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 Rural Explorer project managed by HUMAK and Saimia
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.
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.