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The last two days, we haven't done much of anything.  Mostly, we've sat on boats puttering through some of the prettiest landscape, for my money, in the world.  Firs!  Rocks!  Sparkling water!  Pretty little houses tucked back into the trees, with docks and bathing houses!  Iiiiislands!

We could have gotten to Nauvo in an hour and a half on a bus and a ferry from Parainen, but we elected to take the island cruise on the good ship Autere, which took three hours, because what the hey, it was a beautiful day, and I like archipelagos.  As we put-putted along, Ellen exclaimed that glacial rocks look like loaves of dark rye bread, which they do--even down to a light dusting of lichen and lime.  Only the tiniest islands are uninhabited, although many of the houses lurk back among the trees and can only be deduced by a tiny bathing house built out on the rocks or a boat tethered to a weathered dock--or, in one case, a helicopter on a sea-side helipad.  After I'd had enough sun and wind, I retired to the cozy cabin, curled up on a cushioned bench, and actually wrote about 600 words on Wizard's Apprentice, glancing up from time to time to watch the islands gliding by.  It was very satisfying.  They aren't very coherent words, but they're better than nothing.

Nauvo itself is living proof that all small seaside resort towns are more alike than they are different.  There is a harbor full of motor launches and beautifully-cared for and whimsically-named sailboats.  There are shops selling hoodies and deck shoes and colorful tops and hats and bathing suits.  There are shops selling maritime souvenirs, many of them made of rope or brass.  There are food stalls and ice-cream stands (although I'm reasonably sure that only in Scandanavia does fish smoked on the premises count as fast food).  There are tourists in sunburns and brightly-colored shorts and sandals pushing strollers and carrying tearful toddlers.  There are small children with ice-cream smeared faces running around in an ecstasy of freedom and sugar.  There is a harborside hotel--in this case, painted red with white trim--with flower boxes around the terrace and light, airy rooms with white furniture and chintz curtains and sprigged wallpaper.

Our room boasts a large porch, with a table and two plastic suitable for writing and two reclining chairs suitable for reading.  We have used all of them for both of those things--also for hanging out the Necessary Washing I've done over the past two days and eating the last of our blueberry pie/cookie.  The weather is variable--warm and sunny one moment, cool, heavy, and threatening the next.  It's clear from the yellowed grass that rain would be welcome, and we're very cosy and busy in our little room, so I rather hope it does storm, and get it out of its system.

Before we settled down to our reading and writing, we ate lunch (Caesar salad with smoked salmon, and very nice indeed, and 14 cl of Crowmore apple cider, which we shared with some wasps) and dropped into the church.  It is utterly enchanting, built originally in 1340-something out of granite blocks, with lovely groined ceilings and whitewashed and decorated walls.  All that's left of the original paintings are two out of the seven Cardinal Virtues (Strength and Fortitude) on the pillars nearest the altar, and portions of some shadowy saints high along the nave.  The ribs of the arches are painted with ochre and terracotta chevrons, which must have been done fairly recently, but look like they've been there forever.  I don't know when the box pews were added--possibly 1767, when the churchyard wall and gate were built.  They're carved and painted a lovely serene blue.  There's a splendid model ship in full sail hanging in the nave, near an utterly incongruous crystal chandelier that looks like a refugee from a Las Vegas hotel.  I took pictures, which I promise faithfully to post somewhere you can see them when I get home, because I have a new camera, and I almost know how to use it.

Continuing our island-and-church tour of the Turku archipelago, this morning we took the free ferry to the nearby island of Selie.  It's not an island with a happy history, having been the center of the sealing trade for centuries, not to mention being the site of a leper hospital, and later an insane asylum for women which didn't close until 1973.  At some point, they built a church on the island for the lepers, a rough-hewn and strictly practical building whose considerable beauty depends entirely on its proportions, which are lovely, the barrel ceiling over the nave, and the ships-railing screens separating the lepers from the rest of the congregation. Everything is unpainted raw wood--ceiling, walls, box pews, altar--except the pulpit, which is decorated with slightly smug-looking angels in cream-colored lozenges and backed by a painting of a woman on a sick-bed being comforted by an angel holding a host.  The painting was as rough as the construction, and very hard to see.  But it fit with the church, as did the pair of carved hands holding candles and the individual wooden candleholders stuck into holes on the backs of the pews.  The whole place smelled of wood, and was very peaceful.  In the graveyard we walked through rows of wooden crosses with women's names on them--the last of the asylum inmates, dying off one by one.

We walked around the island for a while, looking at wildflowers and the old asylum (occupied these days by a Marine Research Institute, and closed to the public), watching the weather change from bright sunshine to windy gloom.  Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, we took the early ferry back to Nauvo, where we are spending the afternoon making arrangements to stay in Finland an extra four days.

Yes, it's a surprise to us, too.  Ellen has been struck by an idea for a story set in Keralia, where Elias Lannrot did much of his research for the Kalevala.  And Keralia is a lot closer to where we are now than it is to New York, and the story is for an anthology due this fall.  The long and the short of it is, instead of coming home on July 28, we're going to Kuhmo, where there's a Kalevala theme park (yes, really), and an outdoor museum full of old houses.  With Kati Clements and her husband, because that's where she comes from and her husband's a folklore and history buff and she's a saint.

We're coming home August 2 instead.

Good thing I brought extra medication.

Tomorrow, we leave the islands (although there may or may not be one more dinner cruise with Tero and some other folks we met at Finncon) for Turku.  As always, it'll be hard to leave Nauvo, just as we're beginning to feel settled.  Doesn't take us long, does it?



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
ohhh, I'm happy you got to see the island of Seili! It is pronounced roughly like "sailing" without the "ng". It is quite a place, and there are stories of people who did not actually have leper but for some reason or other their families wanted to get rid of them, and so they were sentenced to that island for life. IIRC they were allowed to make booze and sell it to the outside world...

BTW: some Finnish writers have mixed Lovecraftian mythos with Finnish folklore and set stories in the Turku archipelago. Think about those tiny isolated islands in autumn, when it's dark and stormy... :-)

Another spelling correction (can't resist those!): it's Karelia (Karjala in Finnish). My maternal grandmother is originally from the Karjala-beyond-the border, the parts that belonged to Finland before WWII.

I'm also very happy to hear you'll be staying a bit longer! Perhaps there's a chance to meet you again when you'll return to Helsinki?

love, Johanna-the-translator :-)
Jul. 23rd, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
I really need to check my spelling better. I just think I know, and take my best guess. Never a good idea.

Cuthulu on a tiny wooded island. Now that's a shiversome thought.
Jul. 23rd, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Wow. Sounds very lovely. Your post proves the point of always there is new things to learn. I have never been to Europe, but consider myself something of a history and geography buff, so it is rare that I am surprised but such things. However, I had never heard of the Turku Archipelago and this remarkable area of Finland. I just spent a while researching it, and am amazed. What a wonderfully fractured landscape! Seems like one of the great areas of the world, but maybe not well known. I think I have looked at maps of the area dozens of times and never noticed. There must be thousands of islands. Seems wonderful, and interesting.

I bet there are pockets of cultures and a lost civilization or two somewhere. Islands can be so interesting, both imagination inducing and reality. In the Chesapeake, we have Smith Island and others, which have preserved obscure pockets of dialect, related to, but not precisely, that of Elizabethan English.

Looking forward to the pictures.
Jul. 23rd, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
Lost families, anyway. And some really cool folklore. And lots of SCENERY!

Now I'll really have to come to terms with one of the on-line photo hosting sites. Decisions, decisions.
Jul. 24th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Facebook will do, however, Flickr is very easy as well.
Jul. 23rd, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
I know your intinerary must be pretty full even with the extended stay (yay!), but I would just like to point out that Lönnrot's birthplace and his final home are both in Lohja - less than an hour's drive from Helsinki, en route from Turku.


hope to see you guys in Helsinki,
Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Lönnrot
We know, we know. We just don't have tiiiiime. Not and visit Ellen's brother's best friend from high school's summer house near Porvoo.

We'll just look at your links. ;-)

Yes, I hope we see you in Helsinki, too.
Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Lönnrot
If we can't manage to get there, well, the picture in the link is fantastic! I'm planning to write a fantasia about Lonnrot going north as a teenager (hey, it's a YA anthology) and meeting a witch. So it would be nice to know where he came from...
Jul. 23rd, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
Seldom has the title of your blog, "Grand Tour," been so amply justified! Chicago says hello (from an air-conditioned Starbucks, as often this sweltering July)!
Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Just wait until we get to Australia OMG.
Jul. 24th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
I'll be there, too, and I'm staying in Melbourne afterward, so we must get together--even if it takes moving to the Antipodes to do so.
Jul. 24th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
See you there, then!
Jul. 23rd, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Ha, m'dearie-o -- *you* haven't done much of anything-- *I* have been hunkered down dealing with Bordertown edits & administrivia (with partners in US & UK 7 hours & 2 hours behind us, respecitvely) . . . and of course with all the wackitude that suddenly changing all your plans requires - calls to the airline, to various hotels (and friends!), etc etc etc....... But you are without question the finest travel companion (and support staff) any woman of peripatetic temperament could wish for in a life partner.

Plus, you write real good!
Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
Aww. And you're the best planner a slightly vague telephoniphobe could wish for. Also an awesome hunter/gatherer. Those current bushes (with ripe currents, yet) on Seili were a real find.
Jul. 23rd, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
Gathering berries seems to be a major Finnish passtime/preoccupation. I knew I belonged here!
Jul. 24th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
There was an doctoral thesis written on the asylum on Själö (that's Seili in Swedish) some years ago at the Åbo Akademi University (Jutta Ahlbäck-Rehn: "Diagnostics and Discipline - Medical Discourse and Female Madness at Själö Asylum 1889–1944"). The thesis is in Swedish, but there is a four pages long English summary. You can find the whole thesis (including the summary, at the back) as a pdf on the web. (https://oa.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/4156/TMP.objres.13.pdf?sequence=1)

Jul. 24th, 2010 11:45 am (UTC)
Managed to mangle the link, sorry for that. This one should work: https://oa.doria.fi/handle/10024/4156 (it goes to a web page where you then can choose to download the pdf).

Jul. 24th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It looks fascinating.

Lovely to see you and talk with you this evening. Susanna, too. Finland seems to be full of people who are interested in all the most important things! ;-)

Edited at 2010-07-24 07:43 pm (UTC)
Jul. 25th, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
Indeed! ;) I'm quite sure you will love Miyazakis latest, "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea". Like "Totoro" it's geared towards young children, but like all Miyazaki's movies it is enjoyable for adults too.

It was wonderful meeting you and Ellen! Hope you have a great time in FInland and hope you both come back one day to visit the parts of the country you haven't time to see on this trip!

-Ben & Susanna-
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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