Preserving the Culture of a Lost Karelia

Crest image by Nilakka (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Season 3, Episode 38
Recorded in 2016, I speak to Marjo Matikainen-Källström, Satu Hallonberg and Markku Pulli about Karjalaisetkesäjuhlat; the commemoration of the evacuation of 430,000 people from Karelia after World War 2 and a celebration of continuing Karelian culture. I then speak to Satu Pihlajaniemi who shares some of her family’s memories as evacuees from Karjala.

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The Mysterious Church Stables in Närpes

Mark exploring the stables at Sankta Maria Kyrkä, Narpes

Season 3, Episode 36
I visit Sankta Maria church in Närpes/Närpiö, and speak to town guide, Marianne Winter. I learn why the church is surrounded by over 100 stables, about the unique Swedish dialect in Närpes and why the Vietnamese name, Nguyen, is the most common surname in Närpes.

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Tradition & ‘Magic’: Finnish Puukko Knives

Image from Marcus Lepola’s video ‘Finnish Birch Bark Knife Sheath’ https://youtu.be/DTXUyjnVmQs

Season 3 Episode 35
I discuss the traditional Finnish Puukko knife with Ethnologist and Bushcraft champion, Marcus Lepola. We talk about it’s importance in the history of  violence, love & marriage, and everyday life in Finland.

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[Replay] Finnish Food: The Good, The Bad & The Weird

Season 3 Episode 34
As a companion to my interview with Kristina Vänni in episode 33. Here is a replay of my conversation with restauranteur, Miia Keski-Nikkola. We talked about Finnish food, busting some myths, discussing Mother Nature’s offerings and looking at traditional Xmas food.

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Summer Replay: Just Why Is The Sauna So Important To Finns?

Sauna replay

In this episode I speak to Jaakko and Martti Koskenkorva about the most recognisable Finnish word in the world, Sauna. I visited them at Koskenkorva Trahteeri to talk about the history, the traditions and why the sauna is so important to the Finns.

Guests: Jaakko & Martti Koskenkorva

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Summer Replay: Beer Tasting at Mallaskoski Brewery

Mallaskoski replay

Brewmaster Jyri Ojaluoma takes me back in time to the re-birth of Mallskoski and their Kuohu beer. We discuss brewing techniques and tricks and review the 1st Lakeuden Panimojuhlat (Beer Festival) in Seinäjoki.

 

Guest: Jyri Ojaluoma, Brewmaster

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Summer Replay: How Much Does Finland Love Ice Cream?

Finnish Ice Cream replay

Päivi explains how ice cream is made at Wirtalan Jäätelö and gives a surprising answer to the question ‘What is South Ostrobothnia’s favourite flavour?’

 

Guest: Päivi Virtaniemi, Entrepreneur and co-founder of Wirtalan Jäätelö

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Summer Replay: Jokkis / Finnish Folk Racing – Motor Sport for ‘Everyman’

Jokkis replay


Guest: Emilia Uutela, Andrenalin-junkie Jokkis Driver

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Summer Replay: Festivals: Midsummer Metal & Tango Camper Vans

Finnish Festivals replay

Juha talks about more Finnish festivals. From the Heavy Metal Midsummer through the invasion of camper vans for Seinäjoen Tangomarkkinat and on to newer, urban events for HipHop and EDM.

 

Guest: Juha Koivisto – Festival promoter, Agent

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Summer Replay: Provinssirock Festival & the Finnish Music Scene

Provinssirock replay

Juha talks about the history of the Provinssirock Festival, and the popularity of domestic music making it possible for Finnish-only events to sell-out.

Guest: Juha Koivisto – Festival promoter, Agent

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Ice-hole Swimming & Sauna: A Natural High!

Lakeuden Avantouimarit

Kyllä kylymä teköö hyvää – Yes, the cold does good! Image: http://www.lakeudenavantouimarit.net/

Season 2 Episode 32
I learn why swimming in ice-cold water after taking a sauna is better than sex or morphine! Jussi explains ALL the benefits of Avantouinti, before taking me swimming in the hole in the ice on a frozen pond. Yep, that’s right…

Guests: Jussi Mustikkamaa, Journalist

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

Download an MP3 file of Episode 32 – Ice-hole Swimming & Sauna – a natural high!

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Beer Tasting at Mallaskoski Brewery

Mallaskoski

Season 2 Episode 31
Brewmaster Jyri Ojaluoma takes me back in time to the re-birth of Mallskoski and their Kuohu beer. We discuss brewing techniques and tricks and review the 1st Lakeuden Panimojuhlat (Beer Festival) in Seinäjoki.

 

Guest: Jyri Ojaluoma, Brewmaster

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

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Jussi paita: Ostrobothnia’s Uniform

The OstrobothnianUniform- Jussi paita2

Season 2 Episode 30
Student Film-makers Tytti & Onni tell me about the origins and history of the Jussi paiti, plus what they learned while making their documentary ‘Pohjanmaan univormu’ (Ostrobothnian Uniform)

Guests: Tytti Kuusinen & Onni Venäläinen, Film-makers

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Film & Lights Festival at ‘Matti’s Cottage’

Matin-Tupa

Season 2 Episode 29
Mari welcomes me to the ‘Filmiä- ja valoa elokuvafestivaali’ at Matin-Tupa Cinema. She introduces me to the past, present and future of the cinema that’s been in her family for 70 years.

Guest: Mari Keskinen, 4th-Generation Cinephile

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Finnish Food: The Good, The Bad & The Weird

Finnish Food

Season 2 Episode 27
The Good, The Bad & the Downright Weird of Finnish Food with Miia
This week I get to sit down with Miia Keski-Nikkola and talk food, which is no hardship for me; busting some myths, discussing Mother Nature’s offerings and looking at traditional Xmas Food.

Guests: Miia Keski-Nikkola, Restauranteur

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Reconstructing Finland’s Emigrant History

World of Trails

Season 2 Episode 26
Tella takes us on a walk through history at the World of Trails in Peräseinäjoki. A collection of buildings, previously owned by Finnish emigrants, dismantled, moved and reconstructed in South Ostrobothnia.


Guest: Tella Lahti, Executive Director, Finnish Emigrant Museum

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Festivals: Midsummer Metal & Tango Camper Vans

Finnish Festivals

Season 2, Episode 25
Juha talks about more Finnish festivals. From the Heavy Metal Midsummer through the invasion of camper vans for Seinäjoen Tangomarkkinat and on to newer, urban events for HipHop and EDM.

<Audio File>

Guest: Juha Koivisto – Festival promoter, Agent

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Provinssirock Festival & the Finnish Music Scene

Provinssirock new logo

Season 2, Episode 24
Juha talks about the history of the Provinssirock Festival, and the popularity of domestic music making it possible for Finnish-only events to sell-out.

Guest: Juha Koivisto – Festival promoter, Agent

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

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How Much Does Finland Love Ice Cream?

Ice Cream graphic courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ice Cream graphic courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Season 2, Episode 22
Päivi explains how ice cream is made at Wirtalan Jäätelö and gives a surprising answer to the question ‘What is South Ostrobothnia’s favourite flavour?’

 

Guest: Päivi Virtaniemi, Entrepreneur and co-founder of Wirtalan Jäätelö

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Jokkis / Finnish Folk Racing – Motor Sport for ‘Everyman’

Jokkis

Season 2, Episode 20
Emilia explains the basic of Jokamiehenluoka/Jokkis/Finnish Folk Racing, before getting behind the wheel on race day.


Guest: Emilia Uutela, Andrenalin-junkie Jokkis Driver

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Finnish Music Traditions: From Folk to Rap!

"M2403 - kantele - okänd tillverkare - foto Mikael Bodner" by Musik- och teatermuseet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:M2403_-_kantele_-_ok%C3%A4nd_tillverkare_-_foto_Mikael_Bodner.jpg#/media/File:M2403_-_kantele_-_ok%C3%A4nd_tillverkare_-_foto_Mikael_Bodner.jpg

“M2403 – kantele – okänd tillverkare – foto Mikael Bodner” by Musik- och teatermuseet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Season 2, Episode 18 – A short introduction to traditional Finnish music from Piia & Mika, including Iskelmä, Choral, Rautalanka, Folk… and Rap.


Guests: Piia Kleemola-Välimäki and Mika Virkkala, from the Sibelius Academy

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The History of Emigration from Finland

Emigrant Museum

Season 2, Episode 17
Tella tells about Finland’s historical emigration, where people came from, where they eventually settled and some that made their fortune and came back again. 

 

Guest: Tella Lahti, Executive Director, Finnish Emigrant Museum

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What on Earth is Mölkky? And how exactly do you say it?

IMG_0030

The Mölkky skittles at the start of the game

Summer 2015 barely deserves that name, but as August starts and the school holidays draw to a close, of course, the weather takes a turn for the better!

This is the perfect opportunity to try out our new garden game, Mölkky. To answer the 2nd question first, it is pronounced Meul-kuu. The first question needs only a little more explanation. Simply put, it is a bit like pub-skittles, where you use a wooden baton to knock over the skittles, numbered 1-12, scoring points as you go. Naturally, it’s the details that make it fun.

At the start of the game the skittles are arranged on a group, close together. The players take it in turns to throw the baton to try to knock the skittles over. If you knock over a single skittle, you score the value on that skittle, if you knock over more than one, you score a single point for each.

After the each turn the skittles are reset in the position they landed, so the game area soon starts to spread, isolating certain skittles, allowing them to be targeted more easily – but at the risk of missing all of them! The winner is the first player to reach the score of 50. Easy enough BUT if you go over, even by a single point, then your score is rest to 25 and you allow your opponents a chance to win.

Simple, fun and addictive. The other great aspect is that almost any number can play. I’ve played one vs.one and in a group of 15+, so it’s ideal for summer parties, barbecues etc.

As the official Mölkky website says ‘hard to say, easy to play.’

You can read more about the game here http://www.tactic.net/molkky/

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Easter in Finland: The Season of the (white) Witch

Easter traditions in Finland

Easter in Finalnd involves as much chocolate as my Easters growing up in the UK, but here they work a lot harder for it! My experiences below are based on my observations living in Western Finland, these differ from Eastern Finland.

Growing Grass

Approximately one week before Easter, the children plant grass seeds in dishes and excitedly watch them grow throughout the week. This is symbolic of the reawakening of the lad after Winter and, sometimes, is the first time grass has been spotted during the year!

Easter grass

Easter grass

Decorating Pajunkissa

This work starts in the week leading up to Easter, when the children go out to collect Pussy Willow twigs (Pajunkissa) which are just starting to sprout small, fluffy buds. These are then painstaking decorated with coloured pipe-cleaners, feathers, ribbons and small chicks. These will become vital ‘currency’ at the end of the week.

Decorated pajunkissa

Decorated pajunkissa

Practising the Virvonta Rhyme

During the week, the children will also practice the all-important Virvonta rhyme, which will be oft-repeated on Easter Saturday;

“Virvon varvon, tuoreeks terveeks tulevaks vuodeks. Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!”

Which translates as;

“I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead: A twig for you, a treat for me!”

(Thanks to Fran Weaver on This Is Finland for the translation.)

 

Dressing-up as Witches

Traditionally, the Finnish Easter-witches, or Trulli, look more like wise, old women or maybe white witches, brightly dressed in head scarves and apron with freckles painted on their faces. That said,  the influence of Halloween has been evident in recent years with an increase in the number of witches dressed in black – in fact, this year we were also visited by a skeleton!

Virvonta

Easter Saturday finally arrives and all of the preceding preparations come together for the tradition of Virvonta. The children gather together their decorated pajunkissa, they dress-up as witches and take a basket or bag for collecting treats; usually chocolate eggs, small chocolate bars, sweets etc.

They then hit the street, similar to Halloween traditions, they go knocking on doors, reciting their rhyme while waving a twig (in our case, driving Boris the Dog crazy at the same time!). The homeowner will then offer a treat and take the twig form the children. Meaning that the kids accumulate sweets, while the homeowners accumulate decorated twigs!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Bonfires

In the evening, many people will gather around large, communal bonfires. These are designed to ward of evil spirits… or maybe to burn excess wood left over from winter.

Hyvää pääsiäistä! / Happy Easter!

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Introducing: Ostrobothnia In English magazine

I just wanted to take a moment to introduce the Ostrobothnia In English e-magazine, something of a kindred spirit to the Explore Finland Radio Show; both take a similar premise, taking Ostrobothnia to a global audience, but via very different mediums.

I’m delighted that Teija Tynkkinen, the Editor of OIE, has included a ‘few words’ from me for the first edition of her magazine. I hope that this will be something on which we can cooperate over the coming months and years, so if you’re more of a reader of, than a listener to, the Explore Finland Radio Show, then you should probably check it out.

And if you are a regular listener (bless you!) you should probably follow the link below and have a read as well. Let me know in the comments what you think.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Distilling, Prohibition & Koskenkorva Vodka

Season 1 Episode 9 Jaakko & Martti’s Tour of Koskenkorva Museum:
Join me as I visit the Koskenkorva Museo and learn about the history of distilling in Koskenkorva, as well as the distinctive local clocks, Könnikello, and we take another, brief tour around the saunas at Koskenkorva Trahteeri, until we end up at the ‘vodka tap’! Intrigued?

Guests: Jaakko & Martti Koskenkorva

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A Tour of the Aalto Centre, Seinäjoki pt.2

Aalto Collage Lg2

Season 1 Episode 8. Part 2 of 2
I continue my guided tour of the Alvar Aalto centre in Seinäjoki, by visiting Aalto’s theatre (with it’s collection of glass and porcelain by Alvar & Aino Aalto) and the new Apila library next door to Aalto’s original. (Episode 1 can be found here. )

Guest: Marianne Holma, Seinäjoki City Guide

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A Tour of the Aalto Centre, Seinäjoki pt.1

Episode 7 – Marianne’s Guided Tour of the Alvar Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki, part 1

Episode 7 – Marianne’s Guided Tour of the Alvar Aalto Centre in Seinäjoki, part 1

Season 1 Episode 7: Part 1 of 2.
Marianne takes me on a guided tour of the Alvar Aalto centre, in Seinäjoki, a cluster of six, civic buildings that form its iconic centrepiece. Alvar and Aino Aalto are arguably Finland’s greatest designers and, in part 1, you can hear Marianne describe the Town Hall and Lakeuden Risti Church.

Guest: Marianne Holma, Seinäjoki City Guide

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Just Why Is The Sauna So Important To Finns?

Sauna Collage lg

Season 1 Episode 6
In this episode I speak to Jaakko and Martti Koskenkorva about the most recognisable Finnish word in the world, Sauna. I visited them at Koskenkorva Trahteeri to talk about the history, the traditions and why the sauna is so important to the Finns.

Guests: Jaakko & Martti Koskenkorva

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Buying & Selling in Finland’s Flea-Markets

Kirppis

Season 1 Episode 5
I speak to Henna about the significance of the Kirppis in Finland. We attend an event to sell some clothes and I then visit a few other types of Kirpputorit in Seinäjoki to compare & contrast.

Guest: Henna Rantasaari

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Softengine, Luritus Choir & Alvar Aalto. In concert.

Many of you outside of Europe may not fully understand the Eurovision Song Contest, not everyone inside Europe takes it that seriously, and the recent balkanisation of European counties has led to countries ‘voting for their neighbours hasn’t helped that, but the viewing figures are huge and many a star has been born at Eurovision.

In 2014, Finland was represented by Softengine, a rock band consisting of five young guys from Seinäjoki and their debut tune Something Better. They managed an impressive 11th place and, in the process, amassed Finland’s second best-ever score of 72 points (heavy metal monsters Lordi actually won  the competition in 2006 with 292 points) Following this performance, Softengine’s profile in Finland has risen pretty high and late last year they released their debut album, We Created the World; Caleb Followill’s roaring vocals, the melodies of Coldplay and fashionable, rave-synths are pretty good signposts to the album’s sound.

There was a story in Ilkka, the regional, daily newspaper, on Sunday 11.1.2015 about a slightly different gig for Softengine, one that covers a few local touchstones; rock music, choir-singing and Alvar Aalto!

On 15th March 2015, Softengine will be playing a concert in Seinäjoki at the iconic Lakeuden Risti church, which was designed by the iconic Alvar Aalto. At this show, the band will be backed by a local youth choir, Luritus, with whom Softengine have a longstanding connection.

Luritus is not a traditional, church choir, they describe themselves on Facebook as a choir for ‘…both boys and girls – children and teenagers. Luritus isn’t a traditional choir. Besides singing, the performances include varied instruments, body percussion, drama, poetry and dance.’ The YouTube video below gives a good idea of what that invloves.

Full disclosure, my son Olli is a member of Luritus, and the Choir Leader, Hanne Orrenmaa, really has them well-drilled both with their singing and their movement. Every performance is different and well worth your time. I have my ticket, and I’m already counting the days. See you there?

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Evie Goes to Restaurant Day in Vaasa

Restaurant Day

Season 1 Episode 4
Restaurant Day (Ravintolapäivä) originated in Helsinki, so I travel to nearby Vaasa, with my daughter Evie, to visit some of the pop-up restaurants and speak to some of the restaurant organisers about their experiences.

Guests: Heimo Oksanen, Walter Syö, Malin Holm and Evie Wiltshear

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Christmas 2014, Finnish-style

I don’t know how Christmas is celebrated in your country, but in Finland it is a peaceful, reflective time. People send greetings like “Rentoa ja Rauhallista Joulua ihan kaikille!” (A Relaxing and Peaceful Christmas to everyone!), or “Levollista joulua teille” (A Restful Christmas to you all”). This attitude is reflected throughout the festive period. Also, Christmas is celebrated on 24th December in the Nordic region, which is presumably to fit in with Santa’s busy schedule; he starts with the closest countries on the 24th and finishes on the 6th January in Spain 🙂

This is how we celebrated Xmas 2014 in Seinäjoki…

The family were all awake by 9:00 and had a quick breakfast. It was a chilly minus 12 degrees outside when we took Boris the Dog out for a walk in the nearby woods, while the sauna was warming-up for our return. The Xmas Eve sauna is not compulsory but many families do it and I wasn’t going to miss out. I couldn’t convince everyone to get involved but Evie joined me.

Leena then made sure she watches the ‘Declaration of Christmas Peace’ at midday. This traditional announcement dates back to medieval times, 1320, and is made from Turku the former capital of Finland. It is read in Finnish and Swedish and is considered the beginning of Christmas;

“Huomenna, jos Jumala, suo, on meidän Herramme ja Vapahtajamme armorikas syntymäjuhla.”

“I morgon, vill Gud, innefaller vår Herres och Frälsares nåderika födelsefest.”

(Tomorrow, God willing, is the grace-filled celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour.)

You can read more on the YLE News site here

Leena was also preparing the first of the traditional meals of the day; Riisipuuro (rice porridge, or rice pudding) is a traditional way to start Xmas, with an almond or two dropped in to bestow good luck on the person who finds it in their bowl (similar to the British tradition of sixpence in the Xmas pudding). We ate this at midday rather than for breakfast, and I was lucky enough to get two almonds in my bowl – the kids complained bitterly, then declined to eat those found in their bowls! After eating and getting dressed we set off on the trip to Mummilla (Grandma’s home).

Xmas dinner is something of a feast in many countries and Finland is no different. What IS different is the food that is served. The most ‘Finnish’ part of the menu are the various ‘laatikko’ dishes – literally ‘box’ dishes, these consist of various mashed or pureed vegetables baked in trays in the oven – we had carrot, potato and swede, along with a liver & rice combination, all of which are quite sweet and very more-ish! The main meat served is a roasted ham, plus boiled potatoes, green salad, pickled herrings, coleslaw, and a seasonal, spiced bread ‘Joululimppu’.

Dessert was served two hours later allowing everyone to make a little room for various cakes, biscuits and chocolates as well as the mince pies and Xmas pudding from the UK. In the meantime, we all took a short walk to the nearby cemetery for the tradition of lighting candles in honour of our ancestors. The sight is quite something to behold, with hundreds, thousands(?) of lit candles, the photos really don’t do them justice! It allows you a time-out from all the feasting to think a little about previous generations, and maybe what they would have thought about the concept of a blog or a podcast.

When we returned home the kids found out that ‘Joulupukki’ (Santa Claus) had been. Evie wasted no time putting her ‘tonttu’ hat on, a red elf-hat with a bell on the end, and attacking the pile under the tree. Many Finnish families arrange for someone to visit dressed as ‘pukki to give out the presents, with the children singing songs for ‘pukki. This could be a family friend or someone raising money for their sports club (you can see the photo from our Xmas in 2013) – that said the younger children often find this a little scary and Leena has bad childhood memories of Santa being a little too merry at the end of a long day delivering gifts! We didn’t have anyone come this year, but that didn’t dampen the excitement – those presents didn’t stand a chance!

After the presents came dessert, after dessert came wine and board games. Neither were compulsory, but we tried a couple of the new games that Olli & Evie received, Splendor (Olli) The Magic Tower (Evie). Sadly though, it was soon time to head home and light the fire, the kids promptly fell asleep in bed, and Leena and I promptly fell asleep in front of the TV – well some things never change…

Hyvää joulua / Merry Xmas

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊