maanantai 31. heinäkuuta 2017

The Total Saimaa Tour

This summer really seems to go on with hand break on... There have been so few warm days and there has been rain in so many days, either constantly or in shorter intervals.

Anyway, we had a plan to go round Saimaa, the biggest lake in Finland. 
The main reason was we had separate sessions there: Some family meetings, Savonlinna Opera Festival and a song course for my spouse. To connect all these it took six days to make it.

Saimaa is kind of torn to pieces, meaning endless islands and bigger and smaller open water areas. Almost all the waters in Eastern Finland are connected to Saimaa and finally the whole mass of water goes to Lake Ladoga in Russian Carelia via Vuoksi River. Saimaa is home to the most endangered fresh water seal Saimaannorppa, Saimaa ringed seal.  

The first day was an exception, warm and sunny. Unfortunately we had to spend it in a car to get to the family festive of my spouse in Joensuu. The hotels of Joensuu were totally full because of the Rock festival so we had to go further for a night. The place where we stayed was Paksuniemi near the Rääkkylä Church, a former creamery, nowadays a little hotel and brewery. It is situated by Jänisselkä, one of numerous parts of Saimaa. The evening was warm and beautiful so we had enough time to swim and just sit and enjoy the view till sunset.

                    Swimming at Paksuniemi beach in Rääkkylä  


          A view from Paksuniemi to Jänisselkä

Next day we headed back to Joensuu to meet other relatives – this time they were mine. Joensuu is a university town by the North East part of Saimaa called Pyhäselkä. Actually it is by the ending of the river Pielisjoki - Joensuu means the end of the river. The weather turned to its normal mode this summer – a bit chilly and rain every now and then. So no swimming or sun bathing there!  

        By the Pielisjoki River in Joensuu

After two days we left Joensuu to go nearer Savonlinna. It was naturally impossible to get hotel near Savonlinna so we had to go to Puumala, 80 kilometres south of Savonlinna. We chose the route to see something nice, maybe also do something nice. So we took the western route to Puumala. First it included Liperi  because of its super delicious Karelian pasty. They were filled with barley instead of rice which makes them taste more original.

We had a plan to go for a little paddle trip to Kolovesi which is the most wilderness-like part of Saimaa and heart of the seal area. But because the weather was terrible, raining furiously and temperature 9.5 degrees Celsius in daytime we skipped the plan. So we continued first to Enonkoski and finally to Puumala.

                                        Enonselkä, Enonkoski

It was still raining and it was still chilly when we arrived Kuoreksenniemi holiday cabin area in Puumala. Finally the rain drew back for a while and we could see a beautiful rainbow on the lake. After five minutes we decided to go out for a little hike... and a minute after coming in it started to rain cats and dogs again! Although we had a wonderful view to lake from our window we missed all the seals. But actually it was no wonder, there are only 360 seal in the whole Saimaa! So that evening I was the only swimmer of that size seen. Because of the weather the water was warmer than the air.

        The rainbow over the lake, both ends clearly seen

                Hiking in Kuoreksenniemi, Puumala

                     The only seal in the water

The weather of the next day was much better, mostly sunshine interrupted by some minor showers. On our way to Savonlinna we visited Sulkava, the place of big rowing contest.  The contest is for kind of traditional Finnish rowing boats but actually they are developed more to sport use. The biggest model for 15 persons is based on the boats people used to row the whole village to church.

The contest was already over so we just walked along the nice village streets and did some shopping in Marimekko outlet shop.  

                  An old and idyllic boat house as a bar, Sulkava city

When we arrived Savonlinna we were quite hungry. And being hungry in Savonlinna means either lörtsy or fried vendace. Both are available at the market square and chose the latter. Although there also were other meals on menu I didn’t see any other then fried vendace on customer’s plate. And I cannot blame them, the food was delicious.    

             Fried vendaces at Savonlinna Market Square

Vendace is the most important fish in Saimaa area. It is like a small white fish and tastes pretty much like sardines. Vendace likes bright water and the best way to keep the stocks in good condition is to keep water clean and just to fish them - unless it is not made too intensively.  

The main purpose of our Savonlinna visit was the Opera Festival. We had tickets to Rigoletto. The production was based on Royal Opera House version. The soloists were partly Finnish and partly international and the quality of the performance was in high level. The only problem for us was we sat so far on left side we had some difficulties in following some complex scenes, both the text almost on the roof and soloists singing shor phreses on different parts of the stage.

Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, the main place of the Opera Festival

Because of the 100th anniversary of  Finland Vladimir Putin was to visit Savonlinna next week. And because Putin there was an extra security control in front of the castle - normally there are such only in football games and rock festivals and then mainly because of alcohol. We were not inspected very thoroughly but anyhow there were no incident with explosives next week during Putin's visit.

                      Security control at the gate of the castle


The weather stayed reasonable the whole time we spent in Savonlinna. When we arrived our next sleeping place in Kerimäki 30 kilometres east of Savonlinna the heavy rain started again.
Our guest house was a farm near the Lake Puruvesi, a part of Saimaa, again (Didn’t I mention also Savonlinna is situated in the island between two parts of Saimaa...?). 

               Our last guest house was in Kerimäki byt the Lake Puruvesi

On our breakfast we had eggs of the hens we saw in the yard – or actually they preferred trees!

The last day started half cloudy and quite promising. So we had a nice weather to enjoy beautiful scenes of Punkaharju. It is 7 kilometres long ridge between two parts of Saimaa and it’s considered as one of the Finnish national scenery. 

                                                At Punkaharju

When we approached our next stop Imatra the weather turned unstable again. Our main goal was Imatrankoski rapids where the waters of Saimaa used to surge in the direction of Lake Ladoga. Nowadays the it has a power plant and water is released there only on special events. There is an alternative branch in River Vuoksi thet takes the water of Saimaa to Lake Ladoga. We had a plan to walk a romantic trail along the rapids canyon but we heard some thunder and decided not to do it. And it was a good decision, very soon it started hailing! So instead of walking we went to very romantic Valtionhotelli by the rapids for a lunch.  

                       Imatra Valtionhotelli   

                  Imatrankoski rapids canyon. Notice the dark clouds behind me.  

                  A view to the planned trail just some minutes later...

              ...from the window of Valtionhotelli

From Imatra there was only 20 kilometres to the next destination, Joutseno Institute by the “Major Saimaa”. I left my spouse there for her singing course and had some walk round the area. I have had some memorable moments there in my youth to think back.  

Joutseno, one of the important places of my youth

From Joutseno I went on on my own. I stopped by the Saimaa Canal near Lappeenranta city. It is a route to the sea for boats and logs originated from the mid nineteenth century. It is rebuilt numerous times and though it goes to Gulf of Vyborg to Russian side, the Canal area is rented to the Finnish government.  

The new and the old canal at Mustola museum area. As you may see, it started raining again. 

My last Saimaa stop was the harbour of Lappeenranta. Lappeenranta has its history as a military town but nowadays it’s more a university town with high technology education.  

The end of Saimaa tour, Lappeenranta Harbour - almost in sunhine!

So we had travelled almost round (and some times also through) the Lake Saimaa. Because of the hurry we had the first day we skipped stops in the Western coast such as Mikkeli (St Michel) To get the whole picture of the wonderful area it would take much more than six days.

Here you can see our routes.  

The blog may be commented in English.
Blogia voi kommentoida myös Suomeksi.
Bloggen kan kommenteras också på Svenska

torstai 6. heinäkuuta 2017

Helsinki Pride 2017, Acting Against Discrimination

For me this Helsinki Pride was full of political substance. As a representative of Dreamwear Club I attended numerous political meetings and panels.

The first of this kind was on Tuesday. It was about non discrimination at work places arranged by employer organizations, labour unions and the Non Discrimination Ombudsman.  They had a Finnish carrier Finnair as an example of non discrimination policy. I was not convinced it would be the policy they have instead the diversity of the background of the staff to get their result in that area. So it was maybe too an easy case.

                       The panel of trade union, employers and officials

I told them about our survey about gender diversity at work places last year. I also emphasized the importance of being proactive to be ready in the situation where the workplace faces the fact a qualified employee turns out to be neither cis nor hetero. I also told about our educational material about how to get the equality plans live at the work places concerning the gender diversity.  


On Wednesday noon I took part in the evening about Transact, arranged by FinnishAmnesty, and Finnish LGBTI organizations Seta and Trasek. I had told about our visit to minister Juha Rehula who is responsible of this matter. In 2015 he showed us some sympathy but due to agreement made during the government negotiations he couldn’t do anything. Now he was a protector of the event, though not present. Instead him his successor and thus soon coming new minister Annika Saarikko was there with opening words. Unfortunately she rushed away before the discussion.

                                               Annika Saarikko

     The panelists, Jeanette John from Norway, Sakris Kupila and Panda Eriksson

We heard about the legal situations in four Nordic countries. Of these four only Finland still have infertility demand in the law before one can change her/his legal gender. Denmark has the most advanced law allowing a person just change the gender code by self determination. Norway and Sweden are also heading for more liberal direction.  They told there are some severe problems even in their legislation but compared with Finnish situation it’s much better in every other three countries.
Demand on non fertility is announced to be a violation against human rights by European human rights authorities. So in Western Europe only Finland, Switzerland and some minor countries has it in their legislation; Belgium just got rid of it.

In FInland there are two papers for the new trans legislation: One was done during the former and more liberal government and the other is a initiative made by a Member of Parliament. Neither of them contain self-determination and both have some inadequate changes to the rights of young trans people. So we hope the new minister Saarikko will start preparation for a new law which has the elements a modern transact should contain.

In late afternoon I attended the other panel discussion arranged by the LGBTI networkof the Finnish Parliament. The audience asked them about the situation of the maternal law initiative, transact and the situation of LGBTI asylum seekers. The LGBTI asylum seekers have quite hard difficulties on the other hand because of the discrimination they face in their accommodation spaces and on the other hand because of the immigration authorities who don’t believe their stories.

                The members of Parliament answering the questions from the audience 

I asked the Members of Parliament whether they are aware of the situation of the name law preparation. It turned out they weren’t so I gave them an advice to take the issue to their agenda: The new law would propose almost all the names should be gendered so it would make the non binary people harder to get the suitable names for their gender expression. Opposite to Swedish legislation the new proposal doesn’t even identify the possibility for a person to have both male and female names. They appreciated my notion and promised to do something.

After three such political sessions I decided to do something else. So I went to Lavatanssit (dance hall ball) to meet friends and shake my legs. The band is always the same and always as fascinating: The Vallila Tango Orchestra playing Finnish traditional dance music with some energy by its British singer with genuine rock background.

Thursday was reserved for some rest and household but it didn’t go that way: A friend from Bureau of Non Discrimination Ombudsman called and asked me to the meeting – time for getting ready and be there was two hours! Five years ago it would have been totally impossible but now I've grown faster and could made it - I was amazed! 

The agenda was co-operation with police and LGBTI-people. The relations between these groups haven’t been especially warm. The main reason for that is the conversation on a closed and secret FB group for policemen was revealed and it contained lots of racist substance. On the other hand the Non Discrimination Ombudsman had invited many authorities to join Helsinki Pride on their truck which had waked anger among many people who think such institutions may not be supported or let be pink washed under the rainbow flag. Many also reminded that the Pride movement has originally started to resist police violence in Stonewall riots.

In the meeting representatives of Seta and Trasek told they have got a lot of hate messages after been in media. They also told they were not taken seriously enough when they reported this to police. One problem is misgendering and problems with ID card. According my experience such problems are far more frequent with other authorities than police. Still another problem is a thought that police should treat every customer equally, many times interpreted that they should do it in same way which makes it insensible to needs of the customer.  Seta and Trasek people didn’t tell incidents where police has been an active part of LGBTI-hate though. 

I’m very much concerned the fact that the total amount of hate speech increases the tolerance to interfere to the matter which could on the other hand increase the feeling to be mistreated for being a discriminated minority and on the other hand encourage the hate speakers do it more and more openly.

                                                    Bee Bailey

There were two special guests in the meeting: Bee Bailey from British National Trans Policeassociation and Rob Verf from Dutch Pink in Blue. Both told their associations had been founded for need for support to trans or gay policemen. Gradually the official police organizations had found out they could use the special skills and network these LGBTI organizations have. So nowadays they have their own budget and extra time resources for their special tasks. They also make the rainbow issues known among the other policemen. Rob stressed out that they may not change attitudes of every policeman but they can guide them to adopt this aspect as a part of their profession. As not every policeman is capable to handle these kind of cases in Netherlands there are a center in every major town where members of discriminated minorities can report crimes against them to a person who is not a policeman.

                The whole symposium, photo by Seta

In Finland the situation is totally different. There is only a few openly gay police and there is no education on LGBTI issues in basic or continuing education of police. We offered our help to this matter and encouraged the Finnish gay police (we had one in the meeting..) to get organized – for their own and also for the customers benefit. The members of the Police Board of Finland told us that they will start a program for anti discrimination including LGBTI issues very soon. Rob told the progress in Netherlands was very slow and step by step and I’m afraid it will be even slower in Finland. But I’m sort of thrilled that I could be a part of such an important change, however long it will take.

On Friday I finally could do the domestic things, such as laundry, dishes and baking my traditional mushroom pie for the picnic on Saturday. In the evening we still went to the opening of the exhibition of our artist friend Maimu Brushwood. She performed her poems both on video and in live session. After that we still wanted to visit a Pride supporter Hotel Clarion which happened to be very near the art gallery.

                                    Maimu in action

                                          At Clarion

On Saturday we naturally took part of the Pride Parade. The weather was quite chilly - again. We marched in the Gender Diversity Block containing somewhat 350 people. There were about 35 000 people in the whole parade which is about the same as last year. There was much less audience along the parade route though, due to not so good weather.

                                      Tuija ready for the parade


Maybe the other thing was there was a warning of Nazi raid. There had been some incidents in the Parade during the years, the worst being an attack with pepper spray. And the a small number of Nazis were active also this time, mostly just making videos of us. We tried to stop them video shooting the trans kids we had in our block to cover the camera with a rainbow flag in a fishing rod. There also were some hard criminal Nazis openly near the parade but actually they were strictly guarded by their “personal police”. Finally it turned out the worst thing for us was a plastic bag of horse shit and even this action was stopped very discretely by police. Also the Nazi demonstrations near the parade were stopped.

Actually there was an incidence from the other extremists: Two anarchists sat in front of the truck where the guests of the Non Discriminating Ombudsman were. They were moved away very fast and since they resisted they were also arrested by police. I’m not happy about such an activity: The actions should direct to the accurate and acute problems - even against the police if needed. Now the police taking part to Pride parade as a guest is expressing goodwill to rainbow people and also an important sign to the police staff. On the other hand we have been very much sheltered by police against Nazi attacks many years. So for me maintaining the thought of the relation between police and LGBTI people in the times of Stonewall riot is a mere romantic radicalism without any wish to make the world better in this area.     

The parade ended to a nice Kaivopuisto park where we had our picnic. My pie was a success, I had no problems to get rid of it. 

           Meeting Rob and a Finnish police chief Måns Enqvist at Kaivopuisto Park

After a short time at the park we headed home to change for the last traditional act of our Pride schedule: The Sherry Coffee Ball by lesbian organization Mummolaakso. The music was not live but the DJ Laila-Annikki has a sense of the audience to make people move. And I moved, indeed!

Happy and hopefully warm enough summer for everyone!

The blog may be commented in English.
Blogia voi kommentoida myös Suomeksi.
Bloggen kan kommenteras också på Svenska

keskiviikko 5. heinäkuuta 2017

June 2017; the global warming cancelled...?

My summer started in the middle of June. Or only my holiday started, the weather didn’t seem to agree. There were only some single warm days between periods when the big turbulence targeted us its northern side with cold winds. So the nature has been about two weeks behind its normal schedule what comes to growing and blooming.

                         The first holiday day happened to be one of the rare ones.

The weather was still o.k. in Helsinki when we headed for Krakow. There the temperature was about 12 centigrade and hard wind from North felt so familiar again. We had something to wear for both cold and warm weather with us so our big suitcase was quite full.

We spent our first day at the Krakow old town.  Krakow has been a former capitol of Polish reign and it showed in many old houses and especially the huge Wawel Castle. The town is still partly under the construction and not as refined as for instance Prague.

                          At the main market square of Krakow

                       In the streets of Krakow old town

                        At the yard of the Wawel Castle

                        A view to the river Wislawa from the Wawel Castle

Krakow has always been the center of Polish religion life and it’s full of churches and cathedrals – many of them from the middle age. Some are said to be built to reconcile the sins of the king and it seems the sins used to be enormous...

                            One of the numerous cathedrals

On the second day we made a trip to Tatra mountains in the South West part of the country. The population there uses a dialect resembling Slovak language and I very much doubt they were asked to join Polish nation in the middle of the 18th century when they were integrated to Poland both nationally and to the Catholic Church instead of their own religious tradition.

In Tatra region we could see villages with old houses totally built on beech logs. Our guide had an idea to visit some places there but the problem was it was a time for Sunday mass so no one was there to open the doors. The only place we could visit was the local museum where an old lady told us stories from old days.

The walls of the houses are very clean because the lady of the house must wash them every spring. You can also hire the cleaning woman to skip that hard work...

The Tatran women seemed to wear sort of semi folk costumes with a long skirt made of a special kind of flower patterned fabrics.

We went to the top of the high hill to see the wonderful valley of the Zakopane city. Because of the thick fog we saw nothing. Well, we saw it after entering it in a tramway down the hillside – still without any views. Zakopane is rather a small town but being a center of the Polish winter sports it’s full of hotels and tourists.    

                A view to the the Zakopane valley from the hill.... use your imagination!

                      A view from Zakopane to the hill we just visited

In Zakopane we had our lunch and we wanted to have some rural food. And rural it was, a huge amount in very cheap price!

On the third day the heat wave entered us in Krakow so we could use our summer dresses at last. We spent our time visiting the places with Jewish history. The old part of Krakow called Kazimiera was once an important place for Polish Jews. Actually it was a mixture of Catholic and Jewish town and the ghetto was even further from the Krakow old town. There we visited a synagogue and had a Jewish lunch.

                    A Jewish lunch at Kazimiera market square

                    An inside view of a synagogue in Kazimiera

          The Jewish cemetery. The stones are from the relatives who have visited the tomb.

We also visited the ghetto and the Occupation museum founded at the Schindler mills – the actual place for the Spielberg film List of Schindler. The ghetto was totally wiped away and rebuilt so there was nothing to see in that respect.

                      A fragment of the wall, the only reminiscence of the ghetto

The Jewish population was almost totally destroyed and nowadays there aren’t many living in Kazimiera. While there were many Poles who tried to rescue the Jews the Polish people seems to have difficulties in recognizing the fact that many participated to the holocaust and many were anti-Jew even after the war.

                     On the sunny bank of Wislawa

On our fourth day we left the sunny and warm Krakow to enter Helsinki which was rather chilly again. The same evening we had an appointment with our friends Jula and Martina from Nurnberg Germany. We had a dinner in a nice restaurant Kappeli in the heart of Helsinki discussing about trans policy situations in Finland and Germany among others.

                     With Jula at Kappeli  

Last year we skipped the cold Finnish Midsummer when we traveled to Pärnu Estonia. This time the trick didn’t work: Our Midsummer in Viljandi in Southern Estonia was as cold as it was in Finland. Viljandi is the fourth biggest town in Estonia but while there is only three bigger cities it is populated only with 20 000 people. As a typical Estonian town it has a ruined medieval fortress and old town with wooden houses.   

                       A scene in Viljandi

                      The fortress ruins of Viljandi

In Finland we have our Midummer bonfires called “Juhannuskokko”. The Estonian parallel to it is “Jaanituli”, meaning about the same. The smell of Jaanituli is different from Juhannuskokko because the differencies between wood material: Juhannuskokko consists mostly of conifer like spruce and pine and Jaanituli contains mostly leave trees like elm and beech. Last Midsummer we saw and smelt Jaanitulis only from far away. This time we visited the official Midsummer festive of Viljandi with rather big Jaanituli.

                      At the Jaanituli in Viljandi

As the summer is so late we really saw roses called “Midsummer roses”. Normally they are blooming at the time of Midsummer in Central Finland.

Though the weather was rather chilly it was not particularly rainy. For that reason we had a good conditions to make an excursion to Viljandi Soomaa (marsh area) national park. It has many kinds of environments, from thick forest and open marsh to fresh meadows. We chose the latter and enjoyed a nice walk in the beautiful semi cultural landscape.

                           The Soomaa landscape

While we had a lot of time during our way back home we also stayed for a while in Tallin.

          At the market square in the old town of Tallin.

I also took part of the belly dance summer course of my leader Marinka. This time we had a Finnish music to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the independent Finland. It's based on Finnish folk tune with rap elements. The story is about the boy who is a little bit wild. "Lempo" is a name for a Finnish spirit who is also wild and sort of erotic. There's a funny coincidence in the words: A common Finnish folk song refrain "Jalajalla jalajala jalla vei" resembles the Arabian saying "Yalla yalla" (Let's go !)   :)

Photo by Marinka Nyqvist

The performance took place in the street near the dance studio between our journeys. The weather was cold again and it has been raining. Luckily the sun started shining just when we started the video shooting.  Our bodies had produced heat enough to resist coldness of the Northern wind. The loud speaker used in video shooting was so little we couldn't here all the silent places of the music. You may see the result here.

The blog may be commented in English.
Blogia voi kommentoida myös Suomeksi.
Bloggen kan kommenteras också på Svenska