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.
We 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.
We 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.
We 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.
After 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.
I just love the rolling countryside where this art center is located right next to a lake.
An 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!
Another one was going on vacation. With a big tiger-cat, mind you.
A third demonstrated milk delivery balancing on a unicycle. What a hoot!
Another 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.
The metal eagle some of you may remember from last year was still there. It had wintered well, like most eagles do.
From 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.
At 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.
Looking 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.
We 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.
The ‘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.
We 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.
This 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.
That was a trip to remember. Thanks sis ❤ Remember my toothless smile and the little ‘play corner’ we had as kids?
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.