Fancy a break from the bricks and mortar of modern cities? Now there is a new and fun way to connect with nature.
Sipoonkorpi Nature Reserve is a backwood close to the Helsinki metropolis area. The reserve is actually spread over three cities: Helsinki, Vantaa and Sipoo, of which most is situated in Sipoo. Sipoonkorpi National Park was established in spring 2011 and is in its early stages of development.
Signposted trails, information boards and services to visitors are scarce. For now, a good excursion map and a compass would be your best help in finding your way through the thicket. I’m sure this period of vagueness won’t prevail for long. Metsähallitus (the official governing body) is responsible for developing Sipoonkorpi National Park and they seem to take their work seriously ;). Be sure you kit yourself with enough provisions to keep you right till you make it back to civilisation. In the sticks time seems to fly, and services are far apart.
Other than the beautiful exterior of St. Sigfried's (Old Church) of Sipoo, the model of a masted sailing ship hanging from the ceiling of the nave of the church really caught my eye. Since I was not able to purchase a pamphlet on the church to discover its history, I asked VT'er "JohntheFinn" who told me that the ship model probably indicated that the church members were fishermen or families of fishermen who prayed for their safe return from the sea. I wondered if other churches had symbols of a particular dedication or devotion. The ship we were cruising on, Holland America's Westerdam, had its own crystal version of a masted sailing ship suspended in the atrium which I found very beautiful.
From the appearance of the graves in front of the church, you could say they seemed to be quite new in comparison to the church itself. It would have been interesting to know if they were somehow related to deaths at sea or were mostly the graves of recently departed church members.
Instead of being served our dessert in the Manor's upstairs dining room, we were lead downstairs through the parlor and into the family dining room where Anita's mother herself served us a delicious slice of cake topped with wild berries found on the farm. We then took our desserts to the large covered terrace where we were served coffee and tea, and once again had more time to enjoy the colorful scenery of the property including flowers and a small pond and the other small buildings edging the property.
It is pretty clear that hosting tour groups at the Manor House and farm and offering a Finnish lunch to tourists has been a good way to supplement the incomes of Anita's family, maintain the farm, and offer some gracious hospitality to people who are truly interested in the Finnish way of life. Anita and her family have made coming to the farm a very pleasant afternoon interlude for us and I was glad to have been there.
Following our visit and lunch at Savijarvi Kartano, we stopped briefly at Pyhan Sigfridin Kirkko or St. Sigfried's Church which is also known as the "Old Church" of Sipoo. Constructed in about 1450, it is a remarkably beautiful church on the exterior. My accompanying picture doesn't show it (because our tour bus was blocking the view), but there is a distinctive gate tower about a 100 ft. or so in front of this church. You can also see in this picture, the rows of neatly ordered grave markers in the cemetery in front of the church.
You can see from the picture that this is not a tiny church but one of good size. Inside, I believe the floors were mostly packed dirt, but there were wooden benches, and there was sort of what I would call a "lepor's squint" part way down the main aisle. (This deserves more research on my part.) Though the interior was somewhat stark, there were some decorative painting and other details which I'm not sure whether they were original to the church or not. Our tour guide gave us more information about the history of the church, but I am sad to admit I don't remember much of it. Unfortunately, there was no written information to be had either.
(Another photo to follow.)
After having a short talk from Anita about the farm and seeing some of their horses there, we adjourned to the manor house to have a traditional Finnish lunch. As you can see from the accompanying picture, we were seated in a very large room that was reached by an ascending a spiral staircase. The room exemplified Scandinavia to me---the wooden ceiling contrasted by white walls; the fireplace; simple furnishings but a warm atmosphere. The group was seated at very long, rough wooden tables where we were served greens, boiled potatoes, and stewed fish in a creamy sauce of some sort. We were also given "summer beer" which the farm produces itself. Actually the farm produces several typesw of vegetables and fruits as well. (I have always wanted to own a small farm of my own!!) An opened, screened door near our table let us enjoy the scenery outside as we had our lunch!
Savijarvi is more than a traditional farm. It is a farm largely dedicated to the activities surrounding horses such riding, of course, but also breeding and carriage driving competitions. I love horses and have ridden horses for many years and also briefly showed hunter-class horses when I was much, much younger.
The story once again: Anita explained to us that this once had been a rather large dairy farm and the country had literally more cows than was feasible. The Finns were encouraged to trade dairy cows to Russia for money or other goods and so that is what Anita's father tried to do, except that the Russians never paid him. Finally after quite a while and with nothing else to offer, the Russians negotiated to send horses in payment for the cows and so Anita's father began raising horses! I probably don't remember correctly what breed of horses came from Russia, but I thought she said Hannovarians were among the ones sent which of course would be the German breed. The horses I saw were not Hannovarian but Hannovarians I believe are good jumpers and make good carriage horses. (Anyone out there with more "horse sense" than myself, please straighten me out if this is incorrect.)
The horses I saw on this farm ranged from about minature-horse size to about 14 - 15 hands high. If there were larger horses on the farm I didn't see them. I have to admit that was disappointed that the barns were somewhat underwhelming, but we could not enter them anyway.
None of us tourists were given the opportunity to do much other than see the horses, and unfortunately there was no possibility of riding them.
At the end of a long lane of willow trees, the present Savijarvi is a huge manor house built about 1890, and the working farm is about 1,000 acres of mostly forested acreage. Mainly devoted to the raising of horses, a riding school and carriage driving, the farm also engages in organic produce farming and logging, and the large, extended family living on the farm also opens it up at certain times to visitors and tour groups. Horses are trotted out of their stables afterwhich lunch is served on the second floor of the manor house and dessert on the terrace out back. (VT'r JohntheFinn explained that Savijarvi meant "Clay Lake," if I remember correctly.)
Our hostess the afternoon we visited was Anita, daughter of the farm's owner. I was intrigued by her story of how the farm became mainly a horse farm. It seems that earlier in the 20th century, her father was somehow encouraged to sell dairy cows to Russia. However, for a long time he didn't receive any payment from Russia in return. After much badgering, a bargain was struck which sent Russian horses to the farm in exchange for the cows and the rest is history!! Although the barns were not as extensive as one might think, the horses we saw appeared to be good solid stock.
You can't really imagine the scale of the Savijarvi Manor House until you measure something or someone against it. In the accompanying photo you can see how small my daughter appears as she stands on the steps of this exceptional Finnish home. For being more than 100 years old it is in remarkably good condition and feels very homey inside!!
Built around 1450, this stone church is rather big and one of the finest remaining in Finland. It's also known as St. Siegfrid's Church (and I have no idea who Sigfrid was). Anyway, I thought I'd go and see the church when I was in the neighbourhood. The air inside was cool on the hot summer day I visited and the church suprised me with its stone floor and the nice coats of arms on the walls . Also noticed a votive ships hanging from the ceiling and the fine carvings of the pulpit and some typical wall paintings. The roof is made out of wooden panes which are painted with tarr to make them weatherproof and the smell of tarr adds to the special atmosphere.
The gate building (or is it a bell tower?) was built a few hundred years later. WWII graves in the front.
This is the new church of Sipoo and it will probably always be just "the other one" you can't miss when you have come to see the old church of Sipoo. However, it's got nice warm red brick feel, a lot of details and it's in good shape after a recent renovation. It sort of rules the scenery from it's small hill. Too bad I didn't get to see the interior this time.
After visiting the old church, you can go and see also the new church, not exactly new, this one build in the end of the 19 century. Both churches are not far from each other.
The old church of Nikkila, which is over 500 years old. Of course some parts build later, some parts had to be renovated but this old stone church is the main monument to see here