Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuluutintie - Duluth Road

Tuluutintie (Duluth Road) is located in Alajärvi. To be honest, it seems like more of a street (katu) to me since it's only a few blocks long, but I guess to be true to the translation we'll call it a road.

Alajärvi, like the rest of Etelä-Pohjanmaa, experienced the effects of migration (article in Finnish - with some information about Swedish-speaking Finnish migrants as well) to the United States and elsewhere. Quite a few Finns ended up in the Duluth, MN area.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of the immigrants stayed in the "land of opportunity" to live happily ever after. Some came back to Finland with gold dollars in their pockets and bought the homes in Finland that they couldn't afford before their American adventure. Often these Finns were referred to as "American" for the rest of their lives.

Tuluutintie, with its strange name (for Etelä-Pohjanmaa) is a reminder of those Finns who chose to head back home.

Arthur Kyllander, a Finnish-born American songwriter wrote a song about returning to Finland with American-earned cash and becoming a big shot.

NY MNÄÄ REISSAAN by Arthur Kyllander (translation by Richard Impola)

(A spectacular example of Finglish using the Varsinais-Suomi dialect rather than the more common (in the U.S. at least) Savo or Pohjanmaa dialects.)

Mnää olen tääll’ Ameriikas elelly ja ollu
Mut ny mnää ol semmoseen päätökseen tullu
Et minut tarvitaan vanhass’ maass’
Ja sen tähre mnääki ny reissaan taas.
Mnää olen tääl tienannu noit suuri palkkoi
Ja ehtoisin kauntan kui pal se ol markkoi
Ja ain’ ku mä valmiiksi räknäsin
Niin koht’ sitä kurssii taas entrattii.
Ku litviiki se tull’
Ol’ kaikki sekas’ mull’
Ku ai sitä kurssii vaan entrattii.
Mut ny mnää sit meinaan ett’ Turun puolt’ josta
Taera mnää ittelleen talonki ostaa.
Mnää haeraan sit trenkei ja piikoi vaa
Niin itte ei mun tarvita arpeettaa.
Sit pitäjän kirkkherall’ pirän mnää baali
Ja herroi viell’ muitki mä sinn’ sit haali,
Mä hypytän tanseiss’ siell’ pastorskaa,
Mutt’ pruustinnall’ praakkaa mnää engelskaa.
Siäl on eläm siis
Ninko vil ju pliis
Ku pruustinnall’ praakkaa mnää engelskaa.
Ja kylmar ne mnuu siäll’ ennen muuta
Valitsevat varmasti eruskuntaan.
Niinki se käyp viäll’ ai kess soo
Ku tämä poik ei ole mikkää ai tun noo.
Puri smartti kai.
Enkös ole vai?
Enkä mnää ole mikkää ai tun noo.
Ja niinki mnää luule et aikas ne ällää
Ja präsitentti ehrokkas minu siell’ tällää.
No pärjään mnää siinäki, jesseri,
Ai karet veri kut memori.
Tääl on järki pääs,
Ja se ei ole jääs.
Enkä mnää ole mikää nosseri.
Ja nymmar mun täytyy jo lähtee juur sassi
Konsulivirastost hakemaa passi.
Mnää olen kaikk’ asiat praakan jo kai
So ai tell you everipati nau kut pai.
Ai kat hori tuu, so ai viss seim tu juu
änt ai tel everipati nau pai pai.

I’ve lived here in America awhile,
But now I’ve decided
That I’m needed in the old country
And that’s why I’m going back again.
All of Finland
Will get help from me
And that’s why I’m going back again.
I’ve made good wages here
And figured out in the evenings how much it would be
in markkas.
And always when I finish my reckonings,
They go and change the exchange rate.
When my pay envelope comes, I get all mixed up,
Because they go and change the exchange rate.
Now I’m going to buy a farm somewhere near Turku.
I’ll hire some farmhands and some maids,
So I won’t have to do any of the work.
Then you’ll see I wasn’t saving for nothing.
So I won’t have to do any of the work.
Then I’ll have a party for the vicar,
And I’ll invite other fine gentlemen.
I’ll hop the pastor’s wife around in the dance.
But I’ll show off my English to the rector’s wife.
That’s how life will be—just like “Will you please?”
And I’ll show off my English to the rector’s wife.
And of course before long they’ll elect me to Parlia
That’s how it will be, I guess so,
Because this fellow is no “I don’t know.”
Pretty smart guy—ain’t I?
And I’m no “I don’t know.”
And I even think, as time goes by
They’ll nominate me for president.
Well, I’ll be able to handle that,
I have a very good memory.
There’s a brain in this head
And it’s no block of ice.
I’m not any kind of Nosiree.
Well, I guess I’ll have to be off
To the consulate to get my passport.
I think I’ve told you everything,
So I’ll say to everybody now, “Good-bye.”
I’m in a hurry too;
I wish the same to you,
And I’ll say to everybody now, “Bye-bye.”

An article about Arther Kyllander published in the New World Finn in 2001. Article is found on page 14 of the PDF.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Satama ja Lutakko - The Harbor and Lutakko

Join us on a sunny day walking tour from Yläkaupunki (Uptown) to Alakaupunki (Downtown) by way of the harbor and the Lutakko neighborhood.

Walk down the hill (towards the lake) and to Hannikaisenkatu and make your way towards Kilpisenkatu. You'll find a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that will take you over the railroad tracks and the highway and into the harbor area.

Näytä harbor and lutakko suuremmalla kartalla

The blue line on the map above indicates our approximate route, although not exactly. If you get lost, just take off your clothes and run in circles in full panic mode - just like they taught you to do in wilderness survival...

Approaching the harbor, which is being "improved" this year. Don't worry about the lake being filled-in with sand, gravel, and rocks. Most of the Lutakko neighborhood (where the harbor is located) is built on filled-in lake bed. The authorities ensure us that the neighborhood is safe for all of the apartment buildings that are built there. You won't catch me buying an apartment in that neighborhood, hundred year floods have been known to submerge all that filled-in land.

Looking towards Ceausescu Beach, the appealing grey concrete area of lakeshore. This area is home for some temporary harbor facilities this year. Past the Ceausescu area (so named for its lifeless, grey, communist-era concrete design) you will find the Mattilanniemi area of the University of Jyväskylä campus, a swimming beach, and some offices that Nokia abandoned this year in their search for cheaper places to operate (not in Finland).

Looking towards the city center from the harbor area.

One excellent reason to head to the Jyväskylä harbor in the summertime. LettuBaari. This little shack sells pancakes either sweet (with strawberry jam and whipped cream) or salty (ham or other meat product and cheese). That's all they sell and they are good at it. Sometimes you may have to wait up to half an hour if they are experiencing a sales rush. Sorry I don't have a pancake photo, I had just eaten lunch prior to our walk.

The Gaia. When it's not a sailing bar, it's a harbor bar.

The Hilja pulls in to the harbor. On the other side of the lake is the Ainolanranta neighborhood.

Kuokkalan silta - The Kuokkala Bridge, which leads from downtown to the Kuokkala area.

Did you notice this guy sitting on a swing under the bridge? It's a sculpture by artist Seppo Uuranmäki.

Heading along the Rantaraitti - a bicycle/pedestrian path that circles Lake Jyväsjärvi - towards the Lutakko Beach.

Looking towards downtown from Lutakonpuisto (Lutakko Park).

Lutakko Park has a piece of "art" which features a climbing wall.

Looking across Lutakko Park towards Lake Jyväsjärvi.

Looking towards the lake from the base of the pedestrian bridge that leads to the Train/Bus Station and downtown.

The highway and rail lines which separate downtown Jyväskylä from Lake Jyväsjärvi.
The pine trees of Harju are visible in the background.

The pedestrian bridge that links Lutakko with downtown is a nice blend of steel and wood construction.

The large brick building in the center of this photo is home to Jelmu, the Jyväskylä Live Music Association. It houses Tanssisali Lutakko - a live music venue- and practice spaces for musicians.

Head a few blocks up Väinönkatu from the train station and you will find yourself in the heart of downtown. The building in the foreground houses The Center for Printmaking and its gallery - Galleria Harmonia.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another article in the New World Finn

The following article was recently published in the New World Finn under the title New Potatoes and Carrots: Summer Has Arrived In Finland. I highly recommend this newspaper to folks who are interested in Finlander (Finnish-American) culture. The latest issue is available on-line here although I suggest that you also subscribe to this publication or at least send them a donation. Since the downfall of the venerable Raivaaja there aren't too many Finlander papers out there anymore. I wrote this article a few weeks ago when the first Finnish new potatoes hit the stores and markets.

Summer has arrived in Finland. At first it seemed like it never would. You see, this year, at the end of May the weather situation made it feel like the whole darn country was somehow located at the wrong position on the globe. Temperatures were in the 70’s (Fahrenheit) and the sun was shining for weeks at a time. Even the natives started believing that the Finnish summer was always warm and sunny at the beginning of June. Luckily, reality returned to this beautiful country as temperatures plummeted to the mid-thirties (no, not Celsius), the sun retreated to its summer cottage behind the clouds, and the rain began to fall.

My summers are generally spent waiting for my vacation to begin and then once it actually does, counting down the days until I have to head back to the salt mines. When I’m not occupied with either of these two things I like to fish, read, snooze in the hammock, and pick weeds in the garden. The garden is a small one. I usually put in some lettuce, a few rows of peas, and some cilantro (can’t make decent salsa fresca without it).

The garden during Juhannus weekend.


I also plant carrots, which taste best when their dirt is wiped off on your pant leg and the crunching commences before you leave the garden. The miniscule amount of grit that inevitably ends up as an abrasive between the molars is to be appreciated. At least I appreciate the feeling – it reminds me of where I’m from.

That carrots should be enjoyed this way is something I picked up from my old man, who knows his way around vegetation. Most of the things I know about coaxing plants into productive behavior I learned from him. I’m hoping to put this knowledge into good use this summer as I attempt yet again to grow sweet corn on a lake shore in Etelä-Pohjanmaa. The summer last year just didn’t provide the right conditions for those tasty ears to ripen. I started my corn indoors this summer, my studio space has huge windows complete with springtime sunlight. With the help of that little head start and the microfiber crop blanket that I’m trying out , this summer I’m hoping to enjoy proper corn on the cob (as opposed to the precooked, plastic-wrapped variety which is imported to Finland from Spain).

Sweet corn

There is however, a magnificent domestic agricultural product that thrives in my adopted homeland. Its arrival is something that I anticipate year after year – I start to dream of it before the snow even begins to think about melting. It is the most definite sign of summer.

I know that summer is here already, because the Finnish-grown new potatoes have hit the stores. Why is this such a big deal you wonder? If you've ever enjoyed a meal with new potatoes you shouldn't be asking. If you've never experienced the culinary joy that new potatoes bring, I suggest that you try some as soon as you can.

New potatoes, in the pot, ready to boil.

In Finland, to truly qualify as a new potato, the skin should mostly leave the tuber after a light scrubbing with a vegetable brush and some water. In late winter the stores already start trying to pass small potatoes from Cyprus off as the real deal, but with so much time and distance between the field and the pot, they don't even come close in the flavor department.

By May, the new potatoes from the slightly more southern locale of Skåne in Sweden appear in the produce department, and they come close to making the grade, but again, the time/distance factor comes into effect, and something in the flavor is lacking.

Today I was almost embarrassingly excited when I spotted the first real new potatoes of the season for sale at the local market. The price was high, and will definitely drop in the coming weeks, but I'm not known to skimp on things as basic as flavor, which may explain my usually unspectacular bank balance.

The potato was first cultivated in Finland in the early 1700s. The Finnish word peruna comes from the Swedish päron which means pear. This stems from the fact that the original Swedish term for the tuber was jordpäron or earth pear. This is a bit like the French pomme de terre which means earth apple.

One of the early proponents of this source of nutrition was the "potato priest" of Asikkala, Axell Laurell, who followed up most of his sermons with short speeches extolling the virtues of this immigrant from the Andes. He later penned an instruction book for would-be potato farmers.

Prior to the potato, the Finnish diet was built on a foundation of turnips and rutabagas. The potato enabled a farmer to produce a significantly larger amount of food in the same amount of space simply by switching crops. The potato really started to catch on when soldiers of the army of Sweden-Finland returned from the Seven Years' War, where the potato was a part of their regular diet. In addition to tales of battlefields south of the Baltic, some of them brought home potatoes to plant in their fields.

Perhaps this more efficient source of carbohydrates and vitamins had something to do with the drastic increase in the Finnish population - from 420,000 in the middle of the 1700's to over 830,000 in the year 1800. Increased food availability may have encouraged those small-time dirt farmers to make more babies, which provided a broader labor base, which in turn encouraged greater production, leading to more babies, and so on.

Is it possible that the introduction of the potato to Finland is yet another reason behind the waves of migration to the New World that were to come several decades later? I’ll leave this question to the experts. They may even have this figured out already and I just haven’t read the right books yet.

I’ve got a belly full of new potatoes, something I’ll be able to look forward to for the next few months. My wife has her belly full of baby, something we’re looking forward to at the end of June. My summer routine seems like it’s about to change. Hopefully I can squeeze in a few minutes on the hammock.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuoreita suomalaisia herneitä! - Fresh Finnish peas!

Jyväskylä's kauppatori (outdoor market) seems a lot better this year than it has been during the past few years. I guess is has to do with the fact that it isn't surrounded by construction sites any more, and a huge new apartment building has been built right next to it.

Hanna and I decided to swing through the tori this afternoon, and I'm glad we did, since today was the first day this summer that fresh Finnish peas were for sale.

Summer is definitely here. Peas, fresh from a farm in Sauvo.

Kaisan Kotimarja ja vihannes always has a nice selection of produce as well as friendly service. I recommend their stall for your berry and vegetable needs.

No description necessary.

A shot of the Jyväskylä kauppatori. This photo was taken in the afternoon, so most of the booths were already taken down for the day. If you want to get the best possible produce you have to get there early. The market opens for business at 7 a.m and shuts down at 3 pm during the summertime.

Tuomiojärven sauna - The Sauna at Tuomiojärvi

Usually my posts about Jyväskylä have to do with the fact that it is a great little city to live in. This doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. Whenever I think about the sauna at Tuomiojärvi I can't help but feel that those who are in charge of this city are awfully short-sighted.

This building which the City of Jyväskylä has chosen to neglect for several years now was at one time a public sauna. For a small fee you could sauna on the shores of a beautiful little lake in the center of town. In my opinion, by allowing this building to sit derelict, the City of Jyväskylä is commiting a cultural crime.

The Jyväskylä Regional Development Company has launched a campaign entitled Sauna From Finland. The purpose of Sauna From Finland is to attract tourists interested in sauna to the Jyväskylä area. Refurbishing this particular sauna would fit in to this particular campaign quite well. Local residents and tourists alike would benefit from a lakeside sauna that is just a 10 euro cab ride from downtown. Getting there on a bicycle takes a matter of minutes.

The sauna at Tuomiojärvi and the beach next to it.

A close up of the sauna, which, as I have mentioned before, is being neglected by "Sauna from Finland" Jyväskylä.

The small building behind it is another sauna, which is operated by the local canoe and kayak group Meloiloa Ry. For just 35 euros you can rent it for three hours so until the city gets their act together (which is of course highly unlikely) you can sauna by the lake, at least during the summer. Click here for rental information.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some Juhannus (Midsummer) Photos

Juhannus is the major holiday of the Finnish summer. For many, the holiday begins on Thursday afternoon when they get off work, since most people have Friday off. Midsummer's Eve always falls on a Friday in Finland (how convenient), providing a three-day weekend.

Originally a pagan fertility festival, eventually commandeered by the Christians, Juhannus was for some time a Saint's day dedicated to John the Baptist. Nowadays it is mainly a holiday during which Finns welcome the summer with an extreme binge drinking, music festivals, and grilled meat products. If a family has a summer cabin, that is most likely where you will find them during the Juhannus holiday.

A traditional Juhannus will include Juhannus sauna (of course), a kokko (bonfire)intended to drive away evil spirits, and less commonly in modern Finland, a bit of Juhannus magic, which usually has the purpose of divining a single young person's future spouse. These typically involved the use of sauna, wildflowers, and or nudity. Nowadays this type of magic is usually limited to girls collecting 7 different types of wildflowers and putting them under their pillow just before going to sleep. The man they dream of will supposedly be their future husband.

I've chosen to avoid the standard Juhannus photo subjects for this post.

A field of niittyleinikki flowers, also known as meadow buttercups (Ranunculus acris)

I like to stack stones. It's been an occasional hobby of mine for decades. These particular stones are on the shore of Lake Lappajärvi.

Kurjenmiekka (translation is rather nice - the crane's sword) or yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus).

A honey bee doing its work.

Another Ranunculus, this time perhaps a creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)? If so, in Finnish it would be rönsyleinikki. If I'm wrong about the identification of this species, I hope that someone will let me know.

Barbecue. There are no rib shacks in Finland, and the restaurants that try to make them right always fail. The same goes for shrimp. Usually if they are to be found on a menu, they are covered with some sort of goopy sauce. Sometimes when you want things done right you just have to do it yourself.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Jyväskylä was founded in 1837. The original settlement was located between Lake Jyväsjärvi and a large ridge. Over the years the ridge has become known as Harju, which simply means ridge.

Originally the ridge was quarried for its gravel - used in building projects, for the railroad, and at one time the idea was tossed around that it could be used to fill in the lake, giving the town more room to grow.

Thankfully some wise citizens realized the recreational potential of Harju, and a few paths were cleared and some benches were put into position. In 1887 a wooden viewing tower complete with cafe was built at the top of Harju. Eventually the quarrying of gravel would come to an end, leaving us with the Harju that we have today.

Approaching Harju from Gummeruksenkatu.

The stone steps were built in 1920's. Incidentally, the ice cream kiosk at the bottom of the steps is the best in Jyväskylä. They offer both student (20%) and retiree (10%) discounts as well as scoop-size options, practices which are unheard of in most Finnish ice cream shacks.

The stone steps make for a great workout, if you are into that sort of thing.

Mäntyjä ja koiranputkia aka Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Today Harju is an urban oasis. Walking paths in the shade of lofty pines make it a great place to get away. Off in the distance, a glimpse of Hanna demonstrating her speedy Nordic Walking skills.

A view of Jyväskylän Normaalikoulu (Normal School.)

The Normal School is an educational institution where education students can gain real-world classroom experience as well as learn standard education practices. These Normaalikoulu schools are located throughout Finland and operate in conjunction with their local universities. Jyväskylän Normaalikoulu houses grades 6-9 as well as high school students.

Mäki-matin perhepuisto. Mäki-Matti Family Park

The Mäki-Matti family park provides both indoor and outdoor facilities. The old red buildings house a kitchen, bathrooms, and indoor activity areas. Outside are play areas and picnic spots.

A concerned citizen recently wrote in to the Keski-Suomalainen (our local paper)with the opinion that if Harju's trees were cut down and if the grass was mowed regularly it would be a much nicer place to spend time. I beg to differ.

Harjun Kesäteatteri-The Harju Summer Theater. This summer will feature a production of Kullervo.

There is a large building on the top of the Hill known as Vesilinna (Water Castle) which houses a water tower and an observation gallery which offers the best possible view of Jyväskylä. Vesilinna is also home to the Natural History Museum of Central Finland (Keski-Suomen Luontomuseo) and Restaurant Vesilinna.

Some views from the observation gallery.

A view of Harjon Stadion-Harju Stadium, home to soccer team FC JJK and American Football Team Jyväskylä Jaguars as well as track and field events.

Looking towards Lake Tuomiojärvi. Click here for my earlier post about this lake.

Looking towards Lake Jyväsjärvi.

Looking towards downtown.

Looking down the Harju steps. Like any good summer walk, this one ended with ice cream from the convenient kiosk, located at the bottom of the steps. My favorite flavor is currently Ingman Liquorice. Its really tasty - lemon ice cream with liquorice swirls.