Saturday, 6 October 2012

Jyväskylä Culture Trail 2012

Whether hard rain's gonna fall or not, I'm going out; Kulttuurisuunnistus is the annual Culture Trail event in Jyväskylä, with different checkpoints scattered around town, to be explored at your own pace and by choosing your own route. The checkpoints change somewhat each year but always include stops at museums and art galleries along the way. This year it is possible to visit 14 different places on the afternoon of 30 Sep. However, the weather may prove to be too wet for some... When I enter the city centre, there are only few walkers and cyclists about. It is better to focus on the beautiful colours of the fallen leaves than the raindrops that keep falling on my head...
For some reason I end up choosing the furthest checkpoint as my first destination: Vaajakoski is about 8 km from the city centre. Perhaps not the wisest choice on a rainy day, but who cares... The river Tourujoki flows slowly, with the surrounding trees dropping their yellow leaves to the water at equally relaxed pace. At least I get to enjoy the lakeside footpath for many kilometers to start with.
The grey clouds hang above the skyline of Jyväskylä and the lake Jyväsjärvi. When you look at he view is as if the reeds were the only spot of colour today. On the other side of the footpath, I suddenly hear the Halssila church bells chime 12 times through the hum of the motorway. It is the official starting time of the Cultural Trail event but I had to make an early start because of wanting to do it on foot between 12 and 4 pm - and even then I may not be able to visit many places because of choosing the longest possible route.
Leaving lake Jyväsjärvi behind, I ascend from Rauhalahti to Vaajakoskentie road, passing beneath two roads. Young artists have been at work, probably without being commissioned by the city of Jyväskylä. I wonder what the fierce looking fish is dreaming of.
Step by step, puddle by puddle I march on. The sidewalk is right next to the road for most of the way which means that I have to be on the lookout for cars - the road has had its share of rain as well. Knowing that I'll need to cover some distance within a limited time, and having to keep the raincoat hood on for most of the time, this will be a different type of walk to my usual ones: my eyes will most likely catch fewer new things while I'm on the move. It means more time for thinking, of course. I meet an older man who is walking towards me, without a raincoat or umbrella. He is asking how many kilometres is it to Viherlandia Garden Centre - in English. Three, perhaps a bit more, I venture, and wish it stopped raining for a while, if only just for him.
Oh where art thou, Resiina Arts & Crafts shop? I walk past the roundabout at Vaajakoski, through the underpass with the bright coloured graffiti from 2011. I take shelter under a tree and open the wrinkled Culture Trail map, published by the local newspaper Keskisuomalainen, and wonder how I'll manage to keep it dry enough all day. The map is far from detailed and I have to turn to my cellphone to find the address and the exact location of Checkpoint 14. OK, it is on the other side of the railroad tracks...
Walking back towards Vaajakoski center, I again get a good look at the paintings on the underpass walls. This is probably the only place where I can catch a rainbow today!
Resiina is located at Asematie (asema = station, tie = road). The wooden building used to be Vaajakoski railway station but passengers haven't been seen stepping on or off trains here for many years. If I remember correctly, the village was originally called Haapakoski but when the railroad was built in the early 20th century, the station was renamed Vaajakoski because another station called Haapakoski already existed in Eastern Finland. I step inside the Arts & Crafts shop Resiina which I've never visited before. There are lots of local handmade products for sale, ranging from jewellery, ceramics, toys and clothes to art. I open my map, get a stamp at number 14 and answer a question that relates to the place. Those who have visited at least 4 Culture Trail stops this afternoon can enter a lucky draw to win culture related prizes.
Resiina offers a chance to walks on stilts on the yard but prefer my own feet... After this, I'll simply walk the +8 kilometres back to Jyväskylä city centre to visit the next checkpoint. Unfortunately the Panda licorice and chocolate factory store next door is closed today so I can't get any fresh local candy from there, to keep me going... However, honouring local produce, I get some Panda licorice from a grocery store on the way. The rain has stopped for now and I enjoy walking without the hood on for a while. I know I would be able to visit more Culture Trail places if I caught a bus to town but why not just keep walking, it's not that far anyway...
Unfortunately the rain returns slightly fiercer. When I arrive at Tourula, there is a choice of visiting an Arts & Crafts Centre for the young or continuing my walk straight to the harbour, to do a walking fitness test. Guess what? I opt for the arts. It means stepping inside from the rain for a while. The door handle to Taitokeskus is decorated with a cool knit graffiti, made of Granny Squares. Target number two for me.
The Arts & Crafts centre is surprisingly quiet, compared to what I've seen it on other such occasions. The rain must be the one to blame, keeping most people within a shorter distance to the city centre. I do a short tour inside and step back into the rain, heading for Veturitallit.
Veturitallit (veturi=locomotive, tallit=garages) building was forgotten for many years but luckily it wasn't torn down. The building has just gone through careful renovation and its doors have only recently been opened to the public - and it is meant to be a meeting place for the young, culture and creativity. Its location is ideal: only few steps from the railway / bus station, thus easily accessible.
I wander inside the red brick walls for the first time ever. The answer to question number 12 on my Culture Trail map can be found on the other side of this wall: the oldest part of Veturitallit dates back to 1897.
The great colours of the chairs and sofas in the large lounge match this season perfectly. It is as if the colours were picked from the autum leaves. Before leaving, I stop also at the photography gallery Ratamo at the other end of the building - didn't know there was a gallery here! - and have a cup of hot tea at the coffee shop. The first one on this walk. Where to next?
My fourth destination is Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (or YLE for short) right at the heart of Jyväskylä, on Kauppakatu. The staff gives tours in the premises at 15-20 minute intervals, showing also the works of art that are usually hidden to the public. The question here is: is there a nursery, lock-up or a library at YLE? My very first guess is correct: a library. It refers to this work of art by Jussi Heikkilä, titled The Library. Very bookish! I think of the Acropolis.
My journey continues along Kauppakatu street to Finnish Craft Museum where I need to solve a mystery: how many pieces of soap are included in Anu Tuominen's work of art which features, well, quite a few soap boxes! After careful examination my conclusion is that the (only) green piece is soap, and the others are rocks.
On the other side of the Kilpisenkatu street, at Jyväskylä Art Museum Holvi, it is possible to walk on a hand made green meadow (with shoes off, naturally), among other things. Anyone who wanted to try their hand at crocheting could contribute to this work of art a few weeks ago, and this is what became of those squares! I wonder where my couple of rows are hidden.
Next, I decide to visit another place I've never been to before, the Central Finland Art Council's office at Keskustie, but although I manage to find the right door as well as the doorbell downstairs, the front door to the building won't open. OK. Better luck next time.
It is getting closer to 4 pm already, but I've still got time to stop by the City Theatre at Kilpisenkatu where many groups have today enjoyed a free tour around the building, with peeks behind the curtains, the dressing rooms, etc. Unfortunately I'm too late to join such a tour. However, I need to solve another question here. How old is the City Theatre building this year? The copper plate on the wall outside with architect Alvar Aalto's signature is cryptic - "theatre 1964-1982" but the correct answer is 30 years.
In the corner of Cygnaeuksenkatu and Hannikaisenkatu streets, I finally enter my last destination of this Culture Tour: Toivolan Vanha Piha (old Toivola courtyard) which is celebrating its inauguration today. The newest attraction in Jyväskylä includes old wooden buildings from the late 19th century, full of life once again.
The courtyard is still being finalized but you can already see that it will be great later. The flagpole has clearly been carved by hand with an axe! I enter a side building and get the last stamp of the day to my Culture Trail map and hand it it, very wrinkled and partly wet. The rain has stopped, finally...and so has my Culture Trail.
I hear Toivola has been crowded all day. No wonder! There are quite a few interesting people working here, as well as things to see (and buy): there is a blacksmith, a goldsmith,  a photographer, an upholsterer, a great wool shop...  The coffee shop Muisto will however be opened only later. I know I'll definitely return here.
For today only, there is however a temporary coffee shop, with pancakes and doughnuts etc., parked by the side of the yard. A French touch in an old Finnish yard...
Before returning home I stop to grab one more cultural memory at Kirkkopuisto park. Äkkigalleria has another temporary exhibition there: South African Patricia Driscoll has spent a while at Jyväskylä at an artist's residence and taken most of the photographs on display here during that time. The opening of her short exhibition took place on 21 Sep, 2012 exactly when a double rainbow appeared across the sky. 
The feeling for Driscoll's paintings is intensifed today, with water dripping down everywhere, as water is a strong element in her photos also. I take a last look (probably!) at my favourite photograph with the blue feather - you never know when the exhibition disappears and the adverts for concerts and art museums reclaim their own space back. Äkkigalleria pops up for a short while wherever there is a suitable space available.

I walk wherever there is a suitable trail available. Be it short or long. However, I wouldn't mind a change of clothes now, from these wet into dry ones...


  1. A Culture Trail with checkpoints and setting your own course & pace. What a great idea!

  2. A agree Scott, it really is a great idea. For me the only problem is that I'd love to visit all of the places included but there never is enough time to do that; the idea is not to just enter and leave straight away but enjoy an art exhibition, do a tour of the premises with a guide - whatever happens to be going on in each checkpoint. However, at least you have a chance to visit new places and you may be tempted to go there again.