I am not sure how many years ago exactly, but around years ago, someone decided that it was time for the old ferry to retire and to build this bridge instead. They brought and and gravel to the extend the road onto the lake and then started to build this bridge. When you walk across it you can still see the docking points of the small ferry. On the Eastern shore you can still see the old wooden house of the ferry pilot. A family had bought it and renovated and I saw the father and his three children jumping from the pier one late night last summer.
Now in winter the bridge stands upon the frozen water. The metal makes a sound now and then when the temperature lowers even further than today. It is -10C.
Yesterday. It was just four thirty in the aftwrnoon buy it was already dark. The sign on the road told us to turn left. We followed a forest road for about three kilometres. The snow on top of it was pressed by some cars that had passed by during the day. It made the surface smooth and not slippery. We passed few cottages with decorative LED light on but nobody inside. We reached the fireplace. It was cold. Maybe minus five or minus six. I put on the small pieces of wood I had cut at the cottage. Put under them some birch tree bark and lit the fire. In fifteen minutes we would have a late lunch or early dinner.
For many year I have been living in Southeast Asia. There were only two seasons then: wet season and dry season. Temperatures staying more or less the same.
I have been back with my family in Finland for more than three years now and I re-discovered the beauty if four seasons. My uncle used to ask me when I was living in Asia: don’t you miss the seasons? My answer was no, I did not. While living there I honestly did not miss them. I was living in Asia that meant usually two seasons, warm weather, the humidity of the tropics.
Now I am in Europe, in Finland. The summer is a bit short but I am back to the four seasons and how landscapes change four times a year.
This is what I was thinking, while walking in the footsteps of Katja on the frozen lake at out cottage.
I travelled to Eastern Finland for the beginning of the year. The forest is quite, silent. There is no wind. The snow stays on the branches of the trees. I can hear a woodpecker hitting the bark up on a tree nearby. The lake is frozen and the ice is covered by a layer of soft snow. Everything is still.
Today in Kitee: sunrise at 8:27am – sunset at 16:15. Cloudy. -6C.
Less than 8 hours of day light. Better to put some warm clothes on go for the 7km walk around the village and hamlets of Niinikumppu, in the countryside not far from Kitee.
The temperature has lowered since yesterday and you can hear the sound of the dry snow crunching under the sole of the boots. The countryside road is fully covered by snow with signs of the tiers of the cars that passed during the day. On the side of the road, where the snow is more soft, there are footprints of a couple walking their dog. We pass few empty homes. No lights inside. Cars or vans parked in the yard covered by snow. One house has a flag pole with the thin and long flag of this region, Karelia, hanging on the top and moving in slow waves. These are countryside house. All in wood. Mostly painted in dark red. The frames of the doors and windows in painted in white.
These houses seem hibernating and I ask myself where the owners are. Have they left just for the holidays? Have they moved elsewhere duchin the winter? Have they moved for good?
This is not my first walk around here. I have passed by these houses during the spring, the summer, the winter. These houses are well kept but they seem often empty. I try to imagine how it is to live here, in the countryside of Eastern Finland. 8 km form the main road. 15 km from Kitee, which is a small town. What do people do? How do they earn their living? Some may own fields and plant barley and other crops in the spring and summer. But the winter is quite long and farms tend to be pretty small. Some may own forest and would sell timber. But it takes years for seeding to become trees that are worth selling. What do they do in the meantime.
As I am writing this, I opened the AdminStat site and looked at the demographic data of the Municipality of Kitee. On 1. January 2017, the population was 10.719. The net birthrate for that year was -95. The net migration rate was -138. The population on 31. December of 2017 has decreased by 233 down to 10.486. That was in line with previous years when the population of Kitee on average decreased by 1,4%.
The largest age group in the municipality is the 55-64 which accounted in 2017 for 19,865 of the population. The people in the age groups from 55 and above account for 52,46% of the population. This means that the young people leave the municipality and the population here is getting older.
What will be the future of municipalities like Kitee in the 21st century, I wondered during my walk today. i have been coming here regularly for the past 20 years. How will the houses I saw today look like 20 -40 years from now. Will they still be inhabited? Will they still be there? Will they be look run down and abandoned? Will there be young families living here?
It is six months that I have not posted new photos or written a blog post. Maybe it because of the pandemic and the fact that the days seem all the same through Zoom calls, Google meets, Mural whiteboards. I am thankful I have a job and can work from home, but the lack of face-to-face contacts blurs the difference between days, weeks, and months.
One of the effect this pandemic has on me is that it made me forget my camera. It is as if by remaining in one place for such a long period had made me loose touch with my photography.
It is good we came for the Christmas break to Eastern Finland. It has been nice having the camera with me again and taking photos during the walks we did the last few days.
We have taken advantage of the few hours of daylight and have been going for walks around the countryside in Niinikumpu, near Kitee. I enjoy walking along the country side roads and look for black and white patterns: a snow coverer pine tree, the poles of the electricity line, the profile of a hill and a farmhouse on top of it.
Here some of the photos I took yesterday and today.
As Goethe once wrote: ‘Sicily is the key to everything.’ I travelled there for the first time in April 2018. Something I had postponed for too long. I walked in the streets of Noto and felt the history of the city. I felt in my own country, somewhere I knew, and, at the same time, somewhere new, somewhere where there is a lot I need to explore.
This year’s Vappu was empty. People stayed at home. they followed the social distancing guidelines that need to be followed now. The streets in Tampere where empty. Few people sat in the parc. The coffee shops were open only for takeaway. Hopefully, next year things will be better.