Fiskars Village

Back in December I wrote a post about my visit to the historical Porkkala with the Global Degree team and I have finally got around to posting this story from the afternoon.

Fiskars Village is around 80km west from Helsinki. The village grew around the production of iron and copper which was found in 1649 by Petter Thorwöste. In the 1800’s the industry grew fast as they began to produce scissors, knives and ploughs.

Fiskars has grown into an international company and well known brand. It is best known for its orange handled scissors, created in 1967, the first pair of plastic handled scissors which are found in almost every home.

As production moved elsewhere there was no need for the factories and the buildings became empty. The idea came about of renting the buildings cheaply to artists, saving them from being abandoned and eventually becoming derelict. This move saved the town and a creative and unique community has grown.

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It was December, a pretty miserable day with on/off rain and low heavy cloud. We were given a guided tour of the village and walked along the river until we reached a stretch of cafes, shops and art galleries.

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dsc_0099 Fiskars Village is home to many artists or artisans. One of the motto’s you here regularly when visiting the village is ‘live or work in Fiskars’, meaning that most of everything you see is produced there by people who live or work there.
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Next, we were off into the woods to enjoy the Finnish nature and for some a little taste of downhill mountain biking with Canyon fat bikes.

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dsc_0219 The clouds dispersed as filming began and a couple of runs back and forth were made to make sure there was enough footage, and to have as much fun as possible. It was a generally wet morning and that had effected the ground conditions, some places waterlogged, others covered in thick ice.

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Above Marco from the Fiskars Village Trail Center leads the way through one of the more difficult corners of the course on his way back into the village.

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Further Reading:

This post is a continuation from A visit to Porkkala and 1950’s Era Russia.

Check out Global Degree and their YouTube channel where they aim to travel every country in the world, their episode from Finland will be shared later this year.

This visit was in co-operation with Day With A Local and SE-Action who organised the days events.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950’s Era Russia

I was lucky enough to accompany Global Degree and Day With A Local on a tour of the Porkkala region in Southern Finland as part of a YouTube series that will be released next year.

After catching an early train from Helsinki we arrived in Kirkkonummi where we were driven to Sjundby Manor. When we pulled up and exited the van an elderly man in uniform approached us speaking only in Russian. With little knowledge of exactly where we were the Global Degree team looked at me and our guide for help but none came. For all they knew we could have actually been in Russia, if this had between 1944- 1956 we would have been.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

Sjundby Castle

After the conclusion of the Second World War the area of Porkkala was leased to Russia for fifty years but fortunately it was returned after only eleven. The area was of a tactical advantage to Russia as it was the narrowest and shallowest stretch of water between Finland and Estonia, allowing them to closely monitor and secure the passage to St Petersburg.

Once the agreement had been made the whole area had to be evacuated in just nine days, over 7000 residents, 8000 domestic animals, as well as any crops and vegetables. At first not even trains could pass through the newly acquired area, but after 1947 they were finally  permitted but the shutters had to be pulled down to cover the windows.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

After a brief view of the castle we were directed to a slightly more interesting building in my opinion. Between the road and the river there was a building covered in Russian text preserved for more than fifty years. Our Russian officer, now speaking in English, explained to us about the area and its history before posing for some Soviet era photographs.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

The landscape of Porkkala had changed, what had once been an agricultural landscape was transformed by the Russians into a heavily fortified military facility. It is thought that 20,000 military personnel and about 10,000 civilians occupied the area during those eleven years.

It was now that we travelled a little further and saw what was remaining of the fortifications that had been built. An entrance to a bunker hidden from the road. It continued meters underground but the roof had collapsed making it now inaccessible. There is thought to be many more in the area, some have been found but others have not so it is difficult to estimate how many exactly were built.

Here it wasn’t only the bunker that was of interest but the area surrounding it that had once been a barracks with a fully operating crematorium, our guide added, “Still no one knows what they were burning there.”

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

As we drove through the region there was little evidence and even less that you would have noticed without being pointed in the right direction. Many of the houses had been left to decay after the residence moved out in 1944, little of who returned, and it was only in recent years that development in the area had really begun.

It was an incredibly interesting area with a history that I had never discovered until now even though it is only 19km from Helsinki. One of the most memorable stories of the day was of two seventeen year old boys that accidentally sailed into the area and were picked up by a Russian patrol and imprisoned.  After a few days they thought they were being released and taken back to Helsinki by train but they ended up in a death camp in Siberia where they were put to work for a number of years.

Next stop, Fiskars Village. Post coming soon!

Further Reading:

I highly recommend the article Seven Years Sailing about the two boys who ended up in Siberia after an innocent sailing trip.

Scorched Earth, World War II in Lapland

Thanks to Porkkala Travel for hosting us, more information about the region and how to visit can be found on their website porkkala.net