Rapola: traces of the past in a spectacular natural setting

Now that I’ve discovered the 4 Estonian sites, I have two more Finnish ones to discover and then I will have seen all the Lights on! Project sites 🙂 . Last week, I’ve had the opportunity to visit one of them, Rapola, Finland’s largest ancient hill fort located near Tampere. I’ve admired the beauty of Lake Vanajavesi from the ridge and this is one of the most breathtaking view I have ever seen, I could just have sit there for hours.

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I began the day with Maaria, a student from Humak in Turku who does her thesis on the Lights on! Project. Every time I see her, we have fun so I was happy to travel with her up to Rapola 🙂 . When we stopped to buy some food, she decided to take Salmiakki, the traditional Finnish sweet, as she really wanted me to try (she has never met a stranger who liked them, so she was kind of excited to see my reaction, I’ve tried them on the way back to Turku, I’ll tell you below in the post 🙂 ). img_2471

The trip was initially planned because there was a workshop with Finnish entrepreneurs over there, but as it was only in Finnish, Nina told me I could just go for a walk and discover the site. So for two hours, that’s what I did, I walked on the footpaths in the forest (which are really great if you want to hike by the way!) This is so cool to be able to walk in such an environment and imagine how it looked like centuries ago, as this place has been occupied by people for so long (the hill fort was probably built in the Viking Age!). When we did a first quick tour of the site with Maaria (before she headed for the workshop), we were wondering where was the location of the picture we had seen on the Metsähallitus website with some stones (http://www.nationalparks.fi/rapola). We had found different information boards (there are many of them along the paths, and in English 🙂 ) and places but not this one. Actually, the place is quite vast, and we finally found it, it is as beautiful as on the picture 🙂 .

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When you walk through the defensive construction on the ridge (you can still see some remains of the 1km long stone wall), you understand why people have settled in this area since the 5th century. I’m sure they did, of course, for some strategic motives, but it must have been also a bit for the magic of the place 🙂 . Moreover this wall, there are also sacrificial stones, ancient dwelling sites and burial grounds, so many traces of the past that make the history of the place still alive.

Before leaving, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the beginning of the sunset, truly spectacular <3 ! I didn’t want to leave but I had to join Nina and Maaria to go back to Turku. I’ve just said hello to Jaana who had taken part in the workshop, it was nice to see her again 🙂 . I also discovered Nina speaks a bit French, what a surprise, she had hidden that to me until now! 🙂 Actually, many of the people I’ve met here  have learnt French, I didn’t expect that it would be common for Finnish people to learn this language at school.

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The road back to Turku was kind of interesting, as soon as I jumped in the car, Maaria gave me the Salmiakki packet. There were different kinds of them inside. The first I tried, I didn’t appreciate it, at all, but the other one was ok! Maaria was amazed (and she told me after, she was a bit disappointed not to have seen a big disgusted look on my face)… 😀 file_000

Nina asked me if I wanted us to take the big roads or the small ones. I said small, so that I could see more Finnish countryside landscapes 🙂 . She told me we had to be really careful with elks, as they are involved in many car accidents here in Finland (they appear suddenly and because they are so heavy, like 700kg, the car is destroyed, not the animal…). Moreover, the hunt season has started for a few days, so elks are more nervous). Thus, my task was to look the road’s border in case one elk would appear (or a deer, but they are smaller so less dangerous, I saw one 🙂 ). I felt bad for Maaria who was a bit nervous driving in those conditions 🙂 . Nina also explained me that elk meat isn’t sold, you have to know a hunter to have some! And when one is killed, hunters have a kind of a strange party… The meadows covered by a layer of fog are so beautiful, Finnish landscapes are as amazing as I dreamt they would be, even more 🙂 .

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I am conscious that seeing such beautiful places as part of my internship is a huge luck and I feel really privileged to live that. I’ll just add a thought I had on the ridge: when you find yourself in such a beautiful environment as in Rapola, the only thing that comes to your mind is how much we are lucky to live on such an amazing earth 🙂 .

Next Tuesday, I’ll meet Aino to go to the Raseborg Castle Ruin, the last site I have to see, and let’s hope the weather will be as good as it was this day at Rapola (and also as it has been since I’ve been here! I was told at the beginning of September that the weather would be cold and rainy, but every time I visited a site, the sun was shining 🙂 ).

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