Thursday, 31 January 2013

Korpilahti: Path of Sin

Korpilahti is a community about 30 kilometres south from Jyväskylä. Since 2009 it has been officially part of the city of Jyväskylä, but I somehow feel that there haven't been too many changes taking place here - at least not to a visitor's eye. Quite a few smaller communities in Finland have joined forces with their bigger neighbours in the past few years to save money in administration etc. Korpilahti's history as an independent community goes back to 1867 and this mill by Korpijoki river is almost as old, dating to 1874. I reach the frozen shore of the narrow river but at this time of the year I can't see or hear water flowing beneath the ice and snow.
The interesting looking wooden structure that is hanging on the outer wall surely isn't just a decoration. After making my way through the snow to the wall and a piece of paper I get an idea of what it is, based on the black and white photo: originally this piece was part of a horizontal wooden structure to which a horse was tied. The horse walked round a pole, rotating this large wooden wheel, which in turn must have kept another piece of machinery in motion. Unfortunately there are no further details available.
The other buildings at the Old Mill (Vanha mylly) are not painted red but have become grey over the years. This is truly the old style.
There is a narrow path, made by previous walkers, up from the mill, following the river. No, I can't make myself call it a river... Rather, it is a narrow brook. I reach the pedestrian bridge and turn back just before the highway. This must be a gorgeous place in the spring!
I pass the Old Mill area and follow the footpath towards the centre of Korpilahti, reaching Martinpolku (Martti's Path) which is clearly the main street here. The street is named after Martti Korpilahti who was not only born with the name of the community itself but gained fame in Central Finland as a poet and a music man, besides being a teacher in Jyväskylä. Martti Korpilahti was proud to be born in the area and his lyrics depict his love of Central Finland. Besides Martinpolku, Mr Korpilahti has had another path named after him in the city of Jyväskylä by lake Tuomiojärvi.
There are both old and new buildings along Martinpolku. As usual, I feel more at home with the wooden ones and am glad that there are quite a few of them left, and some seem to have been or are being renovated as well.
Synninpolku literally means a Path of Sin. What on earth is this? The sign points down but actually the Path of Sin starts a bit lower and leads to the very top of the hill, to the church. Very probably the path gained its name because of the fairly steep hill - perhaps the walkers felt the sweat on their foreheads and had time to think about all their wrongdoings when climbing to the top, to ask for forgiveness in the church. Right next to the path, the red building, dating to 1777,  houses the local museum which is only open in summertime. The building first first served as a belfry but it became a granary later.
I feel compelled to follow the Path of Sin. It isn't Sunday today so I am sure the church doors will be closed but at least I'll get the feel of the path. On the piece of paper that is taped on the litter bin it modestly says "a walking route to the church hill" instead. Come on, be proud! Not every village has a Path of Sin!
The partly snow-covered granite statue by the Path of Sin pays homage to Martti Korpilahti, who else! I make my own trail in the snow to walk to it and round it and wonder what the story behind it is. I have no idea what Mr Korpilahti looked like so can't say if the statue has his profile or not. The poet's own words are engraved in the stone: En kotiseudulleni tiedä vertaa (There is no place like my home region).
Step by step I get closer to the top of the hill. I can imagine that on a hot summer's day it would be easy to feel the burden of your sins walking up there, especially the sin of laziness, if you're not too fit. The wooden belfry meets me first; its architectural style is somewhat different, a bit more decorative, than that of the church behind it. Also, the paint is not the same colour. 
Korpilahti's lutheran church is the third church here; the first was built in 1693 and this last one, designed by architect Charles Bassi, dates to 1827. I try the door but since there is no service today, the door remains closed. One of the architects who have been involved in the restoration work of this church over the years was Alvar Aalto, back in 1928.
The footpath on the top of the church hill doesn't go a full circle so I need to retrace my steps back towards the Path of Sin. What a great view this hill offers! If only it were a sunny day, it would be even greater - and I can't even imagine how wonderful it must look like when the lake Päijänne glitters down below in the summer. However, I get a sinful thought when walking down the Path of Sin. I wish I had a sled! It would be great to sled down the hill, no matter how much I enjoy walking.
I pass the old museum building and continue along the Path of Sin down towards the harbour. The rock fence is covered in snow and ice, with little works of Nature's art on the rocks.
There are also traces of human hand. A date from 1849 has been carved in stone, if I read it right.
Across the road, there is a quiet area with lots of boats having a rest under tarpaulins until the spring arrives again. The red brick building next to me these days houses Korpilahti's theatre; originally, there was a steam generator for the saw mill.
And before the theatre moved to its current location, it was located in another red brick building at the harbour area, close to Satamakapteeni café-restaurant which is open all year round. Part of the text painted on the red brick building has been erased - the word 'theatre'-  so it now spells Korpilahden kesä (Korpilahti's summer) instead. Today the building is home to an art gallery and an arts & crafts shop: Höyrygalleria and Emalipuu
The art gallery upstairs now displays paintings by Marja Hirvinen in her exhibition on enchanting landscapes, Maisemien lumous. I can imagine that quite a few of them have been inspired right here, enjoying the atmosphere of Korpilahti and lake Päijänne. It is easy to forget about the snow when you look at her work.
The gallery itself is charming as well. My eyes are drawn to the bright red chairs that keep an eye on the gallery visitors like two old and alert ladies.
I return back outside and breath in the vast landscape that opens before my eyes, with black dots moving rhythmically on the ice, pairs of skis sliding forward. Korpilahti and lake Päijänne - what a great combination.