Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vimpeli Here We Come

Vimpeli is truly rural Finland.  The town's population is around 3000 and it is surrounded by agriculture. Our new in-law's farm has been in the family for generations. It is a beautiful spot with lush fields of rafe seed (used to make canola oil) and rimmed by orderly spruce woods.

What remains uppermost in my mind in addition to the warmth and hospitality of our new family is  the magnificent food,  going to a Finnish baseball game,  Saturday Market Day in Vimpeli,  and the experience of a Finnish Smoke (wood fired) Sauna.

The food was often exotic to us, but it was always scrumptious.  We had reindeer meat with bacon, raw fish with dill,  several kinds of herring,  sausages with mustard,  little whole fried fish from the local lake, fresh strawberry cake, new potatos freshly dug that morning, salmon soup, and much more.

You eat these little fellows whole just like french fries.
The sausage lady deals them out hot and fresh

and we scarf them down with plenty of tangy mustard

Attending a Finnish baseball game looked at first as if it were going to be a perfectly familiar experience.

The park entrance looks quite normal and the stands are filled with cheering fans. 

But when the game starts things get a little dodgy.

You will note that the pitcher is standing right next to the home plate and just tosses the ball straight up into the air.  The batter strides forward and gives it a wack as the ball comes down.  His teamates are not in a dugout; they are right out there behind the batter with their arms in the air.  The bases are  arranged differently from American baseball and are also more like an area then a base. See map and picture below.

Runners love to slide into the bases in a marvelously graceful manner.

Another difference was that the players were all decked out in uniforms covered with advertisements. They reminded me more of race car drivers.

I never did quite figure out how runs were scored.   Long hits that landed beyond the dirt area of the field were outs and not home-runs.  Balls that landed inside the dirt area and skidded thruough an outfielder and into the grassy perimeter were fair and objects of great cheering.  The field had a river running at the tree line in what we would call left and center field.  I was told that if a fair hit rolled into the river it was still in play and an outfielder had to go in and get it. Quite an interesting little watery twist. 

Scoring was made even more of a mystery because the scoreboard had been hit by lightening the week before and was not operable. 

No matter it was still fun and the crowd was just as boisterous and partisan as in any American park. 

On Saturday we headed into Vimpeli to take a look at Market Day.

It looked and felt like any small town celebration anywhere in the world.  Lots of tent like booths and tables staffed by people selling their wares.

There were bouncy things for the kids.

and helium balloons were handed out for free by a political party. 
A local businessman mixes up salmon chowder and serves it free to all comers. 
 It was a young people's favorite.
Many of the older folks just find a seat and have a chat
We also had the time to tour a church near the town center.  It is round with a detached belfry and is  a jewel inside and out.



According to the Rough Guide to Finland Finns say that "First you build a sauna, then you build a house."  No matter what the order a sauna is literally a necessity for a Finnish home.  There are some two million saunas in Finland, which means that there is one for every 2.65 inhabitants.  Most of them are electric these days, but we were treated to a Smoke (wood fired) Sauna on our in-law's farm.   
 The old wood sauna is located down a path through the rafe seed field and about 100 yards from the house.  It take several hours to feed the fire that heats up the interior stones.
There's no chimney so you kind of watch the smoke percolate out from the eaves.

It looks about ready.  First you disrobe and take a shower or pour some water over yourself from the large vessel outside of the sauna proper. Don't forget a towel as the seats inside can get toasty.  That is an understatement. Sitting on them without a towel could be compared to plopping down on the surface of a hot BBQ grill.   Now just step in, close the door, sit down, relax, and sweat out all those impurities.  To kick in the overdrive you take a dipper of water from the blue tank just inside the door and pour it on the heated stones. The steamy blast perks the temperature up several more degrees.  Locals last fifteen to thirty minutes inside these chambers; we didn't even make ten before we headed for the exit. There was no snow bank or lake to jump into for cool down, but dippers of water from the tub outside did the trick.  Then we donned snuggly bathrobes and took a quiet sit in a nearby outbuilding that was equipped with cool drinks and comfortable chairs. 
Pleasure was added by a brief evening rain shower and a rainbow arching over the woods.
And finally a sunset around 11:30 PM
 All I can say is the Finns have got something here and we love it. 
Next up is a visit to Porvoo and the house that the great Finnish composer Sibelius lived in.

1 comment:

Susan said...

What great fun! I especially loved the description of the baseball game. You'd spend a lot of time just trying to figure out the rules.