Monday, 26 November 2012

Tampere: A peek at Pispala

An absolutely gorgeous autumn sun shines on Pispala, Tampere and lures me towards the shore of lake Pyhäjärvi. I follow Isolähteenkatu street to the lakeside and pass a weird-looking handmade construction. A children's nature play ground under construction - Do not damage!, says the sign. All the "equipment" seems to be made of natural materials, with a huge spider's web woven of rags.
There is a light breeze blowing from lake Pyhäjärvi. I take a right turn because it will allow me to enjoy the joys of Pispala much longer - I'll probably need to return towards town the same way...
What I see above me on the footpath is no ordinary mess of branches but a work of art. I am glad this wooden "ball" is hanging high enough so no one can reach it without a ladder because it is made of kiehinen which are great when lighting up a fire!
Quite a few of the rowing boats have already been turned upside down for the winter but some are still ready for use. No wonder, the lake seems far from ready to freeze just yet. I'd love to go on the lake! But not without a boat of course, the water is already freezing cold.
I enjoy the afternoon light and take a look at my right, my left, my right, my left. On the left there is the lake, on the right the famous Pispala with its houses, gardens and history. Suddenly I meet a sign that says Kävelytestin kääntöpaikka, or Turning point for walking test. Glad this is no test but an ordinary walk so I can keep going.
A group of rowan trees brightens the side of the footpath. Suddenly I realize there is something odd in this particular tree; the color of the berries is not that of the typical rowan trees in Finland; this is more yellow. My observation is confirmed when I look at its neighbours which are a different colour, the "usual" one.
Autumn is a great time for house-spotting because after the leaves have fallen, you can see all the details of the buildings and gardens so much better. Like the nice downstairs windows that are hidden by the Victoria creeper from early summer to the autumn.
I turn to Uittotunnelinkatu (Timber rafting tunnel street) above which there is a wall made of natural rocks. Two dogs bark at me, to kill the time on this lazy afternoon when I enter the shadow-laden footpath.
The trees are gathered round a ditch-like opening at the end of which there is a tunnel - a timber rafting tunnel that connects lake Näsijärvi on the other side of Pispalanharju ridge to this side and lake Pyhäjärvi. I get even more surprised when I look down towards lake Pyhäjärvi and see a set of rails that lead towards the lake.
I wonder what kind of system has been at the receiving end of the log rafting tunnel, moving the logs that swam through to the open-air vehicle on the rails? The remains of the vehicle are still there.
Next I simply have to visit lake Pyhäjärvi shore just to see where the rails end. In the lake, of course, and the person who owns the white rowing boat - already turned upside down for the winter - is confident that no logs will pass this way anymore.
I follow the footpath by the shore back towards Tahmela. When I have reached the place where I first entered the lakeshore I spot a white ceramic bird nesting on a granite pillar. It is only then that I notice what house the bird is guarding: Kurpitsatalo, or Pumpkin House. The yellow wooden house seems quiet but the notice board outside its entrance reveals that there have been loads of activities here lately, and not just at the children's nature playground next door. 
Kurpitsaliike (Pumpkin Movement) has its headquarters in Kurpitsatalo. The movement defends local Pispala heritage and supports allotments for growing your own vegetables. There are still a couple of the season's last plants and herbs that haven't yet given in to winter.
I keep on walking, via Tahmela beach towards the streets from which I can choose which way to take to the top of Pispalanharju ridge. There are so many houses, ranging from the small and large old ones to modern ones that have been built between the original houses. It is hard to imagine what it must have looked like in here all those decades ago, before huge windows became fashionable.
When I've almost reached Hirvikatu street, I notice a pair of white, happy looking circus horses dancing on the porch. It would be nice to get a closer look!
I walk around the house to find out that Hirvitalo (Moose House) is a real art house, a centre of contemporary art. I boldly step inside the porch to try the door but almost immediately hear that there is no entrance before the next exhibition opens.
In the garden of Hirvitalo there are quite a few letters, made of fabric, hanging from the branches of the apple tree. I wonder if there are messages inside? If so, who are they for? Can or will someone open them sometime? When I spot a traffic sign on the grass - lying down - that states you are not allowed to walk here I begin to wonder...
The Center of Contemporary Art of Pispala showcases quite a few works of art in the garden, ranging from a number of letters (that can be moved about to form words) attached on a garden shed wall - I read "PALJON SYKSYÄ", or much autumn as the translation would be, to different artworks beneath the apple tree. The wooden boat is beautifully carved but it doesn't look like extremely seaworthy. Or even lakeworthy.
I really need to start walking uphill. Should I choose a steep street or the steps? At the last minute, I take a couple of steps aside and almost fall for a different route, along the nice looking Varronkatu...
However, at this point there is no way I could ignore the famous Steps of Pispala. They are a must! And there is a significantly larger number of steps than there is for example at Harju steps in Jyväskylä, but then again, I am not in a hurry.
Step by step I climb higher and lake Pyhäjärvi seems to be even further away, so low. You really get a sense of moving up here!
...Until there are only few more steps left and I'm finally on top of Pispalanharju ridge!
I feel very content now that I've walked up here until I discover the steps continue even further. However, it is not such a bad revelation because they start heading down from the top of the ridge. Another, private set of Steps of Pispala (Pispalan portaat) seems to have been installed by the side of the real thing, but unlike the ones I'm treading towards, the private steps are fiercely guarded. 
On my way down I stop to gaze at the view towards lake Näsijärvi and Särkänniemi with its tall observation tower, Näsinneula. They seem to be so low...
I keep my fingers crossed. There is a museum for a local writer / poet Lauri Viita who lived in the area. However, I am not in luck; the museum is open only in summertime.
It means that I will stick to my role as an external observer. I simply have to go and check out the weird-looking red structure that you can see for miles: The Shot Tower (Haulitorni) which was not used by snipers for shooting people but instead for making shot balls of lead!
I suppose I need to turn and start heading for the centre of Tampere from Pispala - the light will fade soon. There are still a couple of local landmarks left. The local grill Vaakon nakki is more than 50 years old and keeps going strong but I am here too early to get to sample hot sausages (or anything else, for that matter!) in the cosy open-air tables. Covered with frost, of course...
Pauppa (not "kauppa" which means a shop in Finnish) houses the artistic Pau house (no idea when it keeps its doors open) which apparently sells some artful artefacts. I sense a positive vibe towards Pispala here! 
The restaurant Pispalan Pulteri has been here for decades, since 1968. And guess what - the name of the restaurant is derived from Johnny Hart's comic strip B.C. which has been translated as 'Pulteri' in Finnish.  Suddenly I think about my childhood and reading the comic strip in the Apu magazine at my Granny's.
Finally I see the mustard walls of Rajaportin sauna, the most famous sauna of Pispala. This will be a great finish for my walk. Just imagine a walk at Pispala - a touch of nature, a bit of architecture in the form of houses from different periods, art, literary history, a chance to pop in for a snack/meal or a drink, and a relaxing end for it at a proper sauna... However, better check when the sauna is open because I am out of luck and find only a closed door in front of me today. Need to return another time to experience the Rajaportti sauna, aged +100 years!

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