Journey In Finland Related By Student From Ishpeming

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1 - 1 - REPORT FROM SCANDINAVIA: NO. 14 Journey In Finland Related By Student From Ishpeming (This is another In a series of articles on European countries prepared especially for The Mining Journal by Vincent H. Malmstrom, Ishpeming, who is studying Geography In Scandinavia.-Ed.) BY VINCENT H. MALMSTRÖM OSLO, April 12-By the time you have reached Jyväskylä, you have come into the very heart of central Finland. This attractive city of 30,000 is not only the home of a teachers college but also another example of that harmonious blending of industry and nature which we find throughout the Scandinavian countries. Giant sawmills and paper factories nestle at the foot of pine-clad ridges and strewn across the quiet waters of Lake Päijänne, at whose northern end the city is situated, are virtually acres of log rafts waiting their turn for processing. It was through such expanses of logs that our streamer started down the lake, soon leaving the smoke stacks of Jyväskylä behind us and winding us in and out of a maze of channels and islands. For 10 relaxing hours we coursed down Päijänne, the largest lake in central Finland, calling in at little towns along the way, picking up passengers and discharging cargo. Stream Of Steamers In the summer the lakes of Finland are her highways and besides regular passenger service one sees a steady stream of freight streamers towing barges and rafts. Like the coastal districts of Norway, central Finland been broken by so many arms of water that continuous land travel in this area is virtually impossible. Sooner or later one comes to a ferry crossing but the most notable and interesting exceptions are the roads that follow the ridge-like formations known as eskers, Finnish harju. These ridges are the remnants of glacial rivers which once ran beneath the great ice sheet that covered Finland and they slither across the surface of the land like contorted snakes. In the Lake District they are often the only land that stands above the water so the roads must follow them -- submissively winding and bending back and forth. Once again, however, I must say that such phenomena are best appreciated from the air when one can drink in the whole, unrivaled complexity of Finland's lake district in one sweeping vista. After being locked through the small Vääksy canal and crossing Lake Vesijärvi, our steamer tied up at the port of Lahti, Finland's youngest, fastest-growing and perhaps most attractive city. Founded in 1950, Lahti now numbers over 45,000 inhabitants and is the home of the Finnish Broadcasting Station and the internationally famous winter games of Salpausselkä. The latter name is derived from the giant ridge, on whose slopes 1

2 - 2 - the city has grown. This ridge extends in an unbroken line east to the Soviet border and southwest to the Gulf of Finland, with Lahti located precisely at the point where it changes its direction somewhat like a pin supporting two great festoons. This ridge -- the Salpausselkä -- not only separates the lake district of Finland from the coastal lowland to the south but it likewise provides Finland with a ready-made gravel roadbed -- a fact that the enterprising Finns turned to good advantage when they built their main east-west railroad. Like almost all other features of the Finnish landscape, the Salpausselkä is a product of the Ice Age; but because it provides geologists with one of the most spectacular and perfect examples of a recessional moraine, it is especially dear to the hearts of students and teachers. In curious contrast to the dazzling modernity of Lahti, however, is the antique little locomotive which runs between the lakeside and the station. The two-coach train that runs over this half mile of track must certainly deserve the reputation of Finland's shortest train on Finland's shortest rail line. Sports Or Intrigue From Lahti it's a little over two hours on a fast express train to Helsinki -- the Finnish capital. The very mention of this name turns most American thoughts to one of two things -- sports, if he is of a lighter turn of mind, or intrigue, if he tends to dwell on the dramatic. Both are indeed, present in Helsinki, but the former much overshadows the latter. All Finnish attention is being, and has been devoted for some time, to the preparations for the 1952 Olympic Games. The strikingly beautiful stadium has been enlarged to accommodate several thousand more spectators, the port facilities are being expanded to accommodate the great influx of foreign vessels which is expected and the housing committee is working overtime trying to find accommodations for the record volume of guests which is anticipated. The latter has proved to be the most difficult, for in a city as rapidly growing as Helsinki, the housing shortage is already critical. As a further convenience to foreign guests, however, everybody from shop girls to policemen are being given special courses in English, so there will be little excuse for the visitor not being able to make his wishes known. In bi-lingual Helsinki, most people know Swedish too, so the cultural gulf that has often led foreigners to speak of Finnish as "Europe's secret language" will be bridged by one means or another. Cosmopolitan Community If the tourist sees no more of Finland than Helsinki, he will of course get little or no idea of the real Finland of lakes and forests, for the Finnish capital is as cosmopolitan as any other European city of 400,000. But he will nevertheless be impressed by the effective blending of ultra-modern functionalistic architecture (for which the Finns are justly famous) with stately cathedrals and public buildings, the broad, tree-lined esplanades, which cut through the center of the city, and the small garden-like parks which dot the suburbs. What particular charm Helsinki has, I don't know -- it lacks the 2

3 - 3 - mountains of Oslo, the islands of Stockholm and the canals of Copenhagen, but it nevertheless has a strong appeal that makes the tourist understandably hesitant to leave it, During the past few travel seasons, Finland has been suffering from a much reduced influx of tourists, and though part of the answer lies in the undeniable fact that it is frightfully expensive to travel in Finland, the major share of the blame falls on the international situation-- or at least on what misinformed people think of the international situation. Many tourists who have "seen" Denmark, Norway, and Sweden turn around in Stockholm because they somehow have the notion that Finland lies behind the Iron Curtain. To travel to Helsinki would be like sticking your head in a lion's mouth -- or perhaps in this instance it would be better to say a bear's mouth. At any rate, nothing could be farther from the truth. Difficult Customer No one will deny that Finland's eastern neighbor is a difficult customer to got along with, but no nation in Europe is more conscious of its own independence than Finland. Yes, you can buy Russian articles in the stores, read Russian newspapers, see Russian films and listen to Russian choruses in Helsinki. You can hear Russian spoken in the hotels and shops, but that still doesn't mean that the Soviets are succeeding in wooing any large numbers of Finns over to their ideologies. The Finns know only too well that they are much better off than their eastern neighbor when it comes to material things, for they saw the drafty, squalid huts that the Russian peasants in Karelia lived in during the last war. Such sights recalled to them the conditions that existed in their own country before they achieved independence over 30 years ago, and they have no desire to go back to such conditions. No, talk of the glories of Soviet progress largely falls on deaf ears when it is directed toward the Finns. They will accept cultural interchanges of all kinds in a neighborly spirit, but as one working man told me, in broken but animated Swedish they still prefer the "Hawaian dancing girls to the Cossack choral clubs. The Finns may be living in the shadow of a bear but you would never guess it from their easy, unworried deportment. I would venture the guess that there is far less "hysteria" in Helsinki than there is in either Washington or New York. A Finn can spend a very enjoyable evening at the exclusive Fisketorp restaurant northwest of Helsinki without once wincing at the thought that he is at that moment within range of the long-range cannons of the Soviet base of Porkkala. The Finns refuse to be frightened by shadows, because they know if something does happen, the same indefinable spirit of "sisu" which has carried them through in the past will carry them through again. Finnish confidence and courage should be an example to all would-be worriers in this atomic age. Elanto Cooperative Society 3

4 - 4 - One day of my stay in Helsinki was spent as a guest of the Elanto cooperative society, the largest local organization of its kind in Finland. Elanto, which literally means "living," has over 90,000 members, 4,000 employees, 400 stores, 20 restaurants and a whole series of productive establishments, including a flour mill, bakery, canning factory, brewery, and dairy. It also has its own green houses, apartment buildings, garage, laundry and sauna -- all of which are patronized regularly not only by the average consumer but by the chairman of the board of directors. Members of the cooperative are not only entitled to a consumer refund each year but also to a weekly magazine (published in both Finnish and Swedish), financial assistance at death and gift parcels for children. In addition the members are covered by a whole battery of social provisions, including free medical service, maternity care, bonuses, pensions, life insurance, paid vacations, and special recreational facilities. Along the cultural line there is an amateur theater group, chorus, orchestra and various athletic and hobby clubs. With virtually a quarter of Helsinki's population united in this one great cooperative, its influence and benefits have been especially felt in the city's economic life. Membership in Elanto seems to be tantamount to membership in a very large, but very happy family and the example set by the Finns in this field is something which we might well study with profit. Perhaps some Mining Journal readers will recall Mr. Martti Larni's visit to the Marquette county area in 1948 when, as editor-in-chief of the Elanto magazine, he described in greater detail the work of his organization. Voyage To Tampere From Helsinki I travelled to Tampere the greatest industrial town of Finland, as a guest of the Foreign Ministry. At Hämeenlinna, I had a pleasant, but unscheduled stop that allowed me to stroll through the streets of Jean Sibelius's hometown and visit the ancient Tavastehus fortress. I say unscheduled stop, because here I missed the train, thanks to my misunderstanding of the Finnish principle of punctuality. Tampere afforded me an impression of what an industrial town should look like -- clean, orderly and cultured despite its profusion of textile mills, locomotive works and shoe factories. Here, just a stone's throw from the daringly modern railroad station, stood an antique reminder of Czarist days-an old redbrick church surmounted by a profusion of onion-shaped domes and Greek Orthodox crosses. The boarded windows and dilapidated fence which surrounded it were eloquent testimony to its lonely abandonment in the middle of an otherwise bustling city. From Tampere I journeyed down to Turku, Finland's oldest city and the country's capital during much of the Swedish period of domination. One of the most attractive sights in Turku is the imposing medieval cathedral which rears up along the river bank and which largely dominates the city's skyline. Turku is Finland's second largest city and the center of much of the country's industry and shipping. Off the coast from Turku are the nearly 27,000 rocks and islets that compose the Åland archipelago -- one of the largest island groups in the world. 4

5 - 5 - From the time that the spire of the Turku cathedral fades away in the distance until we tie up at the pier in Stockholm, we pass through a virtually continuous chain of small, scattered islands. They dot the sea like thousands of dark turtle backs and how the pilot can pick his way through such a maze is no mere academic question. As the sun sets, the chill wind makes itself more noticeable and as night falls over the Ålands you once again are forcibly impressed by the cold of the summer nights at this latitude -- particularly if you spend your night on deck as most passengers do. About one in the morning we touch in at the little port of Mariehamn, and minutes later we maneuver out of the harbor and set our course westward to Sweden once again, My last view of Finland was of those interminable bits of rock that have strung themselves out like a bridge toward Sweden, and the rosy light of dawn found our ship nosing its way into the equally-intricate archipelago which stands athwart the approaches to Stockholm. (Back to Table of Contents) 5

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