October 15, 2014

In the footsteps of Finnish artists: an unforgettable trip to Eastern Finland - Part 2

Finn Kamilla Billiers decided to spend her holiday in Finland instead of travelling abroad. Her destination was Eastern Finland, an area renowned for its rugged landscapes. She let some of the most famous Finnish artists guide her on her journey. The trip was a journey into the heart of Finnish culture. 

This is part 2 of the 3 part post. Before this new destination Kamilla visited the North Karelian town Joensuu.

In good company 

I took a taxi from Joensuu to Koli. An hour later and I was walking toward one of the most famous landscapes in Finland with a newly purchased map in hand. After a few kilometres, I reached the summit of the Mäkrä hill. The views over Lake Pielinen have been said to embody the essence of Finnish identity better than anything else, and now that I have been there, I have to agree.

The pine trees and hills could have been from a Järnefelt painting, and I could hear echoes of Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony. It is easy to see why artists inspired by Karelianism and National Romanticism flocked to Eastern Finland, especially Karelia, in search of a national identity. The breathtaking view was like a painting. Landscape photography is great in that nature is perfect in itself, without any gimmicks. The orange tree trunks, dappled with summer sunshine, were crying out to be sketched and painted. But I am no Järnefelt, so I got up and left.

As I was walking down the hillside, I saw a red squirrel. We stared at each other for a moment before the squirrel let out an un-squirrel-like roar and hurled itself up a spruce. Have you ever heard a squirrel growl? Me neither, until then.

The big, knobbly roots of the spruce trees made me want to curl up between them, lie still, and listen to the sighs and whispers of the woods. Unfortunately, a huge swarm of mosquitoes also decided to stop for a while at the same spot, and the mosquitoes made it clear what they thought of me being there, so I had to carry on toward the most famous summits of the Koli range. The rocks at the summit of Ukko-Koli are worn smooth. I wonder how many hands have touched them over the years. A metal plaque had some letters engraved in it: ‘Ripa, Anu, and Veka were here.’ It is said that Järnefelt himself carved his name into the wall of a cave known locally as the Devil’s Church.

I rounded off the day with a visit to the village of Koli. On my way there, I came across an environmental art exhibition in the middle of the woods. Some of the pieces are apparent to only the perceptive visitor. A few birches have had some of their bark removed. When you look at these trees from the right angle, the areas where the bark has been notched out form a small circle, like a pale winter sun. I popped into the gallery of an English artist, and we talked for a while about the intricate lines of Japanese wood carvings.


Next Kamilla travelled to Lieksa

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