On the page you can dive into the world of stories from Saimaa Geopark`s area. More stories are added during the summer and autumn.


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.


Story about geosite ringstone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFSLbWI75MM&feature=youtu.be      

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


Story about Ruutuvaippa – 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.

During the time of subsistence economy, plenty of different patterned covers were made in western Finland, which was a relatively wealthy region. The making of the traditional blankets was eventually forgotten in the 1900s when newer designs were implemented. The tradition lasted longest in the Karelian Isthmus and southeastern Savonia.

”A typical Savonia-Karelian throw blanket used as a dowry was woolly and checkered, and apparently already made by ancient Karelians as well. In all its simplicity, the checkered blanket was stylish and beautiful in a rough, proper way, just like a log cabin”, Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen writes.

The checkered fabric was typically implemented in the clothes (that were used as dowry or inheritance) of the daughters of the household. It was also used for example when the bride walked into her a new home with her new husband. It also was used to keep the priest’s seat warm. Or it was used in the cold while sledding to church or to cover up a corpse. It was also a great cover while sleeping in a granary.

The value of the blanket almost amounted to the value of a cow. This was made apparent in an estate inventory organized in Kangasniemi in 1789. The blanket was estimated to last for 100 years.

The size of the blanket was dependent on wealth; a large blanket required a lot of wool, which was not affordable. There was a saying in Inkeri that encouraged living according to one’s own fortune; “stretch your legs as far as the blanket gives in”.

The old blanket was made by combining three cloths. The old loom was narrow, so the cloth that was woven was narrow as well. These cloths were then connected together by sewing. The blankets of the daughters of wealthy households sometimes had four or even five cloths sewn together with a strong cotton thread. This information originates from Svobodnoye (Fin. Kirvu).

In Pervomayskoye (Fin. Kivennapa) the blanket can be sized at 2,5 meters altogether. The size of the blanket was different in every region. In Ruokolahti, Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen measured the blanket at 245 x 180 cm.

The thread that was used was created by hand spinning a thick thread. The fulling of the blanket increased its warmth and durability.

The size of the checks in the blanket are around the width of two to three fingers, or 3-5 cm. According to Kaukonen’s book, In Ruokolahti, every household had a different sized check.

The blankets were used as a dowry in Ruokolahti and Rautjärvi still in the 1910s and 1920s, all the way to the Winter War. Eventually, as the farming of sheep decreased, so did the making of the blankets. At the same time the emergence of cotton wool covers, that could be purchased and used immediately, lessened the need for the traditional blankets. Women started to weave quilts of linsey-woolsey that were, at the time, mainly used as horse blankets.

Many names

The traditional throw blanket, that has countless different names, is prominent to the ancient culture of Eastern Finland, and it has been said to have been of great value.

The blanket has been estimated to be ca 2000 years old, with Germanic origins. The twill weave, that is believed to have originated from ancient Rome, has been found in Scandinavia since the Iron Age. Other well-preserved Nordic textile manufacturing techniques characteristic to the prehistoric era include for example tablet weaving, the sprang technique and nailbinding.

The Blanket of Ruokolahti

Eija Auvinen has studied the checkered throw blanket of Ruokolahti. In 1975, Finnish Centre Women (of the Women’s organization of the Finnish Centre Party) arranged an exhibition of old home textiles at the Ruokolahti market. The exhibition was met with praise, says Auvinen. The following year, Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen arrived to give a presentation on old Karelian textiles during the main celebration of the market. The artefacts of the rearranged exhibition were photographed and categorized into the archives of the Finnish Heritage Agency.

– You should utilize this, Kaukonen had said of one of the displayed blankets.

After a couple of weeks, the traveling board of the municipality arranged a competition that searched for the perfect souvenir for Ruokolahti. Kaija Karhunen remembered the encouragement of Kaukonen and wove a similar blanket to the displayed model that ended up winning the entire competition. Karhunen gave up the rights of the blanket to the Ruokolahti-Seura (the club of Ruokolahti) which got Annikki Sihvonen to weave them in the club’s name. At first the blankets were sold at Aini Haikala’s home.

Since 1992, the blankets have been made by Airi Ruokonen. They are sold at the museum during the summer, and for the rest of the year in Eukonpuoti that is located in Rasilantie 57. Over the years the blankets have been woven, for example in community colleges, for gifts as well as for own use.


Martin Lönnebo has said, blissful are the weavers who follow their inner longing – they weave their wings. For decades and even for centuries, plenty of blankets have been made by skillful women. The whole spectrum of life, sadness, and joy are woven on the blankets, as well as blessings for its user.

Text: Airi Ruokonen

Source: Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen

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