history if you recognize the names of the artists or other cultural figures who have lived here. Unfortunately it is very difficult to spot the buildings mentioned in the description of the area, even though the leaves have almost fallen down.
On the other side of the footpath there is a pretty house which may or may not be an important part of the cultural heritage of the area. However, there is no story about this one on the trail.
When I arrive at old and narrow Ristinummi village road, I can just about see Pekka Halosen akatemia where you can study art, photography and graphic design. The school was named after artist Pekka Halonen who lived very close by - only 2 km from the current academy; however, his former home (nowadays a museum just like Ainola) isn't part of Järvenpää Culture Trail because Halosenniemi happens to be located in the neighbouring community Tuusula. Ristinummi area was home to Tilly Soldan who had a relationship with writer Juhani Aho. Who happened to be married to Tilly's sister Venny. Venny was quite a character: she welcomed also the child born of this relationship to Ahola. Apparently she wasn't a very jealous person.
The culture trail follows the village road for a short while before arriving at Kallio-Kuninkala and its grounds where there are quite a few buildings. The most impressive one is the main building called Ylä-Kuninkala, built in the early 1920's for Paloheimo family. Currently, Kallio-Kuninkala is home to music: the Sibelius Academy organizes courses and concerts here.
These days, Kallio-Kuninkala is owned by Leonora and Yrjö Paloheimo Foundation. The first owner of the estate was nationalist and businessman  K.A. Paloheimo (Karl Alfred) whose memorial can be found on the lawn; the sculpture Hengen liekkikruunu, or Flame Crown of Spirit was sculpted by Erkki Eronen (1978).
I descend from the main building to the lower part of the garden. The red and yellow Ala-Kuninkala was originally in Karelian Isthmus (in Finnish: Karjalan Kannas) but it was transferred from there first to Syväranta by lake Tuusulanjärvi and later, in 1918, right here.
I recognize a familiar shape in the garden. I suppose the painting Kullervo goes to war by Akseli Gallén-Kallela is well inscribed in my memory... However, this artwork is not by Gallén-Kallela but forged by an anonymous artist.
The garden of Kallio-Kuninkala is still partly under renovation, including the man-made pond which is not even half full. Time to start returning to Järvenpää; I leave the garden through a jugend style gate and head towards the footpath by the side of lake Tuusulanjärvi.
Lake Tuusulanjärvi is only a couple of meters from the road. I can't resist the temptation but step across the grass and take a deep breath by the still lake on this early evening. It is so beautiful.
Right behind me the road towards Järvenpää is fairly busy, unlike the quiet trail that I followed earlier. I need to keep my eyes turned towards the lake, the fields, the autumn colours and forget about the traffic noise.
Soon I reach the last marked destination of Järvenpää Culture Trail (there was no trail sign at Ahola but actually, it is part of the trail...). The sign is almost hidden among the rose bushes and perhaps just a little bit too far from the footpath. Suviranta (1901) is also well hidden, again mostly behind a dense spruce fence which doesn't offer a chance to have a very good look at the building which seems very nice on the photograph. Suviranta was the home of artist Eero Järnefelt, a realist painter who was very much inspired by nature.
Suviranta is still owned by the same family but unlike Ahola or Ainola, it is not a museum and thus can rarely be visited. The best bet is probably to attend a local music festival Meidän festivaali, or Our festival in the summer; some concerts are held here. I look across the road to my right - there is Ainola, the Sibelius family home. I have come almost full circle already.
The Culture Trail behind me, I get back to Järvenpää centre. On the way there you just can't miss this artwork in Ystävyydenpuisto (Friendship Park): the huge yellow sculpture Kolmisointu by U.S. artist Rolf Westphal (1979). Every time I pass this I can't help but think this is an (anti) ad for a certain fast food chain, with the letter 'M' somewhat rearranged, taking a stroll in the park...


  1. Hello! I was googling for pictures of Gallén-Kallela's Kullervo painting when I saw your photo of the sculpture above. I had no idea that existed!

    I visited Ainola last September, about 2 months before your post. I would've loved to go on the culture trail. I only had a vague idea of its existence. Will definitely look out for it next time I go to Finland. Thank you for your wonderful post!

    Leon, Singapore

    1. Thanks Leon!

      It's not always easy to find information on such trails as this one (at least not in English) even if you look for it and know Finnish language. Some of these trails have been created quite a few years ago, sometimes by a volunteer group, and they are not necessarily maintained regularly or there may not be information about them online. Even the Järvenpää Culture Trail signs have suffered a bit but at least the route is still there!