I just can’t sit at home the whole weekend. So on my first weekend I just decided to take a walk and explore Oulu.
Packed myself literally – with muffler, gloves, woolen socks, cap, 2 sweaters, thermal and a jacket zipped right up my throat, noted down my address on a piece of paper, decided not to take the usual route that I take to the bus stop but start walking in a different direction, not necessarily sticking to the main road but taking the pathways for walkers and cyclists in the residential areas. Leaving my footprints in the snow I was so engrossed in enjoying the beauty of the snow filled landscape and trees that I soon forgot that the temperature was -6C!!!
I was walking in the general direction of the market square but after some time I kinda lost track of my direction so I decided to ask the passersby’s for some help. I could barely pronounce my street name - Rautatienkatu –then, so I decided to ask for the market square. Not that people could understand that! Then I had a bright idea. I’ll ask for Stockman, which is a big store in the market square. Voila…that worked. Everyone KNOWS Stockman!
That’s how I finally reached the market square. There is a bronze statue of the market policeman which is quite famous. In fact it’s the identifying mark of Oulu...much like the Eiffel tower, Big Ben, Status of Liberty, Taj Mahal. In Finnish it’s called Toripolliisi and this was going to be my first stop. When I reached there, 3 people where clicking some snaps. I realized that they spoke English so after their photo sessions and mine, I asked them for directions to the Cathedral. It seemed that they were going there too and asked me to just follow them. So yapper that I am I started talking to them and soon we were friends. I spent the rest of my day in their company and had an awesome time.
Basically one of them- Henrique is a medicine student from Germany who is doing one of his semesters here in Oulu as his mom is Finnish. He had 2 of his school friends – Elizabeth and Harden visiting him from Germany. So from there we walked to the Church on the way stopping by to enjoy a piece of MODERN ART where we all made guesses at what it could possibly represent, the final consensus being a human body cell!
Next stop was Ajan Kulku or the passage of time, which is a granite and bronze sculpture representing the passing of time. It depicts 32 people/characters that have lived in different centuries and contributed to the rise of the city. Leading the procession is King Charles IX, Sweden who was the founder of the city, followed by Serfs, Fur Hunters, Tar Barrel Rollers, Burghers, Sea Captains, Joiners and Traders. At the other end is a seated child who looks towards the future. I just loved the whole concept of this sculpture.
The Cathedral...well was different. It was simple, functional and not at all like the many churches that I have visited in other parts of Europe. Henrique explained to me that all Lutheran churches are like that. No sculptures staring down at all you from all corners, no gold and bold colours, instead just a few simple paintings. The columns looked like marble but on closer inspection we realized that they were all made of wood, with just a marble finish. The altar has THE most beautiful painting portraying the glorification of Jesus. There was a service going on so I decided to respect that and not click any snaps and go in front, but just sit at the back and watch. Soon a priestess came in followed by several children in white. Suddenly she started singing a hymn and even though it was in Finnish and I couldn’t understand a word, it had the most amazing calming effect. Again I was explained that it was a Confirmation ceremony for the children in white.
Played around in the snow for some time after which Henrique suggested we visit this café which has a very nice ambience and plays Beatles. As I was walking up the steps, strains of Brown Girl in the rain came to my ears. I just got sooooooooooooooo nostalgic…for the first time in Oulu I felt like I was home. The café itself was amazing….very traditionally Finnish wooden structure. I can’t explain in words what the deco was like but it included a big wooden boat hanging across the roof, wooden wheel of a ship, huge spoons and beer mugs all made of birch wood. The wooden tables and chairs seemed straight out of one of the classics. The blueberry pie, hot chocolate and the music…just made my day.
In gist, it was a day of New Friends, Lutheran Church and a café playing Beatles and Boney M.