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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: Kokkola

Tyynelä's Elves Work Hard Year Round in Finland

Paula Gaston

We have been spending time in my hometown of Kokkola in Finland. While we were there, we also visited Luoto, a nearby tiny municipality, to see a place called Tyynelän Tonttula (Tyynelä Elves). It is a fun place for a quick stop if you are passing by the area, or spending time either in Kokkola or Pietarsaari. Tyynelä is usually open in summer months and during Christmas time, so before going, make sure to check their website to ensure it is actually open. 

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Tyynelä Elves was started when an antique sales person, Eija Perkola realised that her 18th century farm house was missing an elf. Just like in Harry Potter, in Finnish folk tales, it is common for every house to have their own elf living either in the barn, sauna or attic. Eija was not able to find a ready elf that she liked, so she decided to make her own. The elf came out so nice that many of her friends wanted one too, and soon people started to buy elves from her. Later Eija opened the doors of her beautiful house to the public and started showcasing the elves in Luoto.

There are many old fashioned barns, an old windmill and a few farm houses on the Tyynelä yard. The other house has a cafeteria and another is for the elves. Both houses have been furnished with antique furniture, and especially the cafe was beautiful. The Cafe building also has a little elf shop where one can buy an elf or some other souvenirs. One can visit the barns to see what the elves are doing. One of them is a store, in another they are building toys, and still another is a chapel. One shed also showcases some old toys and antiques. 

The cafeteria building

The cafeteria building

The cafeteria from inside

The cafeteria from inside

Chapel

Chapel

A new thing this year is the elf workshop where one can see how the elves are made. Each elf is hand painted and therefore unique. The elf master also sews clothes for elves and gives them a name. There are many sizes of elves; the biggest ones are human size. The most special of the elves are for sure the wedding elves, the Head Elf Topi and a singing elf. 

The Elf Workshop

The Elf Workshop

Wedding elves

Wedding elves

A singing elf

A singing elf

Head Elf Topi

Head Elf Topi

Tyynelä Tonttula is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee or with the kids. Our 6 year old seemed to fully enjoy the elves, even though one can not play with them. I on the other hand, enjoyed the summer day in my old home country.

The entrance fee to Tyynelän Tonttula is 7€ for adults and 3€ for kids (2018). We happened to visit on the kids day when all children were free.

If you want to see more of the Tyynelä Elves, check out my Instagram profile @paulagaston.  You can find some videos under the Highlights on the front page.

A Day at the Tankar, Kokkola's Lighthouse Island in Finland

Paula Gaston

After the storm on Midsummer weekend, on Sunday morning the sky was bright blue and the sun was warming up the day. We decided that it would be a perfect summer day to spend at sea, and go visit the Island of Tankar which is on the Gulf of Bothnia by my hometown Kokkola. I have visited this pretty island a few times before, but my husband had never been there and we hoped he would get to go there on this trip. So we bought tickets and rushed to MS Jenny, the boat which leaves from Meripuisto in Kokkola. 

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Tankar island was formed on land that rose from the sea and is located about 17 kilometres from the mainland. In the beginning it was known as Klippan, but after that was named as Tankokari which later was shortened to Tankar. The island soon became a base for both fishermen and seal hunters in the 16th century, and little fishing cottages were raised on the island. The distinctive mark of the island, the red and white lighthouse, was built in 1889.

The trip to Tankar on the MS Jenny takes about an hour and half. We enjoyed the summer day on deck, but they also have a restaurant and inside deck for those who want to stay warm. The route to Tankar goes along the coastline of Kokkola, so people on the boat can see the many summer houses and beaches. The boat stays in Tankar for two hours, which we felt was a little bit too short a visit. We had planned to have lunch in Cafe Tankar which took a lot of our time on the island. The time we had left was spent walking on the nature trail and seeing the buildings that are on it, but it would have been nice to just sit for a while to enjoy the view and chill. But I do recommend the tasty food package that they offer at the cafe. It came with some salmon soup, bread and butter, coffee and desert pie. It was delicious!

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Every now and then they bring along a lighthouse guide to the island who lets visitors into the lighthouse. We didn't go up to the lighthouse this time but I have visited there before. Climbing all the way up might have been a little too challenging with the baby and my husband felt like we should enjoy the nature trail instead, since the time was limited. However, we did visit a little church they have, and The Sealing Museum. The Tankar Church looks a lot like fishermen's cottages on the island and it can hold up to 100 people. It was built in 1754 so that the fishermen on the island wouldn't have to go to Kokkola for Sunday service. Today, it is a popular wedding church for smaller weddings. The Sealing Museum is showcasing some fishing gear and a sealing vessel from 1928. 

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Our day at the Tankar island was lovely! On a beautiful day like this, I can absolutely recommend a visit to Tankar to everyone visiting Kokkola!

 

Midsummer and the Nightless Night in Finland

Paula Gaston

After many years, we are back in Finland for Midsummer celebrations and the nightless night. The weather wasn't co-operating with us in the beginning, but we were jet lagged anyway, so we were OK with that. Finally the winds and the rain stopped on Saturday, so we headed out to meet some of our friends at their summer house, and started to get into some midsummer spirit. 

TRADITIONS OF MIDSUMMER

Midsummer (Juhannus) is celebrated in Finland on the week of summer solstice. The celebrations will start on Friday, and for many, this means the start of a summer vacation. This weekend people will enjoy the nightless nights at their summer houses which are usually located by lakes or the sea. The sun will stay up all night, so if the weather is good, Finns will sit outside eating and drinking even in the night time. The celebrations will continue through the weekend and most businesses will be closed. 

Traditionally, Finns decorate their summer cottages by putting up branches from birch trees by the door way. In some Swedish speaking areas a midsummer pole, or a maypole, might be built in the village. Another way to use birch trees at midsummer is in the saunas. Saunas are an important element of midsummer and every summer house in Finland has one. Traditionally people will dip into the lake or the sea in between the sauna session, and sauna vihta made out of birch branches is used to stimulate the skin in the heat. 

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In some parts of Finland they will also burn juhannuskokko, a bonfires which are built by the lake side. According to old beliefs, the fires will keep away all the bad spirits. People used to think that the nightless nights will make spirits restless so that they will start to wander around. It was also believed that by celebrating loudly (which included heavy drinking) the spirits would stay away. 

MIDSUMMER MAGIC

Over time there have been many beliefs and traditions practiced during midsummer nights. In most of the old folk magic rituals, young maidens can do different things to divine their future, or ensure they get married and are fertile. There are many different ways to do the rituals, but in some of the most popular ones, the maid must collect seven different flowers from seven different fields and then put them under the pillow for the night. During the night, the future husband will appear in the maiden's dream. To ensure yourself good luck in marriage, you can go out in the midsummer night, find a field with some morning mist, and roll around on it naked. Much of the magic includes nudity or is somehow connected with sauna culture. 

If you can hear the cuckoo in the midsummer night, you can count how many years it will take to find a spouse from it. If there is no cuckooing at all, the spouse will be found in the same year.

in addition to luck with finding a spouse or fertility, there are also some magics that will predict success in future crops.

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This midsummer we didn't do any magical rites. We sat with our friends talking and laughing, eating well and drinking some wine. Of course we also sat in the sauna at midnight and dipped into the chilly ocean water. It was such a great midsummer and it felt good to be back in Finland after such a long time. 

Missing Home This Summer

Paula Gaston

All these pictures are from my Instagram account. You can follow me @paulagaston

When you live abroad you are likely to have moments when you miss your home country. For me that mostly happens during summertime when everyone is posting pictures of the summer in Finland. Lakes, ice cream cones, blueberry pies and pictures of nightless nights. And believe me or not, I also miss a real thunder storm which people have been talking about recently. We don't really get a lot of them here in California.

Unfortunately, this summer we had to skip our trip to Finland. But I am already dreaming about next summer. I have read about many interesting places there that I would like to visit when I get a chance. I really wonder why I never went to these places when I was still living in Finland. It isn't before you have already moved, that you realise that you never visited the cool places of your childhood hometown or near it. I think we need more than just one trip to visit all these places. 

Last summer I spent some time mostly in my home town Kokkola where all the pictures above are from. The old town in Kokkola, Neristan, is very nice during the summer and you can sit by the ocean and look at the midnight sun. The picture on the right is from Evijärvi lake. I would love to dip into it this summer; it beats the pool anytime!

I also spent some time at our friend's house in the city of Vaasa. It used to be my home for 3 years when I was doing my bachelor's degree. I can't understand that even then I had not visited the Old Town Vasa ruins, the church or Söderfjärden. Next time, when my american husband visits Finland, I will be sure to take him here. 

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Then we drove up north to a town called Kemi to meet my relatives. There is always something fun going on in this town. Kids can drive a pedal car and learn traffic rules at a traffic park for free, and get their very own junior driver's license. Santa Claus had just opened an office downtown and was inviting all the kids over. Santa lives in Finland you know. On our way back home, we stopped at Ylivieska where they were grieving the loss of their church, which was burned down by an arsonist. It was pretty touching. 

All this used to be so close to me when I was living in Finland. After moving abroad, I realised how many places there were in my home country that I had never seen. It's almost like you take them for granted, since they have always been there. I hope we are able to travel back to Finland soon and go visit some beautiful places there!

Do you leave abroad? How often do you get to visit home?

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Old Town Neristan in My Hometown in Finland

Paula Gaston

I am a small town girl who grew up in Scandinavia, Finland. Most of my life I lived in Kokkola, which has about 47 000 residents. Many towns in Finland have so called "old towns" with their wooden houses and little alleys. So does Kokkola. Kokkola's old town is called Neristan and it is the heart of the town. It is something that we all are proud of.

 

The name Neristan comes from Swedish (ner i stan) and means downtown. Back at the time there was also Oppistan, uppertown, which now is the real downtown. It used to be where wealthy storekeepers lived, and it had a lot of businesses. There is still a lot of of businesses in that area, but it is modern and very few old buildings exist there. However, Neristan was the place for craftsmen and sailors. Most of the houses are built in the 19th century, with some dating to the 17th century. In 1664 a big fire destroyed almost the whole town which led to a new town plan. That plan is still used in Neristan which includes 12 complete blocks. 

One very cool thing in Neristan are the road signs. Many of them tell you about the history of the road. If you walk around the old town, you should keep your eye on the windows. You can still see some old porcelain dogs or mirrors on the windows. In the old days, the "sailor's dogs" were there to tell people wether the residents were home or not. If dogs were facing inside, it meant that there was someone home. The "gossip mirrors" got their name from people being curious about what happened in the streets of the old town. This way, it was easier to see the road from inside the house. At that time one could tell how prosperous the family was by the height of the plinth in their house. 

Gossip mirrow on the window helps you to see what is happening on the road

Gossip mirrow on the window helps you to see what is happening on the road

The oldest building in Kokkola is called Pedagogy and it is in the museum block right next to Neristan. It was built in 1696 to serve as a school building, and is now part of the K.H. Renlund Museum. Inside Pedagogy, you can get familiar with an exhibit of the history of schools. In the next building, the Lassander House, you can find an exhibit of the history of trading and seafaring.

Pedagogy

Pedagogy

There have been several cafes and restaurants in Neristan over the years. If you get hungry, you should try Vanhankaupungin Ravintola which is the only true fine dining restaurant in town, and very passionate about what they serve. Now, if you just want something smaller with a cup of coffee, one of my favourite spots during summer time is The Waffle Cafe & Art Bakery. They serve both savory and sweet waffles in the museum block, right next to Pedagogy. 

Vanhankaupungin Ravintola -restaurant

Vanhankaupungin Ravintola -restaurant

Waffles with ice cream

Waffles with ice cream

Walking distance from Neristan, you can find "barkassi", an English gunboat. It was left in Kokkola at the battle of Halkokari during Crimean War in 1854, when residents managed to successfully defend themselves and captured the boat and the crew. You can find it in English Park. 

There is a lot of other interesting things to see in Kokkola as well, especially if you are a friend of light houses or the sea, but Neristan can be seen even with a short stop when passing by.