28 July 2010

Oulu Tidbits - I

Picture 259The name of Oulu is derived from the word Oula, which in traditional Lappish means floodwater and in ancient Finnish sludge on the ice.

The City Hall… the neo-renaissance yellow stone building with the beautiful flower beds was originally an Assembly Hall. Since that wasn't very profitable so to say, a part was converted into a Restaurant! This current structure was built in 1887 after the original burnt down in the Great Fire of 1822 and the town had no place to celebrate the completion of the railway line to Oulu.

 Picture 506 There is a fountain outside the City Hall…has travelled here all the way from Glasgow. The story is that a gentleman got really drunk at the restaurant, stumbled out, and ruined the flower beds outside. In order to avoid a scandal he donated this fountain. The fountain is very intricately done. There are glasses attached which could be used by the riders for a drink while the bowls underneath were used by the horses.

In order for any town to be called a NOBLE FINNISH town, it seems it should boast of at least one big fire. Well, Oulu can boast of several. The biggest fire in the history of Oulu destroyed practically the whole wooden town in 1822. Of the 400 odd houses, 330 houses were burnt to the ground and only 65 were saved.

Prior to the Great Fire of 1822, the assembly hall also had a theatre which could seat 600 people. Considering that the population at that time was about 4000 people, it was a huge theatre. The current theatre can seat 500 odd people for a population of 140,000.

The church too were destroyed in the fire of 1822 and was rebuilt within the old stone walls according to designs of architect Carl Ludwig Engel. In fact, the current cathedral is the 4th one in the same place!!! The 1st one was built in 1777.  Most church buildings face east, to symbolize that a person who enters the church goes from west to east i,e goes from the evil of the present world to the glory of the New Jerusalem to come. However, this is NOT the case in Oulu cathedral as it is built at the crossroads of the roads so it accommodates the general directions of the roads.

The church has a portrait of  Johannes Messenius, which is Finland's oldest painted portrait from 1611. Its funny, but the picture has been modified over time to reflect the latest fashions and the changing size of the collar is visible in the picture!

Picture 509

Another funny thing I noticed that Saturday…the Church clock tower shows the incorrect time. It is running 10 minutes behind, though it bell indicating the hour sounds at the correct time!

The statue of the poet Frans Michael Franzen in the park near the church was sculpted in 1879 and is the second oldest statue of anyone/anything in Finland (the oldest one is in Turku)!

The building with beautiful palatial facades to the North of the church are the Provincial Government Offices – Lääninhallitus. It used to house the Governor’s residence and is considered as the only "palace type" building at this latitude!

Picture 507 One of the buildings often admired by me…the pink one behind the city hall which is now the Cultural Centre Valve was at one time it a POLICE STATION. A pink police station…sounds interesting!!!

The beautiful statue depicting the passage of time behind the city hall, that had left an impression on me on my 1st weekend in Oulu was created to commemorate 400yrs of Oulu.

One of the depictions in this statue is of a Star Boy. The Star Boys pageant as it is known today in Oulu IMG_5520is an offshoot of the old European tradition of the “The Epiphany Carol singers". While this is a dying tradition in other parts of Finland and the world, the people in Oulu are proud of the tradition and have a very popular annual Star Boys competition.

The little boy in the front is called Markki…when at the ceremony to unveil this statue, a young girl commented that ‘ohhh…he looks like Markki’  who was a friend of hers in kindergarten! In winters, someone even gives little Markki a cap, cape and woolen socks! This is the MOST often stopped at point and most photographed place in Oulu.

1 comment:

Venkat H said...

This is a great post. Very interesting read da.