A Sentimental Journey. To My Roots and My Toothless Smile.

After two weeks in Stockholm, my sister and I embarked on a 3-day journey to Finland. You see, we had not managed to bring home our dad’s photo albums when we put his house on the market last fall and subsequently sold it. We left all these memories with our friend, to be retrieved later. And we had to take care of issues related to the forest dad had left us. Two city girls living abroad and forest ownership was not a great combination. We badly needed advice on how to best take care of this precious natural resource. So now was the time for a ‘sister trip’ to the heart of Finland.

cruise ship 2 ud165We hopped on a big ship that cruises between Stockholm and Turku on a daily basis – a newer sister ship to the one pictured above. Slowly this giant navigated the tight fairways in Stockholm archipelago. And we enjoyed the sights of small islands with countless summer houses, an occasional old fort and a magnificent sunset from one of the outer decks.

boat deck ud169

stockholms archipelago ud169

old fort ud169

sailing boat at sunset ud169We sat out there quite a while with a glass of wine before getting something to eat and then retiring to our stateroom for the night.

sunset at Baltic sea ud169

on the boat 169

moon over the Baltic Sea ud169We arrived in Turku the next morning and after a 4-hour drive we reached our dad’s village in central Finland where our ‘business’ was to be conducted. We met our forestry consultant at a café we used to frequent as kids. It was still there, fresher than ever, and the view from the tables outside was as beautiful as I remembered. A sparkling summer day.

on the top view Lankipohja ud169After that meeting, we received all dad’s pictures from our friend and then decided to visit this year’s summer exhibition at the nearby art center, Leporanta, like we had done so many times in the past.

leporanta ud169I just love the rolling countryside where this art center is located right next to a lake.

leporanta 2 ud169An exhibition there always starts in the front yard of the main building. This year there was a charming collection of cows made from scrap metal. Those cows gave us a big smile. One cow was going from the morning milking session to a dance party in the evening – on a tractor. We thought she looked fabulous. You go girl!

from morning milking session to evening dancing session LR ud169Another one was going on vacation. With a big tiger-cat, mind you.

Summer Holiday LR ud169

detail ud169A third demonstrated milk delivery balancing on a unicycle. What a hoot!

skillful milk delivery LR UD169Another new exhibit was the “Heads” of three important looking men. We noted that some very self-important men had just visited Helsinki earlier in the week. Maybe there was a connection…you just never know. These three men were tight-lipped about their meeting.

heads LR ud169The metal eagle some of you may remember from last year was still there. It had wintered well, like most eagles do.

steel eagle LR Ud169From there we entered the barns that housed the art works, mostly oil paintings, of several Finnish painters. The barn entrances hosted other types of art…

We walked though the barns and a few paintings caught my eye, like these two works by artist Markku Uitto titled “Flowers” and Fall Harvest”.

And these two by artist  Leena Raussi, titled “Flowers” and “Summer Forest”.

There was so much more to see, but I’ll leave you with these amusing metal critters exhibited on a table in one of the barns.

bugs LR us169At the end of the day we drove to our hotel in a neighboring town – past our dad’s house. We decided not to stop there. It was our childhood home and we wanted to remember it just as it had been last fall when we left it.

koivuranta finland home ud142Looking at dad’s old photos, I found pictures of the house being built when we were very small. In the first picture our mom is still pregnant with my sister and in the second one we are both there, pictured with mom and an aunt visiting with a baby cousin. The house was still under construction. It took several years to build as dad built it alone in the spare time he had from ‘real’ work.

The next morning we visited our parents’ resting place at a nearby cemetery and planted a flower. All important issues now taken care of, we wanted to tick off a longstanding bucket list item. We would visit the tiny village in eastern central Finland where we used to spend our childhood summers at our maternal grandparents’ farm. I hadn’t visited that village since I was 16, but remember promising myself that I would come back one day. After getting some directions from our uncle, we took off trusting the GPS would eventually take us there.

kärkisten silta ud169We remembered that there was a small ferry that used to take a couple of cars at the time over a big river. It was always exciting to be on the ferry and, indeed, we passed a road leading to the ferry harbor. Instead of taking us there, the GPS took us over the river on a beautiful bridge built fairly recently.  And eventually we arrived to the ‘town center’ of the municipality where the small village was located. We found the church and planted a flower on our maternal grandfather’s grave at the cemetery.

joutsan entinen keskusta Jousentie ud169The ‘main street’ we remembered as a lively place with many shops and a nice ice cream parlor, was very quiet. Most of the shops and restaurants were now located in a shopping center half a mile away.

After a late lunch we continued towards the small village. We soon found ourselves on a gravel road. It was the road we remembered from many decades ago, nothing had changed. Closer to the center of the municipality we found a few newer houses, but the further we drove, the fewer houses we saw. Sadly, most of them badly run-down. After driving for about four miles we recognized a few houses and the hill leading to what used to be our grandparents’ farm. The house was still there, like forgotten by time.

harjumaki 2 ud169We knocked on the door and a man who lived there kindly allowed us to walk the grounds and take some pictures of the house and the dilapidated cowshed and sauna that were no longer used. Nobody was farming here anymore.

Harjumäen navetta ud169

jousan savusauna ud169This was the place where we had spent many summers, sleeping in the attic bedroom, playing in the yard and the meadows behind the cowshed. It was surreal and quite emotional to stand there with all the happy memories flooding in. In my mind’s eye, I could see us all gathered there, like in the picture taken when I was almost four years old (our family on the right, our grandparents in the middle and mom’s sisters on the right).

I was happy we had finally managed to get to this part of our roots, but a bit sad to see this tiny village all but abandoned. It started to drizzle, we said our goodbyes and drove back to the lively small town where our hotel was located, about 90 minutes drive away. In a completely different world. We ate dinner at a nice establishment and sat late in the evening in our comfortable suite remembering our adventures and all the mischief we did as kids. And we laughed a lot!

The next day we drove back to Turku and met with a dear friend and her lovely poodle. It was wonderful to see you after so many years Anja and Hertta! In the evening we boarded the overnight ship back to Stockholm. Now it was breezy. I was watching the somewhat subdued sunset over the Finnish archipelago soon after departure and my hair almost blew away. Here’s the picture evidence.

windy 2 ud169That was a trip to remember. Thanks sis ❤ Remember my toothless smile and the little ‘play corner’ we had as kids?

sisters and parents in the play corner Thank you for coming along on this nostalgic journey. My next post from the artsy quarters of Stockholm will complete this travel series. You’ll find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

74 thoughts on “A Sentimental Journey. To My Roots and My Toothless Smile.”

  1. Visiting your old home and seen all the places that you used to go must have brought delightful memories. Seeing pictures with your sister and talking about the old times have gotten you closer with her. I believe that this trip will bring vigor to your life, now filled with love and memories. Welcome back Tiny! 🙂 ❤

    1. Yes, you are right, my friend. This trip definitely brought us closer together. It’s funny how we have so many memories from just a long stretch of time and yet we’re only ‘spring chickens’ 😀

  2. Sometimes it’s nice to go down memory lane! I’m glad you could revisit some places from your childhood with your sister. I loved the metal cows and paintings at the art center. Thanks for sharing Helen.

    1. It was a memorable trip for sure, thanks for comin g along, Brad! I loved the cows as well…and the art center is a charming place in general, always a treat to visit.

  3. Beautiful views — and yes, it’s sad how the small towns are being abandoned all over the world as the younger people move to cities. That’s the way of things, I suppose, but a lot of history is being left behind.

    1. You are so right, Meg. These were my thoughts too…particularly in my grandparents former village. All the lively farming activity was gone and since work opportunities are not there all younger people had moved away. Many of the houses along that dirt road were up for sale…probably in hopes that someone would buy, renovate and use as a summer house in the country.

  4. I am amazed at how much you did and saw in three days! And how lovely to have this opportunity to make a sentimental journey with your sister. Did you manage to find a suitable way to care for the forest your father left you? I have done a few nostalgic trips with my siblings, too. You laugh, and sometimes cry, and smle, or argue, over things you remember differently! Then there is the surprise over things you don’t remember at all. Happily this trip has been recorded. 🙂

    1. Upon reflection I realize we did/saw quite a bit on this trip. And yes, based on our dad’s advice, we found a great and reliable way to care for the forest that dad used to manage himself. That’s a great relief! It’s funny, as you say, that one remembers something that the other doesn’t…and it all somehow fits together 🙂 I am now diving into dad’s pictures…a treasure trove. I found pictures of my great grandparents I had never seen…and lots of pictures of family taken in the first half of 1900s.

      1. So pleased the forest issue is resolved. Those treasure troves of photos are exciting but they can be exhausting too. Keep remembering to be kind to yourself. 🙂

  5. You have quite the rich history there and I’m sure the trip brought some closure. It is sad what is happening to small towns. Everything is different these days. I’ll go back tomorrow and look at the other links. Hoping the rest of your trip is wonderful.

    1. Thanks Marlene for coming along. It was a bit sad to see the ‘near abandonment’ of our grandparents remote village, but actually getting there brought some closure…and great memories I can now dig into through my dad’s photos, which I have started digitizing for future generations.

    1. It was, indeed, a unique trip to times gone by. Loved it in so many ways…although bittersweet. Funny that a ‘spring chicken’ has memories reaching so far back in time 😀 Thanks Nancy!

  6. A sentimental journey it was for sure. I liked the pictures as well as the interesting descriptions. Everyone should have a sentimental journey of this kind at least once in his/her lifetime.

    1. Thanks Peter! Now when I am able to dive into my dad’s photos (digitizing them) I have continued my journey to times gone by…very moving and interesting at the same time. Will come by soon to learn more about your journey.

    1. Thanks for coming along down the memory lane, Carolyn ❤ It was a bittersweet journey, which kind of continues through my dad's photos that I am in the process of digitizing right now. XXX

  7. Thanks Tiny for sharing your childhood places with us you retrace your past with your sis. I love the design of these old homes they have a special charm. The cute sculptures and lovely artwork is also a feature. It is interesting to see what we were like back them. Have a wonderful week, and thanks again for sharing 😊

    1. Thanks for coming along on my journey back in time, Ashley. I thoroughly enjoyed this sister-trip, although with some sadness too. I’ve found so many pictures of us as small girls now that I am diving into our dad’s photos 🙂 Each bringing to surface more sweet memories.

    1. Oli se kiva matka! Sinulla on hyvä GPS, Pike 🙂 Juuri puolivälissä oltiin, Orivedellä, Längelmäellä (isän kylä) ja Jämsässä. Joutsa oli sitten isovanhempiemme kotiseutua.

      1. Äitini ja isäni asuivat joitakin vuosia Joutsassa silloin kun synnyin, mutta en tullut sitä seutua paremmin tuntemaan. Seuraava paikka oli Lahti.

        1. Isovanhempien pikku kylä oli n 6-7 km Joutsan kirkonkylästä itään. Lahdessakin olen käynyt lapsuudessani. Meidän metsä on Orivedellä, joten niissä maisemissa ehkä vielä tulee joskus käytyä.

  8. Oh my. What a wonderful and lovely journey. I enjoyed every bit of it, Tiny. And you know I actually said wow when I saw the picture of your grandparents’ home. I just love it. It’s cute. and quaint. 🙂

  9. I enjoyed reading this post very much. You are a great writer and the photographs are of course first class. It’s always nostalgic but nice to be able to go back and visit the places where one grew up. I haven’t been able to do that yet.

    1. Thank you, Hien, for your visit and kind comment. I very much enjoyed this trip to my past. I hope that you, too, can visit ‘your places’ one day.

  10. A lovely post. You are lucky to have pictures to help keep the memory of your childhood days warm. I hope that your forest will be well looked after. I would dearly like to have a forest or at least a small wood of my own.

    1. Thank you Tom. I am happy you came along to visit some of the places from my past. We have a great person looking after the forest now and giving us advice on what needs to be done and when. While dad bought the forest when we were teenagers, it has been in his family for a very long time.

  11. Thank you for sharing this lovely journey down your memory lane with your sister. I was especially touched by the pictures of the house your father built. My father built our house, too. The pictures reminded me of my earliest childhood memories, playing with my sister on the construction site while my parents worked. I even remember the day the cement mixer came and poured the foundation.

    I love the picture of your family with your grandparents and aunts. In the last picture, did the dolls on the between you belong to you and your sister?

    Finland looks so beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much for coming along on this trip to the past, Barbara. I remember that our dad (who was a building contractor for a long time) had a cement mixer. I remember several times when I accompanied him to one of his building sites late in the evening to check on the cement and how it was settling/drying, but was too little to remember much of the building process of our house. Yes, the dolls pictured were ours. All the other toys were cleaned away for the picture. Our dad built the little play table and the chairs for us and I remember the Christmas we got them.

    1. Thank you, Agness, for your visit and kind comment. I’m finding lots of sentimental pictures in the process of digitizing our dad’s old photos. Some are very old, taken about or nearly 100 years ago.

  12. A beautiful and bittersweet experience. Thank you so much for sharing this bit of personal history with us. I’m glad you could “take care of business” together with your sister and also reminisce of good times. I am amazed that your father built the house with his own hands. Folks were so much more tougher and resourceful! Wishing you a continued lovely summer 🙂

    1. Our dad built the house and then realized he could become a building contractor and got his credentials. The village where he lived is, still today, sprinkled with homes and even a health center he built over the years. Thank you for coming along on this nostalgic trip, my friend. I wish you too a beautiful rest of the summer 🙂

  13. How heartwarming, Helen. The artwork, the family memories… are all to be cherished for years to come. I’m glad you took so many pictures to share!! Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Robin. I took so many pics, always carrying at least one of my two cameras. Great memories preserved 🙂

    1. Thank you, Xenia, for joining us on this trip. It was truly wonderful, but sometimes a bit sad too. Dylan and I send you best wishes for a beautiful rest of the summer. XXX

  14. Sweet Tiny what a wonderful post. I am still in awe at the beauty there. What a pleasure it has been to take this journey in pictures with you. What wonderful treasures in pictures left by your dad. Though bittersweet I am happy for you that you got to see some of the places you lived and grew up in and to see your grandparents place. I enjoyed the artwork, the cows gave me giggles. I really like the lady in the chair with the books in her lap. Thank you so much for sharing all the amazing pictures from your journey. Hugs for you and nose kisses for sweet Dylan

    1. Thank you dear Mags! I am happy you enjoyed the journey. It was a wonderful ‘sister trip’ and now I am diving into our dad’s photos – what a treasure trove of memories that is! Many hugs from both of us to you & yours. We hope your late summer days are beautiful.

  15. Thank You Helen for this Sentimental journey. It was a great joy to see Your lovely photos. Because I love art in its many forms, I enjoyed very much ITE – art photos. Maybe You know that ITE comes from the words Itse Tehty Elämä, meaning in English Self Made Life (SLF).

    This place was unknown to me although I have visited in many ITE-art places in Finland and presented them in my many posts. Thank You giving me a hint about it.

    Have a wonderful day!

  16. We love this part of the world, Helen. Living abroad for so many years, your sentimental journey in the North means a lot to me. Lovely photos, old and new. Xx

  17. What a wonderful journey of memories for you and your sister to have taken! Reliving our childhoods through photos and visits brings back so much love and laughter, as I’m sure you both experienced. I enjoyed seeing your photos and tagging along on your vacation of adventures. Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your vacay!

  18. You are great❤ You made really a nostalgic trip: nice story and pictures! And thank you for coming to see us! 🐩😃❤ Hugs from Anja and Hertta

  19. As nostalgic it was, it was also very touching to read about your return to your childhood’s home. I bet it was both fun and somewhat melancholic to travel back with your sister. Personally I enjoyed the scrap metal exhibitions. 🙂

    1. I was a nostalgic trip, but so much fun to spend quality time with my sister. How we laughed was adding many good years to our lives for sure 🙂

  20. One of the best moments in any walk down memory lane is the feeling you share here, “It was still there, fresher than ever, and the view from the tables outside was as beautiful as I remembered…” There are times when memory tricks us, and we are a bit disappointed when we return to a scene ~ but more often than not for me, it is returning to the places I loved as a kid and see the same ‘fresh feeling’ as you paint in your photos and words. The home your Dad built, simply amazing ~ and I can see where pieces of the experience would be sad, change can be hard to see especially the old town dwindling but those positive memories will never leave 🙂

  21. Hard to believe your dad built the house all by himself, and holding down a regular job! The animal sculpture exhibit looked like a lot of fun.

    1. Yes, our dad built the house with his own hands and he loved the place. I am happy he could live there independently until the day he passed last year a few weeks shy of 94.

  22. Dear Helen, thanks for taking me along on your sentimental journey. The house built by your dad is really lovely. You must have been so proud of his achievement. I love the cute cows and also the three very self-important men. I wonder who on earth they might be. 😉 The nostalgic visit to your grandparents’ farm must have left your feeling very wistful, but I’m sure you’re so glad you went there. What a lovely family photo you have shared at the end of your post. Hugs to you and Dylan. xx

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