Tag Archives: Finland

In Aino’s Garden

View of the house at Ainola from Aino's garden

View of the house at Ainola from Aino’s garden

Love is a strange thing.

—Jean Sibelius to Aino Sibelius, 1892
[Tawaststjerna v. 1, Loc 2314-2326]

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to tell a tale about our visit to Ainola, where the Sibeliuses lived from 1904 until the death of Jean (1957, age 91) and Aino (1969, age 98). I’ve been flummoxed, though, about where to start. The thing is, there isn’t a single, straight-line narrative to be had. The story of Ainola isn’t a one story, but many, and even perspectives on the same strand of story conflict and multiply without cease. Continue reading

The Small Joys of Loviisa

Laivasilta Harbor Park, Loviisa

Laivasilta Harbor Park, Loviisa

Loviisa was my sun and joy.
Hämeenlinna was my school town, Loviisa was freedom.
Jean Sibelius

The young woman arrived at our table and exclaimed, “I love the summer.” It seemed to me as if she sang each sound as she spoke it. I thought how lucky we were to be in Finland in July, with its long sunlit days and temperate weather. Continue reading

More Scenes from the King’s Road: Kotka to Porvoo

Czar's Fishing Lodge, Drawing Room

Czar’s Fishing Lodge, Drawing Room

The more I learn, the less I know. Finland’s story, as for any country, is varied and complex, and my understandings are necessarily incomplete. I stand at the fence and peer through its slats, conscious that I see only fragments, not the whole. Here is a second set of fragments from the King’s Road. Continue reading

Scenes from the King’s Road: Virolahti and Hamina

Salpa Bunkers

Salpa Bunkers

I will show you a way
that I have travelled.

—Eeva-Liisa Manner

In the middle ages, the King’s Road, now primarily a tourist attraction, was “Finland’s most important route.” [Baedeker’s Finland Guide 234]

Although rarely traveled by kings, the King’s Road was used by diplomats, couriers, and ordinary travelers. . . . [and] maintained by royal decree. The road was imperative for communication between the kings and queens of the Baltic nations. . . . Land along the road would be given to those loyal to the crown so that it would always be preserved. . . . little villages and hamlets sprung up to support international commerce – medieval style. [The King’s Road in Finland 2]

Our thought was to rent a car in Helsinki and meander, looking in on towns in the countryside along the way. The question was, in the time we had, should we head east toward the Russian border, or west, toward the archipelago outside Turku? Only in our household, perhaps, would the decision end up turning on two things, both to the east: Loviisa, with its wooden Old Town and connection to Jean Sibelius, and Virolahti, part of the 1200-kilometer Salpalinjan (Salpa Line) Bunkers along the Finnish-Russian border. We headed east. Continue reading