Monday, 3 December 2012

Jyväskylä: Xmas in the air at Toivola

Toivolan vanha piha or Toivola's Old Yard is a new attraction in Jyväskylä that only opened a while ago: lovingly restored old wooden houses that form a closed yard at the corner of Hannikaisenkatu and Cygnaeuksenkatu streets and that are again full of life. The yard has received its name from its former resident and owner, blacksmith Herman Toivola who had the main building built there in 1897. His smithy was built there in 1890. Two of the buildings are old craftsmen's houses from the 19th century that were first moved from their original locations in Cygnaeuksenkatu and Vaasankatu next to the Museum of Central Finland before being finally transferred to Toivola in 2010; they house museums.

Currently Toivola is full of Xmas spirit. Luckily, the snow arrived in Jyväskylä on the eve of Dec 1! I visit the yard for the second time this weekend, having sampled the goodies at the cellar café already on Saturday. There are Xmas gnomes wishing visitors welcome at the gate.
In addition to the usual array of Toivola's shops and workshops, there are a couple of stalls selling handicrafts, textiles, handmade jewellery, tinned lake fish, fruit juice made of berries, honey - you name it.
Naturally, there is a Christmas tree on the yard - and it is not overloaded with tons of colourful fairy lights but very simpy decorated, in true Finnish style.
I smell something adorable - salmon that is being smoked on open fire. Pretty fresh, isn't it! Lassi Ruuska from Kalmukoski rapid at Saarijärvi is busy at work smoking fish and selling other fish products.
Marko Poldsam's stall is for those with a sweet tooth: roasted almonds with honey, apples dipped in chocolate and decorated with nuts.
Toivola's current master, Margo Saxberg has laid his woollen mittens on top of his small barrel organ and is playing music, to the delight of children especially. You don't often see barrel organs these days.
The main building houses a couple of workshops and shops. Inside the old "maternity ward" (Synnytyslaitos) - the main building actually served as one for about 20 years in the early 20th century - you can meet Father Christmas, if you're lucky. He is no Santa dressed in Coca-Cola red but an old country Santa in more traditional colours.
You can find also smaller Xmas gnomes hiding around Toivola yard, both inside and outside. They have been carefully made by doll artists.
In the red storehouses there are also indoor stalls selling handmade chocolate, felt hads, jewellery, berry jam and woollen products.
For a more quiet Christmas moment, there is a handmade nativity scene, carefully built by Katariina Pentikäinen between the storehouses. No touching, please...
If you feel cold you can step inside the cosy cellar café, Kellarikahvila, a few steps down from the yard.
The café is crowded when I enter it - no change to yesterday. However, I find a seat easily and sit down on a bench covered with a handmade rug. The freshly baked cakes both smell and taste delicious. Later on, there will be a bigger café called Muisto at Toivola but it is still being built which is why this temporary café was opened for the Xmas season 2012.
It seems like Toivola yard has been warmly welcomed by Jyväskylä; the flow of visitors seems constant during the weekend. In December 2012, the outdoor stalls and café are open on weekends and during the last week before Xmas until Dec 21 and there are also other activities, besides which the regular shops at Toivola are open normally from Monday to Saturday. Merry Xmas, Toivola!

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