The strange park of Veijo Rönkkönen

If you were asked to name a statue from the top of your head, you’ll probably say “The Venus of Milo”, as it might be one of earliest encounters with sculpture we all had. But if you ask this question in the Finnish town of Parikalla, in the south-east of Finland and next to the Russian border, the answer will surely be the strange sculptures of Veijo Rönkkönen.

Two Sculptures from Veijo Rönkkönen
Women washing clothes. Two of the many sculptures you can find in this strange park. This photo and all the others were made by Mike Ancient with CC (by-nd-nc) license.

Different scenes

Who is Veijo Rönkkönen?

Veijo Rönkkönen (born in 1944 and passed away in 2010) was a Finnish artist and sculptor. During his youth, while working at a paper factory, he started to make sculptures. He finished his first sculpture in 1961 and continued sculpting all his life, finishing around 450 statues.

All these statues are now standing in the park-like garden of the house where he lived with his parents.

Veijo never stopped living in that house, and he was a man who loved being alone. By placing his statues in the park, he made them available for anyone to see, but he never came out to talk to any of the visitors. He instead left a guestbook with a sign asking visitors to leave a note.

Statues dancing and playing Kantele
The man here plays Kantele, a traditional Finnish instrument, while the ladies dance.

Some disturbing characters

A concrete tree with more humanoid statues

Veijo never agreed to lend his statues to museums or expositions. When asked about it, he said he must “check with the statues first”. They must have always said no, since up to today none of the statues have left their places in the garden.

In 2007, three years before his death, he won the Finlandia prize (a multi-disciplinar prize granted annually), but he didn’t attend the ceremony to receive it since he didn’t want to leave his house. It was received by his brother in his name.

The sculpture park of Veijo Rönkkönen

The park is the most important set of pieces of contemporary folk art of Finland. The facial expressions of the statues, made from concrete, are part of what makes this group of statues unique. Their expressions are scary, since they aren’t fully realistic: instead they come close to the Uncanny Valley. Some of them also have real human teeth, and sound effects that make the whole park even creepier.

The biggest part of the statue collection is formed by 200 statues in different yoga positions, something that Veijo Rönkkönen knew to perfection.

Statues of Veijo Rönkkönen doing yoga

Statues doing Yoga
Statues in different yoga positions.

The hair on this statue looks real

The exposition has turned into a tourist attraction for the little town of Parikalla. Around 25.000 people visit there every year and the new owners of the park after Veijo’s death have planned to make his park an even bigger attraction. To pique your curiosity, you can check out the entrance to the park with Google Street View, and see many more photos of Veijo Rönkkönen’s statues on Findart.fi.

Here is also a video in which some tourists make a tour through the park, showing the statues.

What do you think about these unsettling statues? Which one is your favorite?



Unikeonpäivä: Sleepy Head Day in Finland

This Sunday, as every 27th of July, is the National Sleepy Head Day in Finland (Unikeonpäivä), which means that the last sleeping family member must be woken up with water.

How the water gets to the person or how the person gets to the water is a matter of choice. The victims of the Unikeonpäivä find themselves awakened by a bucket of water poured over their heads or by being carried over to a river, sea or lake and thrown in.

A woman sleeping
You better set your alarm on on Sleepy Head Day. Source (CC: by-sa)

How the Sleepy Head Day started in Finland

According to the tradition, in the Middle Ages 6 Christians slept in a cave for 200 years. They had ended up there hiding from a roman emperor.

It appears that this tradition was imported to Finland in the 6th century A.C. The idea is that if the Finns oversleep on that day, they’ll might end up sleeping 200 years as those Christians did.

Another popular belief is that if it rains on Sleepy Head Day, it will rain the following 7 weeks.

Sleepy Head Day in Naantali

Naantali, the Finnish town near Turku, which most known attraction is the Moominworld (a theme park about The Moomins), has another tradition for Unikeonpäivä.

They get up extra-early on July 27th and pick a well-known person from Naantali that will be taken out of their bed and home and will be thrown into the water.

One of the best country-wide known Unikekos was thrown into the water on 2004. That day, the Unikeko was taken out of bed, rolled up in his sheets by previous Unikekos, and carried by a retinue to the water, where he was thrown into. When the Unikeko got out of the water, people could see that he was the husband of the Finnish President Tarja Halonen, a law teacher at the University of Joensuu.

Naantali has the best Sleepy Head Day in the country.

Have you experienced a Sleepy Head Day in Finland? Are you a late sleeper?



Tove 100 – an homage to Moomin’s author

This year is the 100 anniversary of the birth of one of the most popular and celebrated Finnish authors: Tove Jansson, creator of those white hippo-like creatures, the Moomins (in Finnish language: muumi).

This year, therefore, there are plenty of events to remember Tove Jansson and to pay an homage to her and her contribution to Finnish literature, design and illustration. One of her creations surpasses all the others: The beloved Moomins.

Illustration about Tove Jansson with ther Moomins
Illutration of Tove Jansson with her Moomins. Source (CC: by)

The Moomins

If you don’t know the Moomins (or moomintrolls, as they’re also called) yet, they are a family of hippo-like creatures and their friends. Their adventures have appeared in books, comics, movies and even an animated TV series.

They look like this:

Moomin chairs
The Moomin characters, chair version. Source (CC: by-sa)

Tove 100

The homage to the 100th anniversary of Tove Jansson’s birth is called Tove 100. A number of special events all around the globe are happening for this anniversary. All of them can be found on the official website Tove100.com. You can search for events in your country there. Talking about English speaking countries, there are plenty of events about Tove Jansson and the Moomins in London. Check out that link.

I will nonetheless tell you about the most interesting events of them all, for me.

Little My tote bag
Little My always had it clear. Source (CC: by-sa)

The main event and maybe the most important of them all happens in Helsinki. It is the Atheneum museum exposition (on the street Kaivokatu 2), called “Tove Jansson art exhibition” that is currently on and will end on September 7th 2014. After that date the collection will move to Japan, where Tove Jansson is very popular too.

There is currently a second exhibition worth visiting for all Moomin-fans: The Moomin Arabia Mug exhibition. Arabia is one of the flagship design companies of Finland and the exposition will go on until August 31st. The street is Hämeentie 135, where the Arabia museum is located, and the exhibition is called “Mugs with history”.

Moomin mug
Coffee tastes better served in a Moomin mug.

More homages to Tove Jansson

Finally, all of Finland celebrates Tove with two more things.

The first one is that the Katajanokka park, next to the Orthodox cathedral of Helsinki, will change its name to “Tove Jansson Park”. The Katajanokka district is where she lived in Helsinki.

The second is this series of stamps that the Post Office of Finland (Posti) has introduced this year:

Tove Jansson Stamps

Have you been or will you go to any of the Tove 100 events? What’s the Tove Jansson creation that you like or that it inspires you most?



A hose: Always next to every Finnish toilet

It’s been a long time since I wanted to write about the hose that exists next to each Finnish toilet. Something like this:

A hose on a Finnish bathroom
A strange apparatus to have in a bathroom: A hose.

The first time I arrived in Finland, many years ago, I was suprised by this strange apparatus. I didn’t have time to test it this first day, to find out what was it for, and I ignored it on the following days, but always with a veiled suspicion: I was afraid to know.

And, after testing it, I still have my doubts.

There are several theories of its use. From it being the substitute of the bidet, to its use as a tool for an easy bathroom cleaning operation (this one is mine and I’d like to think it is used for that).

The shower hose near the toilet
Threatening the WC

As I said I use it mainly for cleaning the entire bathroom. The after-shaving operation leaves the sink clean, and the floors are clean in an instant thanks to this hose or showerhead. You can also clean the toilet with it, but let’s not get into details here.

The Finnish toilet hose or shower
All the power in your hands

If you want to activate this Finnish WC shower or hose, you have to open the water from the sink and press the button that the hose has: The water stream starts coming out of the hose with good water pressure. Personally I think the button-activated mechanism supports everyone elses’ theory of the toilet shower as a substitute of the bidet, but I prefer not to adopt this version.

I have seen this hose not only in private toilets – at friends’ houses – but also next to toilets in bars, restaurants, transport stations, and other places, although not in each and every one of them.

What’s your experience with the Finnish toilet hose? It is definitely one of the things that surprise foreigners in Finland. Its use, if you want to know for sure, is this one and I will keep ignoring it.



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