Here you can dive into the world of stories and historical details from Saimaa Geopark`s area.

Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto was the most internationally known Finnish architect and designer. His work consist of architecture, furniture, textiles and glassware, as well as sculptures and paintings.

Read more information from Alvar Aalto foundation’s website

He designed several public buildings in Imatra and also was asked to design city’s zoning plan. Kolmen Ristin Kirkko – church (The Church of the Three Crosses, Vuoksenniska Church), which is locetd in Imatra, Vuoksenniska is one of his famous designs. The church was built in 1957 and it is a remarkable culture site in the area. the church is also one of Saimaa Geopark’s natural and cultural sites.

The Church of the Three Crosses outside and inside.

Read more about the church

City of Imatra is one of the Alvar Aalto cities and The Church of the Three Crosses is one of the national Alvar Aalto tourist tour destinations. Annually the church has around 3000 visitors in a year and guided tours are very popular.

See all the Alvar Aalto cities

Destinations in Alvar Aalto tourist tour


The author of the article, Kaisa-Maria Remes (M.Sc), works as a geologist at the Saimaa Geopark Association and is interested in cultural heritage in addition to geology.

This article combines these two areas of interest to highlight how to view landscape paintings from a geological perspective.

Read the article here(PDF)

Tar steamer AHTO

Tar steamer Ahto’s propeller. Image: Sulkava municipality

An exhibition of scale models of tar steamers (traditional wooden cargo ships coated with tar) and other steamboats that have trafficked Lake Saimaa is currently held in the town hall of Sulkava. It includes photos and different artefacts common for the ships of the era.

Tar steamer Ahto was built in Niittulahti, Partalansaari in 1910. It was made of wood, including naturally bent wood due to the shape of the ship.

The ship was 30,6 meters long and 6,9 meters wide, filling the maximum measurements for trafficking  the Saimaa canal. Ahto operated in inland waters, delivering logs to St. Petersburg and Helsinki, and returning cargo of goods for storeowners and other byers.

Ahto was dissembled at the beginning of the 1950s by steering it into a shallow shore with high speed. The remains are still found at the bottom of Sikolahti. The propeller was retrieved in the fall of 2009 and is currently showcased in the exhibition at Sulkava town hall. The propeller remained at the bottom of the lake for 60 years.

A scale model has been made of Ahto, which is also included in the exhibition. The proportional scale of the model is 1/40. Miniature logs made from the birches of Sulkava has been used as its cargo and about 4000 logs decorate its deck. Also the cargo hold is filled with the logs. Naturally, also the model is covered with tar.

The model is made by Marko Torvinen, and it took six months to make.

A scale model of tar steamer Ahto. Image: Sulkava municipality.
Objects of the exhibition. Image: Sulkava municipality.



-Story about the Saimaa Geopark Partner product

”Checkered as a woodpecker, wide as a cow pelt”, a saying from Sakkola

“Ruutuvaippa” is a twill, black-and-white, thickly fulled throw cover characteristic to the Savonia-Karelian region. All the way to the 1800s, it was typical in the Savonia-Karelia region for people to live in smoke cabins and to sleep on its benches and floors. There was thus a need for a warm, self-made cover. The solution was an eastern Finnish throw blanket that was fully and evenly checkered and had a twill weave. It was dyed with natural colors in black, white and gray. Sometimes red was used as well. Read more about the product here

Text: Airi Ruokonen
Source: Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen


Stories from the geopark area

Story about geosite ringstone      

Story is made by Pekka Vartiainen in Rural Explorer project managed by HUMAK and Saimia

Sulkava Rowing Race – rowing around the isle of Partalansaari

Even as a child, Kauko admired the beauty of Partalansaari. As a little boy, sitting on a seine shore, he heard a story about somebody rowing around Partalansaari. It had taken from sun set to sun rise.
The boy was left with a great deal to ponder, as the island was big and the summer night short.
As a senior boatmaster Kauko Miettinen often wondered whether the story that he had heard as a child was true. He was also concerned about the survival of the boatbuilding skills and wooden boat culture learned from grandfathers and passed on to the following generations.
As his thoughts did not allow him to rest, he decided to organise a race to find out how long it would take to row around the island. In order to get people to participate in the race, Kauko promised to give the winner a boat.

The first races were held in 1968 and were to continue for over 50 years developing into the Sulkava Rowing Race. The event organised in July annually attracts around a thousand rowing enthusiasts, making it the largest rowing event in Finland.


The strange rock

It had been a long evening out in the village. But it was for a purpose. We had shivered on the corner of the village store until Ketonen had come to the door to lock up. He saw us and called: “All right lads?” Right as rain, we are. Eki had gobbed a proper wad onto the bike stand. It hung there, a bit like a stalactite. Good job Ketonen was already out of sight.

We hung around for a while longer and then headed for the rock. We had agreed to go there at dusk. The old man had told us to. Said that if you go there after dark and do as I tell you, you’ll be sure to hear it. All we understood was that you can’t do this stuff in daylight. Twilight stuff. Like the old man’s tales of rock knockers.

Eki led the line of bikes, as always. He was in a hurry. Me and Make followed at a slower pace. The red hem of Eki’s jacket flapped in front of us. A gust of wind also caught the spruce trees around us. Their swishing blended with the cawing of crows.

The closer to the rock we got, the more scared I was. Or at least I began to doubt the sense of what we were doing. We all knew the old man’s tales. “You wetting yourself already?” Eki mocked, and I spotted a small grin on Make’s face too. We chucked our bikes on the side of the track, grabbed the sticks we had brought, and I made a beeline ahead. I thought, I’ll show them. Stick around if you can stand the pace.

Every time it was an equally strange sight. A huge boulder not really held up by anything. And on it, a gnarled tree clinging by its claws on the surface of the rough rock. Waving its antlers high above. Blowing eternal vapours from its mouth.

I stopped, like at a respectful distance. The light dusk had fallen. I squeezed the stick in my hand. It felt soft.

Eki rushed past me and immediately started thumping the rock with his birch pole. Walked in short steps around the rock hitting, hitting, hitting. Here, there and everywhere. Make stopped at the foot of the boulder and reminded us of the old man’s instructions. The blows had to be aimed at a precise spot. Seven-and-a-half centimetres north from the contact point of the rock and its base.

The first booms echoed in the air. Somewhere, something heavy took to the wing with a rustle. At first, we each beat our own rhythm, then in unison, trying to keep the same tempo. Padam-padam-padam. The echo rose to the top of the pine squatting on the rock and sprang from there, with almost a howl, to the surrounding forest.  Padam-padam-padam.

The dark shadows grew as the strength began to wane from our strikes. Almost as if the darkness had swallowed us. Eki was the first to throw down his stick, I was next. “So much for the old man’s drivel,” he said. Make continued to beat a little way from us. The booms were now more subdued. A bit like they were coming from somewhere and not just carrying to somewhere. I was about to say this to Eki when I saw Make’s pale face behind me. Padam-padam-padam, came from some place deep inside the rock.

Story: Pekka Vartiainen/Rural Explorer project


The witch

The witch is shaking, emitting a strange moaning sound from between her tight, grimacing lips. If they are words, I do not recognise them. I don’t want to go too close to the thing. The women are trying to stop the witch from hurting herself. They need to hold on pretty tight. The blood has already left their fingertips. The man watches in the background, looking busy but actually doing nothing. Rubs his swarthy scalp and gives some instructions to the headscarf-clad women. They are unlikely to pay attention. The witch’s legs kick the air wildly, the back is arched, and evil-sounding shrieks fill the air. She is like some strange bird, flapping and trying to take wing.

This goes on for some time. Then the man sees that the women will soon be unable to hang on to the struggling witch’s old body. He finally goes to it and grabs the witch’s legs. Grumbles something to me, but the words vanish far away over the lake. I feel like crying. I fight the tears and fear. Then, suddenly, the witch appears to have lost consciousness. The women let go of her. The man also takes his hands off her.

The witch lies half on her back on the rock, her limbs twitching slightly. The women’s Sunday clothes have picked up lichen off the rock surface and leaves fallen off nearby trees. They adjust their headscarves; the man tells us all to keep our distance. Staring at the witch, there seems to be slow, slithering movement in her skinny, age-withered legs.

The Kolmiköytisenvuori rock paintings in Ruokolahti were made about 5000 BCE. The paintings are faint, but five human forms are discernible. It may be a depiction of a ritual journey, with a witch entering trance in the presence of a party accompanying her. The painting seems to show a person whose lower body has turned or is turning into a snake.

Source: Sulo Siitonen (1997), Retkeilijäin Ruokolahti.
Story: Pekka Vartiainen/Rural Explorer project