Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Mikkeli: visit to Naisvuori

The sun smiles at me, almost surprisingly (rain is a frequent guest these days), when I start walking towards Naisvuori hill from the market square at Mikkeli in south Savo. Walking along Maaherrankatu street something strikes me on the asphalt. There are some words embedded on the pavement. In front of the optician's shop it says optikko
whereas by the goldsmith shop Oskari Laitinen the pavement says kelloja (clocks), koruja (jewellery) and kihloja (engagement rings). A great combination of advertising and street art ;-) After crossing the street, I notice a plaque attached on the pillar of the corner building. The oldest sports club in the greater Savo region, currently called Mikkelin Ampujat ry (Mikkeli Shooting Club) was founded in the inn that was right here back in 1886. What a pity that the inn doesn't exist anymore. 
The park on my right is called Kirkkopuisto (Church Park) but the wooden church is long gone, having been destroyed by fire. The only remaining building in the park is the open-air stage which is quite neat.
The view from the stage opens towards the fountain and the happy birds that are rising from the water. Behind them, you can spot the glass roof of the fairly new shopping center Stella which replaced the old small market hall and the bus station. The new bus station is now located by the railway station.
I join the "line" of solitary walkers that is crossing the park diagonally to Maaherrankatu. The yellow autumn leaves add a dash of colour to the green lawns. I soon arrive at the corner of Maunukselankatu street and spot the sign to Naisvuori hill which has for a while been hidden behind the apartment buildings.
Below the steep rock there are quite a few plants - like a somewhat wild rock garden. In the winter, the garden is resting, but during the early summer, you can see rhododendrons in bloom.
Right now the Virginia creeper is painting the view flaming red, to add more fire to the autumn colours.
The granite steps that lead to the top of Naisvuori hill make it easy to climb up but I wouldn't recommend high heels for this route.
This must be the first time I see a tree like this in Finland but I instinctively think it must be a yew tree. They do not grow wild in Finland! The bright red berries look very inviting but I remember from some Agatha Christie novel that they are poisonous.
When I see the colourful plastic thingy on top of Naisvuori hill, my first thought is that it must be a work of art. However, a small sign in Finnish next to it says something about a playground... So it must be simply a climbing frame for kids.
The solitary statue by the observation tower seems to be covering his eyes from the sun, looking into the distance. The plaque is hardly legible but in the end I can decipher a word: vaeltaja, a wanderer. Naisvuori actually means 'women's hill'. I wonder how come the statue is of a man, instead of a woman.
Unfortunately the observation tower at the very top of Naisvuori hill is only open during the summer months so there is no hope of sipping a cup of tea there or of enjoying the best possible view over Mikkeli from up there. However, there is a pretty good view towards the city centre also from the foot of the observation tower.
A wide path winds down from the top of the hill to a square where you can read the story of Naisvuori hill in Finnish. A restaurant pavilion was built on the hill in the 1880's but alcohol was banned from its menu. Why? Naisvuori was seen as the only place where women could enjoy the sweetness of summer and the beautiful view without fear of being disturbed! The water tower by architect Selim A. Lindqvist was built in 1912 but it hasn't held water since the 1950's.
After passing the open-air summer theatre on my right, the first building I meet is Naisvuoritalo which looks like it must be used for parties. This place has also military history like many others in Mikkeli: the plaque on the wall says that Finnish Military Telegraph battalion was founded here in 1918.
Lower down by Mikonkatu, I spot a text in an old fashioned font on the wall. Mikkelin Telefooniyhdistys (Mikkeli Telephone Company makes me think about the times before cell phones, when telegraphs poles and wires were what you needed to carry messages across the land.
I arrive back at the city centre but not all buildings that I meet here are modern either. Kannattaa ajatella miten kannattaa ajatella, or it is worth thinking what is worth thinking, it says on the windows of the corner building of Savilahdenkatu and Mikonkatu streets. My first thought is that I hope that this beautiful wooden building gets lovingly renovated. Soon.
The paint is of course beautifully worn and a work of art in itself but it doesn't really protect the wood beneath it...
My last stop before getting back to the market square is Taito Shop arts & crafts store. One of the items for sale there is a city map in the form of underpants - available already in some Finnish cities, also in Jyväskylä. When I look at the underpants more closely, I see that Naisvuori hill is also listed as one of the few attractions that have been especially marked in black. Pants don't lie; Naisvuori is worth visiting when in Mikkeli.

No comments:

Post a Comment