Monday, February 8, 2016

Sarmoung's Way/9: Kiilopää (Finland)

@Ninarose Maoz -

In your nose there’s something wrong”. While Petri’s blue eyes minutely examine my face, I begin to suspect that Phidias’ talented gene really survives in every Finnish.

If you still have lucidity to distinguish a not exactly greek profile, in front of -30 C gusts of wind and with your hands crystallized on snow rackets, it means that the link to the ancestral lineage of Finns to the Homeric world, as well as to the rock art of Caucasus, it is more than a preposterous theory, perhaps.

After all, you don’t meet one of them who doesn’t devote himself to music like Sibelius, doesn’t love running a la Johannes Paavo Nurmi, or doesn’t feel Wäinö Aaltonen’s inspiration in his chisel. Finns feed themselves almost exclusively of art and culture, sometimes even of Karelian pirakkas, and all of them own a supernatural strength, to the point that even in the snowy forests of Lapland you track down astounding totems. You turn right and are taken aback by a huge Angry Bird of ice; you turn left and you come across in the furry protagonists of “Bear’s best friend", always ready to welcome you to the reception center of Suomen Latu Kiilopää.

It’s too pale - Petri cares, glancing back at my colleague Ninarose, wisely bundled up in a hot round-necked pile - if you do not massage, you risk losing it. By the way, how do you see me? Am I white too, now?". 
Heck. I am victim of Erlend Loe’ syndrome and I hadn’t even noticed! Apparently it doesn’t affect writers of tourist brochures only, but all those staying behind to think in the tundra. Maybe that's how the brain tries desperately to keep itself alive, when body begins to abandon it. It suggests peregrine and ever more hyperbolic ideas, just to see if the synapses are not completely frozen.

@Ninarose Maoz -

Anyone can then turn into an Alpino on the Russian front, or take on the appearance of a sinister Napoleonic recruit in General Winter’s desert.

Yes, when fingers no longer even feel the double layer of their gloves, anything can happen.

Petri, who is also a sensitive psychologist like any wise Suomen Latu guide, has been clear, however: the Russian border is at least forty kilometers east - unlike the now upcoming top of Urho Kekkonen National Park - there are no fur hats with the red star camouflaged somewhere and, along a not repaired slope, the only fixation would be to stop and reflect on the profile of a nose.

In the middle of tundra, where everything is white, from remote branches of the dwarf pines to facial numbed hair, it works like this: you keep an eye on me and I on you, because General Winter plays dirty tricks and never repeats twice. If you do not listen to, or even worse, do not feel him, it takes away the last flame of lucidity, like a piece of nose, or whatever hangs from your body. In the absence of obstacles on the path, the arctic wind can be lethal as the paw of an Ursus arctos, indeed.

"We always recommend not to overestimate your own skills - explains Seppo Uski, Suomen Latu manager - since the weather conditions, as well as the absence of usual points of reference in the landscape, are two factors can lose even the most experts. The peculiar charm of Kiilopää lies in this: it restores a sense of proportion, the limit, especially in those whom today's society get used to think everything is possible”. 

Whether you go on a reindeer, or husky sleigh outdoors, or you prefer to rely on snowmobiles instead, the focus is always on the sustainability of explorations: it is nature itself to dictate the pace, not the man, and this happens in each of our four seasons. Especially when you put on cross-country skis or snowshoes, wandering for fifteen kilometers in the forest maybe. Kiilopää heals by easy illusions. 

Like a survey by Oulu Institute Deacones has put well in evidence, together with the Finnish Metsähallitus, indulging in the walk through virgin spaces can even cancel somatization of stress, saving an average of 208 euro for the most common annual cares. That's why our motto is Feel the spirit”.
A simple, but a not at all obvious philosophy: if we are pure spirit, without any chance to feel, it means we are no longer exactly in Kiilopää. Simply, we aren’t in this world anymore. The exact opposite of what happens in the hectic city life, where body tends to act automatically, while your spirit snoozes elsewhere. In short, we are alive, but also a bit dead. It’s not by chance that zombies are a hit in the city.

Getting up here, around 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle and an hour and a half of flight along Helsinki-Ivalo route, ultimately it means restoring the right distances: mens sana in corpore sano. Take all the time you need. A real return to man’s roots, although the repeated arrivals of bizarre Italians have begun to raise, in Kiilopää, far more unsettling existential doubts than those about the shape of a nose.

This remote station of Finnish Lapland, around which intimate wooden cottages with private electric saunas gather, together with a large hostel including a traditional public smoke sauna, as well as holiday apartments and an hotel, undoubtedly reconciles the desire of isolation and the need of social interaction: it can offer an ideal retreat for those who want to cut bonds from the rest of the world, sinking in their self-depths, or renew connections with the primal forces of nature.

On the other side, it does not neglect to take care of good life, providing not only a surprisingly good quality buffet restaurant (and you know how Italian tastes are tough!), but also à la carte, in order to savor typical courses based on reindeer, salmon or trout, masterfully interpreted by chef Ville Tappinen’s inspiration. It often happens to spend one week or two with the only and deliberate aim to perfect your survival skills, learning to face the most extreme conditions. Assuming you want to challenge the limits of nature.

Here guides’ competence, shown very well by Petri’s diligence and heroism (ready to deprive himself of his balaclava in order to save my nose), is second to none; ski or hiking equipments, taken care by men forged in the tundra like blue-eyes-of-ice-Mauri, are meticulously designed, as well as the training circuits, even to exalt the nomadic virtues of the most viveur city-geezers.

But it is the aurora borealis, easily visible thanks to the absence of light pollution, to spread a legendary aura around Kiilopää.

Who treads the land of Urho Kekkonen National Park, at the entrance of which the Suomen Latu complex stands, should know that he is not following only the footsteps of sleepy bears or too alive shamans, or simply crossing the territories where everyman's right still exists, but the probable route that led the man outside Earth’s Eden. No.
No relapse into Erlend Loe’ syndrome. Since the Italian engineer Felice Vinci has published his groundbreaking study "Homer in the Baltic", this remote corner of Finland has raised the interest of the most daring researchers.

And if the tourist offer began to give echo also, as it is timidly happening in the archaeological center of Kisko (South Finland), the near village Rovaniemi and the adjoining Santa Claus’ workshop would run a serious risk of being removed from the honorary appellation of Lapland’s moral capital. Not that the rest of the territory has little to offer, but there's really much more at stake.
Comfortable local bus, in half an hour or an hour, can reach the museum of Sami culture in Inari, where they also organize festivals of reindeer racing and indigenous music, together with the one dedicated to indigenous cinema, giving moreover the chance to familiarize with the design creations of the Lappish couple Juh-Iisakki and Pirjo, working at the Arctic Queen in Saariselka. A small town, but big enough to house the longest toboggan track in the world (1.3 km). In Kakslauttanen - when you are not busy to court your half under the panoramic igloos in the forest - you end up getting married in the pleasant Tievakappeli and Pielpajarvi, historic wooden chapels of Sami, or promising eternal devotion during the exploration cruises on the sacred lake Inari.

But the fact that this mirror of the soul has always occupied such an important role in the spiritual imaginary of Sami, being revered even by the utopian communities of the Lutheran preacher Lars Levi Laestadius, has prompted some researchers to re-read the Bible more carefully. And try to understand why Sami strived to bring their own remains on the tiny islands of Hautuumaa or Ukon, beyond the prosaic risk those bodies were eaten by bears. Thanks to the detailed descriptions in the book of Genesis, that locates first man’s Eden in the "land of Four Rivers", suspicions that the area between the big lake and Kiilopää really coincides with the place of first human civilization birth, are getting stronger year after year. 

"The first river is Pishon; it surrounds the whole region of Avila, where there is gold; / And the gold of that land is pure; there is also the scented resin and the onyx stone; / And the second river is Gihon: it surrounds the whole land of Ethiopia; / And the third is Tigris and flows east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates" (Genesis 2: 11-14).

Despite many attempts to locate this Eden in the Mesopotamia-Middle East area, crossed by today's Tigris and Euphrates, nobody has been able to identify at least the riverbed of the other two rivers, so carefully characterized. In addition, Ethiopia and Assyria are located in two different continents in ancient geography.

Neither it has yet been found the mysterious region of Avila, whose pure gold would have to unleash the desires of the most. Following Vinci’s clues, everything seems working incredibly well: once you’ve admitted that the prehistoric Ethiopia is on the northern tip of Europe (as his survey furnishes good proof), the four rivers of Genesis re-emerge in their full “flow rate”. River Tana, corresponding to the biblical Gihon, arises in the Finnish Lapland, where Enontekio (the name means "big rivers") flows and from which other rivers branch off.

"One is the Ivalo - Vinci writes - that Lapps (or Sami) call "Avvil". Assonance with "Avila", the Biblical land, could be accidental; however, this area is very rich in gold, as attested by the Gold Museum in Tankavaara, a few kilometers from River Ivalo. Moreover, it is an exceptionally pure gold, just like the Biblical passage claims: it is a 23-carat, which distinguishes it from the gold extracted in other parts of the world. The resin is secreted by pines and firs and, regarding onyx, this Lapland area is full of stones, including chalcedony and jasper, both onyx-similar due to the composition of their crystals". Without lingering on the golden geo-park in Lemmenjoki valley, now accessible from the town of Kultasatama as well as Ravadasjarvi, Vinci continues with increasing conviction, linking the Tigris and Euphrates to a tributary of Muonio-Tornionjoki and Ounas-Kemijoki: both run almost parallel to south, then flowing next to each other near the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia

And here comes another Italian who, more than two hundred years ago, first turned the attention of the world on the uniqueness of Lapland and Sami people; a certain Giuseppe Acerbi from Castel Goffredo (Mantua), the only traveler able to reach the North Cape by land, thanks to a pioneering endeavor then described in the book "Travels through Sweden, Finland and Lapland up to North Cape, in the years 1798 and 1799".
The future director of the unpopular magazine “Biblioteca Italiana” (voice of the Austrian Government in Italy), as well as Imperial consul in Egypt in spite of his Napoleonic past (he was introduced to Bonaparte after the great venture in Lapland), had stimulated the need to further investigate the rich, but yet unrecognized cultural and natural heritage of Lapland: “I didn’t travel due to apprehension, or inconstancy - he wrote later in 1826, when he was 53 years old - but for my love of knowledge only”.
In particular Acerbi, accompanied by Bernardo Bellotti from Brescia and Swedish Colonel Anders Fredrik Skjöldebrand (later instigator of Stockholm government’s rebuke to the explorer, because of his criticism about Swedish political methods in the north), was one of the first travelers collecting stories related to shamanic rituals of the three Sami branches (the Inari, the Skolt and North Sami) and their emblematic mythology, whose influences would be finally re-emerged in the titanic collection of Kalevala: the reference text of the Finnish epic, transcribed by Elias Lönnrot in the nineteenth century only.

As Giorgio de Santillana noticed in his epoch-making astronomical essay "Hamlet's Mill", the key figure in Kalevala, Kullervo, accomplishes "strong baby’s usual acts", the so called "Starke Hans of the German tales”, who corresponds with the North American Paul Bunyan".

It was a first, illuminating clue that allowed Santillana not only to find, in the Finnish saga, the oldest evidence to explain some anomalies of mythopoietic texts, including Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus and its forerunner Amloði, but to identify the complex astronomical scheme - precisely called Hamlet’s Mill - structuring the myth at every latitude of the globe. Without the findings and descriptions of the Italian explorer, therefore, there would be no Hamlet’s Mill, nor a theory of evolution such as the one assumed in the Arctic Home of the Vedas; because you can perceive the cyclic phenomena and the solar system anomalies with your naked eye, only looking at the astronomical conditions of Lapland sky, especially in the presence of his amazing northern lights. The very essence of the chronotopos mythology-time.

"Acerbi is a real institution for us - Panu Tuomas Könönen says, marketing manager of Suomen Latu centre - since his figure not only has been carefully studied by Italian researchers at the University of Turku, but he is also at the center of a cross-border project about the rediscovery of  his historic route, going from the town of Kemi till North Cape

The theme-song of the Finnish State Radio comes from a melody composed by him; as well as having been an explorer, he expressed considerable musical skills and interests, coming to light in some poems known as "Jos mun tuttuni tulisi" ("If my dear came"), the popular lullaby "Nuku, nuku nurmilintu” ("sleep, sleep little bird") or the Christmas song “Sylvian joululau”: title which refers instead to the blackcap, or Sylvia atricapilla precisely, a bird whose migration route joins Finland to Sicily. There’s therefore a special bond between our country and Italy, but we intend to further strengthen it, starting right from the crucial role Acerbi plays in rebuilding the migration routes of our civilization”.
Through the bridge offered to Kiilopää by the Cultural Association "Gaetano Osculati" of Biassono and the Italian Geographical Society, both committed to enhance the exploration history, plunging into its river waters takes a very peculiar flavor now: not only it depends by the woody taste the smoke sauna leaves in your mouth, in your hair, or in the folds of the towel around your hips.

Every time we leave the wet womb of the fumigation cabin, drowned out by the steam that water raises on the burning stones; each time we scamper, barefoot and in almost a fetal position, toward the opening in the ice where the Suomujoki flows; every holy and blessed time - our eyes pleading to the northern sky - we let ourselves be swallowed by the river, we won’t arise shameless words at all. Because in Kiilopää’s water our bodies regenerate themselves through the strength of such a solemn, as ancestral rite. Only a god, or a distracted Finnish, however, may resist down there for the whole eternity: ten seconds ... thirty seconds ... one minute ... the gaze starts blurring, I distinguish just a body without clothes, with blond hair on the shoulders, and lips as red as sin. It waits standing besides the water. No, it is not given to man to live in the Eden. Not anymore. Today he can only bring its memory in the shivers of the skin, or perhaps in the name of a wonderful maiden.

Acerbi's Way (complete tour):

Helsingborg - Gothenborg - Stockholm - Grisselhamm - Isole Aaland - Abo/Turku -Yervenkile - Wasa - Gamla Camlevy - Brachestad - Uleaborg - Hutta - Kemi - Tornea -Kardis - Kassla Koski - Kengis - Kollare - Muonionisca - Pallajovenso - Lapajervi - Lago Pallajervi - Isola Kuntigari - Pepojovaivi - Konto Keino - Alten - Monte Himelkar - Isola Havesund - Capo Nord

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