Tag Archives: Finland

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.

Tears. Gratitude. And Change.

As you may have seen, I have already unpacked my recent travels in Italy. I started fromme 4 years old ud142_edited-1 the top of my suitcase right after opening it. But there is more. And it’s much harder to unpack. The bottom layer of my ‘virtual suitcase’ is heavy with memories all the way from my childhood. Some now wrinkled, others still vivid.

After having to say the final goodbyes to both my dear dad and husband last summer, I had to go back to Finland mid September to take care of dad’s estate with my sister. That’s where my recent trip started. At my childhood’s lake house in Finland. The quiet, peaceful place in the north that’s had a great influence on who I am today.

I have always felt that the many moods and expressions of and around the small lake reflect my life. Dark skies, bright skies, strong colors, soft colors, fire and passions, peacefulness and sadness. I love them all. And I will remember them all.

lake-in-the-fall-2-ud78-16x9

lake after sunset Finland Aug16 UD142

sunset 2 on the lake Finland UD142

sunrise fire at lake sulunjarvi finland ud142

sunrise on the lake finland UD142

rain on the lake ud142

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75After losing our mother to cancer in our teen years, we “the sisters”, were blessed to have the world’s best dad with us until this past July. A WWII veteran, despite of failing health in the last couple of years, he was sharp as a knife until the day he passed on. Here pictured at 19 in his military uniform and on his 90th birthday a few years ago. An ironman with the heart of gold. His love is still vividly felt and his wise counsel missed on a daily basis.

While going through all the papers and photos gathered over so many decades we found remarkable things. Among those was an old newspaper article about our dad. He was carrying the Olympic torch as it traveled through Finland to the 1952 Olympic Summer Games in Helsinki. I had heard of it, and knew he had been a great athlete, but never before seen this ‘evidence’. It made me proud…and teary-eyed.

Olympic flame carried by Mikko in summer 1952 UD142_edited-1.jpgIt was hard to put dad’s house on the market, the house he built with his own hands and where we grew up. But since none of us could live there, it had to be done. My sister and I remembered how we used to have a ‘grocery store’ right under the enclosed front porch. Among other neatly packed goods, we ‘sold’ sand in used wheat flour bags…to whomever walked by. Great for pancakes, we used to advertise. So many happy memories.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75In the last picture I took of the house, the wild wines seemed to form a colorful heart on the wall. Symbolic of the love that lived in this house. And that is how I will always remember it.

koivuranta finland home ud142I packed what little I could carry in my suitcases, the most precious memories. When I left for the last time on that overcast Saturday morning, they were filled with melancholy and gratitude.

two suitcases ud142The old Loon I had seen on every visit in the past few years made an appearance far out on the lake, as if saying goodbye.

the loon finland ud142I traveled to London. I would have a Sunday stopover in this familiar city before continuing to Milan for work early on Monday. I would pull myself together.

That evening I took a long walk on the darkened streets and ended up at a small restaurant reflecting on life. Full of twists and turns, but at the end delicious like calamari. If we had the courage and took the time to taste it.

late night snack in London ud142_edited-1Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. I rode double-deckers, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked for miles. The brilliant fall colors in Hyde Park reminded me it was the season of change. But that was hard to accept.

hyde park ud142I wanted to dwell on memories crafted with my husband in this city. I revisited places I remembered from our honeymoon and several subsequent visits. I passed the Trafalgar Square, where were used to walk among the pigeons. Nelson was still there.

Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square London UD142I passed the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where my husband had photographed the beautiful interiors such a long time ago.

Westmister Abbey London ud142_edited-1

st pauls Cathedral 2 London ud142I walked around the Tower of London, where we had fun adventures as newlyweds. The landscape around it had changed remarkably. The famous Gherkin, the Shard and other modern glass towers now filled the skyline.

tower of london and the gherkin ud142_edited-1

tower of london and the Shard ud142The newest tower was still under construction, but already invited prospective buyers to visit model apartments. This reminded me that while the old and familiar was still there, new experiences would be added to the fabric of life.

londons newest glass tower apartments UD142The Big Ben at the Parliament buildings had fallen silent. At some point age tends to catch up. But hopefully, when the extensive repairs have been completed in 2021, its famous chimes will be heard again.

the houses of parliament and big ben london ud142The 3500 years old Egyptian obelisk at the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle, brought back both our honeymoon and our last visit to this city just a few years ago. I could still see myself behind the camera and husband sitting on that sphinx on the right.

cleopatras needle London UD142And passing the London Eye, I realized I had to learn to look into the future, however difficult and meaningless that may feel at the moment.

the London Eye ud142I knew that sooner or later I had to cross that misty bridge to the next phase of my life.

tower bridge 2 london ud142And with that I was on my way to Milan and my Italian experience, grateful for what had been and what was yet to come.

the shard and the plane ud142It was, indeed, the season of change. And I had to accept that.

hyde park in fall colors ud142_edited-1

R & R Part III: The Wave of Life

Wherever the wave of life transports me, I always seek natural beauty. Back home it was easy to find untouched nature and to feel its ‘spirit’.  Even when people help nature to produce fruits, vegetables and berries it happens in harmony with the wild. Lettuce grows not far from lingonberries.

garden Finland Aug16 UD75

lingon berries Finland Aug16 UD75In my dad’s garden, the apples were still growing, getting more colorful every day. And the healthy buckthorn berries were almost ripe to pick.

two apples Finland Aug16 UD75

buckthorn Finland Aug16 UD75On our daily walks, of which at least one went all the way around the lake, I noticed and enjoyed the small things in nature. Like the butterflies, the Peacock and the Mourning Cloak we found around our trail.

Peacock butterfly 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

mourning cloak butterfly Finland Aug16 UD75I heard the hum of the universe in the Finnish forests, mighty green with stately firs, pines and birches. And rowan trees full of red berries for the birds to enjoy.

Finnish forest UD75

rowan 2 Finland Aug16 UD75And I admired the great variety of wildflowers we encountered on our walks: wild roses, blue bells, clover, dandelions, heather and floating beds of water lilies.

wild rose 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

Heather Finland Aug16 UD75

water Lily 6 Finland Aug16 UD75I stopped to take pictures of them and then had to run to reach the others. Great exercise…some days over 12,000 steps. Not that I’m counting  :-).  Although in fairness, our awesome guide would stop and wait for me if I disappeared from sight. He always made sure nobody was left behind in the woods.

Baby on the walk Finland Aug16 UD75Whether it was morning, late afternoon or evening, the lake always spoiled us with gorgeous views.

reflections on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75

sunset on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 UD75

evening on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75One evening we spotted a couple of Whooper Swans very close to the shore, but of course that time I didn’t carry my camera. The next evening I could only find one of them at the far end of the lake.

swan Finland Aug16 UD75We often came back from our explorations around the magical ‘blue hour’ after sunset. Then, soon after night fall around 10 p.m., the moon climbed up onto the sky painting the lake in magical colors.

blue hour 2 at lake Finland Aug16 UD75

Moon Finland Aug16 UD75

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75My last evening ‘back home’ I went out to the lake and got a surprising goodbye gift. A Loon swam quietly out through the reeds fairly close to me. What a treat!

Finnish Loon ud75The next morning I had to leave at 3 am to make my early flight to London and further to the US. The archipelago outside Helsinki was just waking up to a new day.  I felt deep gratitude for having had this wonderful time with my dad, my sister, my niece, aunts and cousins.

archipelago Finland UD75The next morning after coming home, I found a welcome committee from the salt marsh right here in our garden. Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and a Northern Mockingbird had gathered to welcome me home.

snowy egret ud75

white ibis ud64

northern mockingbird ud75That was wonderful, but nothing compared to the reception I got on my first walk at the salt marsh this morning. Can’t wait to tell you all about the welcome back party.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a great new week.

R & R Part II: On the Creative Side

This rare Finnish crocodile made me smile. I knew he had not crawled up from the nearby lake. In Finland crocodiles can only be found in the world of art, or perhaps in a zoo. This big fellow was guarding the lawn sprinkled with water lilies at Leporanta Art Center, not far from my childhood home. And he was not alone. There was the familiar man with the horse, whom I first met several years ago.

man and a horse Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75And an impressive bronze bird, an eagle perhaps, who had settled in the yard more recently.

Leporanta Eagle Finland Aug16 UD75On the only rainy day during my visit ‘back home’, we decided to visit the annual art exhibition just before it would close for the fall. At Leporanta, paintings are shown in traditional log houses and old barns, but sculptures made of iron, copper, wood, glass and composite materials are exhibited all over the vibrantly green grounds. Here a friend, my niece and my sister are examining handmade glass decorations at one of the log  buildings.

admiring the sculpture Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

sculpture and flower arrangement Leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75I was smiling at the cute family swinging happily in front of the main house: mother, father and son. Family fun rarely seen.

swing 1 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 2 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75

swing 3 leporanta Finland Aug16 UD75Inside the exhibition buildings we found smaller sculptures and paintings by both professional artists and amateurs. Many different materials, styles and price tags. To my delight I found lots of bird motives. Like this painting on wood boards by artist Marianne Kantanen.

A Moment of Reflection by Marianne Kantanen Leporanta 2 Finland Aug16 UD75
“A Moment of Reflection”

I thoroughly enjoyed a series of playful lithographs of birds – here two of them. And I also liked the painting of a fantasy bird on hammered copper. I thought it was unique and colorful.

There were numerous beautiful oils, acrylics and watercolors. In particular, my eye was caught by two delicate, moody paintings by artist Vappu Kiili.

I would have loved to buy a few paintings to take home, but since I always travel light with only one carry-on bag and my wallet was fairly light too, I had to settle for two hand-painted watercolor cards by artist Seija Laukkanen.

After a couple of hours we had seen it all, a great variety of beautiful works. This exhibition never disappoints. When we finally came out again the rain had stopped. On our way home we passed another lake, one of thousands in Finland, and I thought it was pretty serene. Almost like a painting.

last days of summer Finland Aug16 UD75Thank you for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the tour. My last post in this R & R series will bring us back into the nature around our lake ‘back home’.

R & R Part I: The Nostalgic Journey

The close to 26 hour travel from Florida Gulf Coast to my R & R destination in Finland was remarkably comfortable. Much thanks to my habit of paying practically everything on one airline card. Quite enjoyable indeed from the colorful, Africa-inspired sendoff in Philly to the delicious Money Monster accompanied dining onboard. Points still work.

airport entertainment UD75

my suite UD75

cheese plate UD75After actually sleeping quite a bit over the Atlantic, and everything running on time in London, I arrived in Finland surprisingly intact. For someone who gets to see family ‘back home’ only about once a year these trips are always nostalgic. Many kinds of pictures from the past suddenly surface. Me as a toddler moving into our new home with mom, dad and baby sister. A home built by our dad. A home that still stands tall, here pictured on a moonlit night the week before last.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75Me in elementary school. And the memory of laying down on this very school yard bleeding profusely after being hit right on the nose with a baseball bat by a fellow student in the PE class. A ring of worried people bending over me when I wake up. This eight year old’s Miss Universe dreams brutally smashed.  But at least she got a few days off school while her eyes couldn’t see anything but the humongous nose.

my primary school 2 UD75Me in high school, and then as an undergraduate and graduate student in the big city of Tampere about 45 miles away from home. That was a wild time. Initially. But then we all mature and somehow life finds its intended path. I pass familiar places, but they are not the same. Like this old Orthodox Church next to my university. It used to reach for the blue skies all alone, but now has a backdrop of a brand new hotel tower. Progress.

Tampere Orthodox Church and Hotel Torni UD75When I pass my high school, I notice the Lutheran Church completed while I was a junior. Very modern architecture at the time, and in my eyes it still holds lots of appeal. I find comfort in the fact that at least a few places look like I remember them.

Kaleva Church 2 Tampere Finland UD75On the 3.5-hour journey from the capital to my childhood home, more familiar places fly by the window. Now illuminated by the late afternoon sun. And my early years come back to me with a profound sense of gratitude.

Lake view Finland Aug16 UD75And soon I was there. At the lake that belongs to my childhood more than anything. And one that still symbolizes peace and tranquility in my life.

rainbow Finland Aug16 UD75That first night I couldn’t resist going out to the backyard after the late dinner. I was marveling at the fact that dusk arrived only around 10 p.m. And the fact that my dear dad still kept a thriving garden.

lake and dads garden Finland Aug16 UD75

evening light on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75That moonlit night I felt the peace of this wonderful spot on earth. And I knew those precious, long-awaited moments with family had arrived.

moon light on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 2 UD75The toddler, teenager and adult merged into a surprisingly balanced whole and let out a long exhale into the cool night air.

Immersed

Hello friends! Just a little mobile greeting from the deep green Finnish woods, where I’ve been immersed in nature and family in equal parts lately. To experience summer temperatures in high 60s (close to 20 C) has been refreshing!


I will tell you more about my adventures once back home. I hope your summer has been wonderful, and your winter mild if in the Southern Hemisphere.

“See” you soon.