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.
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.
Few food stalls were open in Tammelantori on Vappu day This year Vappu in Tampere. I went to the city center to take some photos of the people in the streets which were almost empty. Ona normal Vappu, Tammelantori (market square) would be full of people wearing their new or old students white caps. they would be out, not matter whether the weather would be good or bad, to celebrate the end of the winter, the approaching summer, the long hours of daylight, their students’ lives, their youth and their memories. Read more here.
Vappu, or Walpurgis night, in Finland is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Midsummer. The celebration, which begins on the evening of 30 April and continue on 1 May. Many high school alumni wear the black and white student cap and many higher education students wear student coveralls. Traditionally, 1 May is celebrated by the way of a picnic in a park. For most, the picnic is enjoyed with friends on a blanket with food and drinks.
I went out to the center of Tampere on Vappu. I brought my camera because I thought that this year’s Vappu would be different.The center was deserted. Cafes has doors were open with signs inviting clients to buy Takeaway coffee. But nobody was around to buy. The Cafes were empty. I walked to Tammelantori and saw a couple of Asian food stalls selling the traditional munkki and siima.
On a normal Vappu there would be thousands of students in their white student caps walking in the streets or sitting in large groups and having a picnic at the central park at Koskipuisto. They would be joined by adults and elderly people many of whom would also wear their old students caps. Everybody would celebrate the end of the winter and beginning of the summer no matter what the weather is on the day.
I walked for about two hours. The streets were empty. People follow the government guidelines and they are doing the right things. The real Vappu was missing in these extraordinary times.
Sunday. Max Richter playing a modern version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I have added 120g of strong white flour to a mix yogurt and milk. Hopefully in two days there will be some bubbles. The beginning of a home made yeast.
I wander in these busy streets and ask myself where do the shop owners will put all the things they have hanging outside their shops. Is there enough space inside to put everything they display outside? I enjoy these buzzing streets. I watch people negotiating prices. Shop owners counting their revenue for the day on calculators. People stopping to chat or arguing about the quality of some fabric. It’s all very lively.
It is getting late. The sun has set and the sky is turning quickly to dark blue. Soon it will be night. The street lights are not yet on. The shops are small. One next to each other. Few steps up from the road where cars, motorbikes, bicycles go to and from. The man in white was going to pick up his wrist watch. He had left it for repair a day or two before. During those couple of days he was constantly checking with his right hand the left wrist as if all of a sudden realised he had lost the watch his father gave me many years before. So, he was in a hurry to pick it up and feel again the familiar reassurance that old watch gave him.