tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: repovesi

Searching for the mythical characters of Kalevala

by tableofcolors

I’ve come to realize how much our history and maybe more specifically language has an impact on whole nations of people and the way we think. As a kid, I often heard it said that language defines a culture. I really did not understand the concept at the time. It was not until later that I realized that each language has their own words and phrases that often are difficult to translate because the feeling or experience is unique to that specific environment and surrounding. These expressions hold nuances that tell about the culture and mindset of the people and sometimes even explain the way people act. The Kalevala, which is the Finnish national epic poem, has had a significant part in the development of the Finnish language and identity and has been studied by scholars since Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot was a physician, botanist and linguist. In the late 1820s and 1830s he made numerous field trips to collect the songs of the Kalevala and oral history that had been handed down from generation to generation but was slowing starting to disappear as Western European culture was making its way into Finland. The youtube link below is a Kalevala song with English subtitles.

The other week, we had a chance with Antti to go hiking in the landscape of the national park, Repovesi. As we walked and climbed the trails covered in small boulders or through the marsh on wooden planks, surrounded by a carpet of the light colored Sphagnum moss that had been used as insulation in houses of yesteryear, I could easily imagine the mythical world of the Kalevala that inhabited this Nordic land.

rahkasammal repovesi

The story begins with the creation of the earth and has characters that go on seemingly impossible expeditions to find a spell in order to acquire a skill such as boatmaking or ironmaking. In addition there are tales of romance, and kidnapping and seduction. In the midst of this all is the magical Sampo, which is like a talisman that brings it’s holder great fortune. As can be imagined it is something that is direly sought after.

boulder

Still today there are aspects of Finnish culture that refer back to the Kalevala. It is very common to meet children with names such as Sampo, Aino or Sampsa or an insurance company named Imarinen, or a jewelry company named Kalevala or an ice cream brand made by Valio called Aino.

forest pondCan’t you just imagine the maiden Aino coming to this forest pond to wash, when all around you is a perfect stillness only interrupted by the chatter of a squirrel and the song of bird?

olhavanvuori2Our destination was Olhava mountain which is very popular with rock climbers. Perhaps it was nostalgic for my husband as he has climbed the wall as an army conscript. I’m not sure I would dare.

At the base of Olhava there is a camp site where someone had forgotten their nearly brand new running shoes in a trendy neon color hanging over a makeshift clothesline. We took out our kuksa, which is a wooden cup made traditionally from the burl of a tree. Perhaps the mythical characters of Kalevala used the kuksa as well. An old tale tells that a kuksa may only be rinsed out in a stream but not washed with soap as you will wash away your luck. While we both had the same tea, my husband’s kuksa has been stained with the many cups of coffee he has had on previous trips and so his drink looked more like coffee than tea.

kuksa collage

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

making the kuksa, using coffee grounds as a stain

We had simple fare along, sausages to roast over the fire, a few apples and rye bread with some butter and cheese.

repovesi camp siteI think next time I might pack along a small container of this melon salad that was inspired by my neighbor. I tweeked the original version a bit, but as it is very juicy it does not necessarily need any dressing. I dressed it simply with about a teaspoon or two of grated fresh ginger, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a little black pepper.

IMG_7517Melon salad with Kale and Ginger

 

1/2 of a small or mini watermelon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a honey dew melon cut into small cubes
1/2 of a sweet onion, finely minced
two handfuls of kale, stems removed and finely chopped
fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger

Mix all of the ingredients together and enjoy. This salad stores quite well for a couple of days and is wonderful with grilled meat.

repovesi landscape

lichen2

reference source: wikipedia

 

Tikkupulla

by tableofcolors

Tikkupulla is a sweet bun dough flavored with cardamom that is wrapped around a stick and baked over an open bonfire. Languages portray the people and their culture, creating words to describe the things that are a part of life. I did not find a suitable word for it in English other than sweet-bun-on-a-stick. Tikkupulla is more concise. Tikkupullas are a version of the traditional Finnish pulla or sweet bun. It is a fun snack to take with when hiking for the day. If the hiking trip lasts for longer than a day, it is not as convenient since the small bucket it is packed in takes up space.

Our hiking trip consisted of two families with a total of four adults and eight children with oldest being 11 and the youngest at 1.5 years of age. The littelest ones were carried in carriers. Our destination was the Finnish National Park, Repovesi. We followed the “Ketunlenkki” or the “Fox trail” which measured at 4.76 km/2.95 miles. Most of the terrain was uneven and even our smallest hikers that hiked themselves (3.5 years of age) did not complain. One of the highlights for the kids was eating lunch outdoors at a little campsite. Food always tastes better outside than in. We were lucky to have perfect fall weather. A clear sky, the warm sun and a slight crisp breeze reminding of the changing seasons.

Sunlight in the forest

The children were excited and a little nervous crossing the suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge


We spotted a few blueberries

Blueberries

The kids played while the adults prepared lunch. We had potluck-style sausages, vegetables baked in foil over the fire, potatoes, apples and tikkupulla for dessert.

Jumping

Whittling the sticks for the pulla.

Pulla dough on a stick

Tikkupulla

0,5 l/2,1 c warm water
50 g/1.8 oz fresh or 1 sachet/11 g dry yeast
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
200 g/2 dl/1 c sugar
150 g/5.3 oz butter, melted
1 egg
little over 16.5 dl/7 c flour

Pour the warm water in a bowl and add yeast. I usually have fresh yeast on hand in the freezer. I just place the frozen block of yeast in the warm water and allow it to thaw. I have found that the fresh yeast gives the dough a slightly softer texture. Mix in the sugar, salt and cardamom. This amount works great with a stand mixer (5 l/ 5.3 qt bowl). Add half of the flour and knead steadily. The key to this dough is that it has enough elasticity. The amount of flour is a little higher than in the standard pulla dough. If the dough remains too “loose” it will fall off the sticks. Work in the rest of the flour little by little, adding in the melted butter and egg when about 2/3rds of the flour has been used.
I let the stand mixer knead for about 15-20 minutes.

Pour into a small bucket with a lid. At the campsite, take small balls of dough and stretch them out and wrap around a whittled stick. Bake over open flames or alternatively in a fireplace. Make sure the pulla is not too close to the flames so it does not get much color at first. Once the dough has risen a bit and starts to get a little color move it closer to flames for a finishing touch.

Tikkupulla

Little lady in the forest

After lunch we continued on. There was even a small ferry to use to cross the water.

a forest from the storybooks

Shadows

The ferry



And right as we were leaving we spotted this Amanita mushroom. It is a very familiar mushroom to the children. They call it the “myrkkysieni” or poisin mushroom. Although toxic it is quite picteresque bringing to mind childhood stories where little forest mice make their home in the mushroom.

Amanita mushroom