FINLAND: Paska Kaupunni

This may stand as one of the funniest things I’ve come across so far:

It was at some point during the 1980s that the text Paska Kaupunni, literally meaning “Shitty City,” first appeared on this wall in downtown Oulu in northern Finland. The text is most likely taken from the Finnish artist Kauko Röyhkä’s song “Paska Kaupunki.”

The graffiti has been removed numerous times over the years, but it always reappears the next day, misspelled in the exact same way (kaupunki would be the correct word). The message has been ingrained in the minds of the city’s inhabitants and is now a part of the city’s identity. There have even been plans to frame the text in some way to protect it.

Atlas Obscura: Paska Kaupunni

40 years! I love it.

FINLAND: Yotto – A Very Cold DJ Set

Ok, this is literally cool – Finnish DJ Yotto and his crew went up a mountain in Lapland earlier this year to film a whole music set dug into the snow. It’s really smooth house music with absolutely stunning drone footage.

I had an initial snort-laugh at the dramatic note that dropped when “-15C” came onscreen. Sure, that’s not shorts weather but my initial reaction was that it’s Finns doing the same thing we Canadians do – we hype up how cold it is to sound impressive. But on second thought, -15 if you’re not actively moving for a few hours can absolutely get brutal – I’m surprised the equipment worked as well as it did.

FINLAND: Ateneum

The Wounded Angel (1903) by Hugo Simberg – Source: Ateneum

Ateneum is one of the three galleries that make up the Finnish National Gallery – it’s right in the heart of Helsinki and carries many 19th century works. They’re got great access to their materials online and in English and you can enjoy it several ways (I’m tempted to shell out for one of the live virtual guided tours). You can walk through some of the galleries on Google, including clicking on paintings for HD views and more information, or a pared down version here:

They also have some nice overview written tours, and short documentaries on some of pieces:

Much of the art at Ateneum seems to spring from the creation of Finnish national identity in the 19th century that led to eventual independence from Russia – there’s very much a focus on the Finnish countryside and interpretations of the Kalevala, such as the slave Kullervo swearing revenge after breaking his father’s knife on a stone baked into bread:

Kullervo Cursing (1899) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela – Source: Ateneum

FINLAND: Karelian hot pot

As I’m reading up on Finnish cuisine, I’m noticing a lot of the dishes have identical or very similar dishes to other parts of Scandinavia. I went looking for something that what purely Finnish, so I’m going to try Karelian hot pot – it’s been unofficially voted as Finland’s national dish. It’s hearty peasant fare – since it’s mainly meat it was traditionally prepared only for special occasions.

This is a very simple meat stew – beef and pork, browned and then stewed with onions, carrots, bay leaves, and black pepper. The magic that it’s meant to be stewed for a very long time – some recipes say overnight in a low oven, or with a slow cooker, but bare minimum a few hours. I’m using this recipe from the Helsinki Times that has it going in the oven for three hours. This is going to make my place small fantastic.

I knew this is going to be good when the meat was falling apart just trying to spoon it into a bowl. It’s not fancy and the flavours are subtle but oh wow, this is the most tender meat I’ve had in as long as I can remember. Both the pork and the beef are melt in your mouth good. This is basically a way to make incredible meat – the onions, carrots, and broth are just bonuses.

FINLAND: Immigration and race in Finland

Finland is a relatively homogeneous country that has not historically had a lot of immigration from outside of Europe, however, it is an active EU member with a cosmopolitan population (especially with the urban and young) and is increasingly accepting more immigrants and refugees. With that, I’ve been learning more with some interesting perspectives on racism and immigration to Finland, one from Finnish/Nigerian vlogger Olivia at My Finland Story about her experiences as an immigrant to Finland. She breaks down the types of responses she faces – occasional outright racism, more frequently subtle discrimination. She has a really good blog post here detailing her experience, as well as video on it:

She points out an interesting experience that the small but vocal nationalists react to Finns who are open to immigration as “traitors” – something echoed in this hate comment (at 2:20) sent to Finnish vlogger Aleksi Himself:

And for some deeper nuance, there’s an excellent little bit of reporting form France 24 from 2016 – interviewing refugees from Iraq, discussing migrants who leave Finland to return to their country of origin, and the rise of right wing political parties. There’s a very interesting interview where they set up a discussion between a young Finnish woman who works for an NGO for social justice and a nationalist MEP from the right wing True Finns party.

As a Canadian, I won’t pretend there isn’t racism in my own country – there absolutely is, both towards Indigenous people and to Canadians of colour. However, it’s clear there’s a specific point we diverge with most European countries – in Canada there is a deeply ingrained feeling that immigration is a positive, or at least necessary, thing. Opinion seems much more mixed in Finland. That being said, Canada has been promoting immigration as a national good for the last 60 years – the above interview highlights that large-scale immigration, especially refugee claims, is much newer for Finland.

FINLAND: Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo

Picked up a really interesting and different book by a Finnish author for this month – Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo (it’s titled “Not Before Sundown” in everything but the North American release). Troll is set in a slightly altered present day Finland, where trolls (in their European folklore roots) exist as a type of wild animal. Angel, a young photographer, rescues one from being attacked by teens and secretly takes it home to care for it. With that, he ends up set down a dramatic path that overturns his life.

It’s a fast read but a compelling one, with constantly shifting viewpoints even in the same scene, and interspersed with both real and modified excerpts from other sources on trolls – folklore, journalism, fiction. The novel has a deeper subtext about the meaning of possession and power in relationships, especially in queer relationships. Almost all the characters are gay men, and this ties skilfully into the flow and flavour of the conflict in this novel.