Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Laukaa: ice and snow at Järvilinna

Järvilinna Art Centre at Laukaa, Central Finland (15 km north from Jyväskylä) hosted an ice sculpting competition on Feb 10-14, finishing on Valentine's Day.  A good reason to visit the place which has art on display also indoors in the lovely main building (1891) and the surrounding buildings where some local artists have their own studios.

The ice sculptures have attracted many other visitors as well and that is no wonder; this is not a typical art form in Finland, although you might easily think so, as we have plenty of ice available for a considerable time each year.  The five teams invited to take part in the competition were from Finland, Mongolia and China (the Russian team canceled at the last minute). 
The winner was the humorous Kiss by the team from  Mongolia (Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren and Bayarsaikhan Bazarsad). It suited well the competition's theme - love / friendship (in Finland, Feb 14 is celebrated as Friends' Day, not associated with romantic love).  I can't stop wondering at the fantastic, carefully made details - from the tail of the ox (with a knot in it) to the rose and necklace of his cute, slightly shy girlfriend.
After a cup of hot chocolate at the café of Järvilinna we pick up our snowshoes and follow the local road for about a kilometre until we locate a cross country skiing trail that will lead us to a log shelter not too far away. As always, you are not supposed to walk on the skiing tracks, so we leave our snowshow footprints on the side of the skiing track, careful not to disturb it. The trail is used all year round but in the winter, the skiing folk naturally take priority.
I must admit that the skiing track looks lovely and this would be a great route for cross-country skiing. However, no matter how slow snowshoeing is, it is such fun to be walking here, taking it easy in the midst of pure, white snow, guessing which animal has left this or that footprint. Those must have been left by a hare, and that must have been a squirrel?
Walking slowly uphill we finally arrive at the log shelter where it would be possible to make a fire. This time we simply sit down to have a cup of tea.
The guest book of the shelter reveals that the majority of previous visitors have been here on cross country skis. They have meticulously written down their kilometres after their names (14 km, 10 km, etc.). Oh no, I'd better just write my name and not record the somewhat embarrasing 3 km. Only ;-)
After the short break at the shelter we turn to walk back to Järvilinna (about 1 km from here through the woods) but this time we decide not to follow the skiing track. The distance is so short and we are sure not to miss the road close by if we just manage to stick to the right direction. It is liberating to once again choose our own way in the snow. Round that tree, and then over there...
The air here is pure; as a sign of that, there is hanging moss on the trees. The snow gets deeper in the openings between the trees but is nevertheless easy to walk on. We start to climb up a small hill, Vierumäki.
We pass by a large rock and a pole that is painted red. I wonder what it means. It is very hard to say if there is something special about it now that it is covered with snow and ice.
The fresh little hole in an old spruce is an easier puzzle to solve: it must have been made by a woodpecker only recently. Probably a black woodpecker, to be exact.
We descend the hill, going round the steep rocky slope, and arrive by the side of a field. On its other side we can already see the road that leads to Järvilinna Art Centre. One more chance to see the lovely ice sculptures!
It is already getting late in the afternoon and the lights have been switched at the Art Centre. The skiing Moomin figure welcomes us back to Järvilinna.
Limits of Love (Pasi Ahokas & Juha Käkelä) became third in the ice sculpture competition, together with the team from China. Angels and Demons can be friends or even lovers, at least on Valentine's Day.
I step back to my favourite sculpture, The Kiss. The Mongolian team have impressed me most with their delicate, yet fun sculptures. I can't get over the eyelashes made of ice! Simply fabulous.

Thanks to all the ice artists at Järvilinna!