A January 2000 trip
to Finland by Danner
Quote: I travelled To Finland To Work With The E.U's European Volunteer Service. I started Out In Remote Central Finland, Moved 3 Hours Travel Within The Artic Circle, Then Went To Work In Civilisation, Jyvaskyla
The city itself is quite commercial and looks 'modern', and lifeless, it has a sense of not really knowing who it is or where it came from. One of the centrepieces is the Senate Square, with the imposing Lutheran church, gold glittering in the sunshine and the steps leading up to it, it is vast and spacious, a definite must see. Heading off towards the harbour you can either walk down a boring street or take the more interesting museum street, historical artefacts in the street and along the pavement. I saw inside a Russian Orthodox church which I found to be a complete hpocrisy. The gold interior illustrating the wealth gathered from their congregation and distributed not to the poor and needy but rather to itself to enhance itself.
Heading back towards the central station, slightly reminiscent of Grand Central, carrying on past it on the way to the bus station or rather bus park, you come across Lazi-Plazi a centre spot of technology and to the right of it is the modern art museum, Kiasma. I wandered around the reception area and viewed some of the samples of art, and it seemed very progressive. Past Kiasma and the statue of General Mannerheim, there is a big block of concrete which is the home of the Finnish parliament. Carrying on along here is The Finlandia Cocnert Hall and, eventually, the Olympic Stadium and Arena. The people of Helsinki are appear to be very proud of hosting the Olympics because there are monuments and reminders all around the area. To me, Helsinki is a hybrid of cultural cities, some places look like San Francisco, some parts London, some parts Sheffield, some parts Amsterdam and has the overall atmosphere of a minature New York.
The city church is the same as the one in Jyvaskyla. As with Hameenlinna, Turku and Jyvaskyla the lay out was pretty much the same, maybe it makes the Finnish people secure. Opposite the church and across the square was the town hall with the town emblem flying high on the flagpoles in front of it. The atmosphere was nice but there were too many cars and people, or maybe it was just the rain. In my attempt to find the bus station to make a hasty exit from this soaking town I stumbled across the Lenin museum. Lenin briefly stayed in Tampere during his exile and so the council of Tampere decided to dedicate a museum to him.
There aren't really any major sights to see unless you're a disciple of Lenin. But the flying saucer is a sight in itself.
The bus station is not the easiest to find, it is located on the outskirts of the city centre, near to the Tampere stadium. It took ages to find but was a welcoming sight as the rain came down, and the sight of the bus headed for Lahti was an even more welcoming sight.
The first hurdle to negotiate was the ski lift (having never been skiing I hadn't been on one before). It wasn't that bad, but I won't make a habit of it. Following that, there's the lift to the top of the ski jump. I stepped out of the lift with a nervous anticipation. The view was superb, I managed to locate the mythical harbour which I was assured was there but had never seen. I braved the edge of the ski jump and peered down. It didn't look that bad until I remembered that there was a biggish gap between the part where your feet leave the floor and the undercovered swimming pool at the bottom. With this in mind and looking again, ski jumpers are either very brave or very stupid.
Having found the harbour I made my way towards it and the other end of Lake Paijanne, the second biggest lake in Finland, which has the top end in Jyvaskyla. On the harbour is the Sibeliustalo, a building dedicated to the composer. It's an incredible building in which an old disused factory which stretches into a massive glass building. It has the appearance of being incomplete, but is quite amazing.
Walking back towards the centre there is a wooded hill. On first appearances it looks like a normal hill which wouldn't get two looks, but don't be fooled, it is one of Lahti's secrets. Firstly, it is a pleasant walk away from the speedy life and secondly, amongst the trees are some brilliant sculptures by Waino Aaltonen. The sculptures look like they are made out of wood but are actually made out of cement or clay. They are figures, some sitting and some reclining, deep in thought. I thought that it would be a bad place for someone to take LSD.
One of the other sights is the church, also designed by Aaltonen. In the roof it incorporates the ski slopes which Lahti is famous for, and in the garden is an imposing, angel-like statue watching over the memorials.
Lahti is a two-faced town, slaughter by night and lovely city near the bay by day. Nightime is a dangerous time. The Finns love to drink and no more so than in Lahti (here the reference to 'slaughter' comes into effect). While walking past the pubs I saw a couple arguing: this stick woman was giving a brickhouse of a partner a real hiding, physically and verbally. Whilst queuing up outside the city's main club, 'Diva' you get to see the real Finns, drunken and physcial.
Lahti at night feels very hostile compared to Jyvaskyla. The police in Lahti appear because they have to, the police in Jyvaskyla appear because it's their job, they have no need to.
Lahti has its sights and attractions but it's just a case of taking the time to finding them.
There was a park with a small performance stage, it was such a small stage that I thought it must belong to a Sami company. I retraced the bus route to take a look at the FC Mikkeli football stadium, it looked so much better than the JJK football stadium. Across from the stadium was another lovely park. It had a statue of General Mannerheim. Mikkeli was the city from where Mannerheim beat the Russians in World War Two, a victory which the Finns are extremely proud of after years of rivalry between the two nations. Indeed some of the old army barracks have been converted into houses complete with perimeter fencing and cannons in the grounds.
As far as the 'typical Finnish town layout' the square and town hall were together but the church had been placed some 500 metres away, it takes pride of place on a small mound surrounded by grass, it is an amazing sight. It looked identical to Jyvaskyla's layout but Mikkeli seems to use the space a little bit more wisely. I had planned to go to the Headquarter's Museum, the place where this famous defeat was planned, but I frustratingly found it closed.
Mikkeli seemed to break the typical Finnish town format, slightly. Up from the Headquarter's museum is the observatory, but this bizarre looking building is the least impressive thing about climbing the steep road to the top. About three quarters up the road, near the car park there's a little path and steps which lead up to the edge of the hill which is a rock face and provides a terrific view of Mikkeli. The path actually leads up to the summer open air theatre, which are popular in Finland because of the hot weather during the summer.
Heading west I stumbled across the Stone Sacrisy. This is a very, very small church which is surrounded by the road, it's like a roundabout with a church on it. I ventured inside and was followed by a woman who unnerved me by standing in the doorway of this 5 metre by 5 metre building, there wasn't much to see and I felt guilty for only spending 5 seconds inside it and disturbing the woman from her book. I panicked and placed a donation in the box and left.
I made my way down the road which led into the commercial centre of Mikkeli, but I wasn't interested in shopping. I knew there was a harbour somewhere and was going to find it. Mikkeli is a surprisingly compact city which is littered with World War Two bunkers, there was one on the way to the harbour which was like a brick igloo and built in the garden; they obviously weren't as organised as the British government in organising the protection against aggression. I found the harbour which was very peaceful and I sat for a while looking at the lake and the two maritime sculptures which are near the harbour shop.
The city was busy but it didn't feel as busy as Tampere, the whole atmosphere is relaxed and peaceful. The harbour is little more than a jetty and Mikkeli doesn't feel like it needs or has a harbour as it's out of the centre and not a centre point. I made my way back over the dual carraigeway and the railway, to catch the bus back to Lahti. I hadn't been there very long, about 3 hours but it was enough to see everything outside.
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