I rarely visit Rautajärvi now, perhaps a few times a year, as it's on the northern edge of Pälkäne district. It is my parents' home village however, so I certainly went lots as a child to see family members at their cottages. Perhaps for these reasons, the evening summer market drew my attention - a chance to enjoy a twilight summer evening in the tranquility of the villages with mouth-watering smells from the food market drifting around me in the grounds of Rautahovi manor house .
The drive to Rautajärvi is long, but the tyres on the car are happy now as the tarmac has been renewed - as a child I remember it as a bumpy drive. As we approach Rautajärvi, the buildings seem familiar, but I am still trying to locate the Rautahovi building. I'm thinking of Rautahovi as a large building with a pedestrian area, and roped off areas for the stalls. The truth turns out to be somewhat different...
The large yellow building rises upwards, with the name in big letters - Rautahovi. The building is surrounded by sandy ground, where dozens of cars are already parked. Nearby sellers are setting up tables, placing items on carpets on the ground, and adding clothing onto rails, showcasing their products. Accordion music punctuates the air as they busy themselves. The sun is beating down, and it's becoming a very warm evening. I stroll around the marketplace and find that there are all kinds of items, from toy to clothes, beautiful handmade items and some homemade snacks too.
After a while, more people come and visit the various sellers. Some people have even come to the market dressed in old-fashioned outfits. For a while it feels like I've been transported back in time thirty years. They are not even using phones like eveyone else, thus keeping up the illusion, and making me wonder every now and again if I really have gone back in time.
The kids are drifting around the dirt area, stopping at the flea market stalls to look at the toys. A little girl's fingers are pressed around a plastic animal, and she runs to get coins from her parents. Toy guns are popular with the boys, and a moment later the yard is filled with laughter, screams and kids making shooting sounds as they chase each other around. I overhear one boy asking for an advance on his pocket money for the month, promising not to ask for more.
Everyone seemed to know each other, or maybe it was just a local way of speaking. Everyone talking to each other like old acquaintances, even if they were here for the first time. It has the effect of making everyone feel at home. Still, I feel like a city person who has come to visit the countryside, and maybe I am, because this is the real countryside.
The Sarkanen farm stall offering homemade ice cream draws my attention, as I have not tried that before. From a variety of flavour options, I choose salmiakki (Finnish salty liquorice) and lemon. Wow. The ice cream is so silky and creamy that it melts in my mouth. Now I know why homemade ice cream costs a bit more than the packs at the supermarket. Yummy!
As I turn, I spot a table with leather wristbands and other decorative items. The colours range from sandy-white to dark chocolate brown. After a moment of reflection, I buy a lovely hand-made light cream wrist band. I realised I left my purse in the car, but the seller is trusting, telling me to just put on the band, and come back to pay. That is certainly a country village attitude.
At the end of the market, I head up the steps into the Rautahovi building. Indoors, the old wooden structure looks nice, having changed a bit over the years, but still retaining the old style feeling. The smell of coffee is in the air, and guides me up the steps to the cafeteria. I get waffles and a coffee, for only a small fee. Even though I am sitting here for the first time, there is still something strangely familiar about it all.
The market is slowly thinning out, and people start gathering their products back into the car before heading off, the driveway rocks crunching under the tyres. I leave my car in the field, and we go for an evening walk around Rautajärvi village. I hear stories about people who've lived in modern high-rise city buildings, but now enjoy their old-fashioned terraced houses, and in the calm evening, I can understand it. We pass a former bank building, the library, and a village store. Nearby spruce and birch sprouts from my youth have turned into giant trees, making a complete forest. The neighbourhood children have grown up too, most of the youth of the village now scattered around Finland, studying or working.
Abroad, I have visited and love these small remote villages with their sandy or cobblestone streets. They feel old and outdated, with flaking plaster walls and worn wooden shutters on buildings exposed to the elements, appearing decrepit to passers-by. For me however, they are real life, the genuine look of what I have always appreciated. I see the same authenticity in the village of Rautajärvi.
I also took a look at the interesting Weber point, which was placed in the village of Rautajärvi in 1979. The monument, that has now been seen for decades, indicated the demographic centre of Finland, meaning on average, all Finns were within 191 kilometers of this point. I admired the mottled surface of the sign, enjoying being at the centre of Finland for a moment, then jumped back over the ditch to the gravel road. The Weber point is quite unique. I think I would like to live on this road.
The sun still beats down from the sky on this summer evening, and the silence is almost tangible. A tiny gust of wind blows the leaves of the trees, animating the scene. It's real life. This modern world, where children are taught from an early age about safety consciousness, with warning signs and fences everywhere is not one I appreciate so much. I for one want my own children to enjoy climbing trees, perhaps falling or getting a splinter, and grow up learning common sense, not relying on warning signs. Everyone has to live a little.
Someone once said that the attractiveness of a place is not so much how many visitors there are now, but by how many visitors will come again. During the evening I imagine the future of Rautajärvi. Time will tell, it comes into being.
So, head to Rautajärvi for a summer evening market and enjoy the countryside as the breeze drifts across the village. Dare to enjoy the rural freedom and open your eyes to the beauty that too few people ever appreciate. The evening markets take place in Rautajärvi - Rautahovi's yard - on the last Tuesday of the summer months, starting at 17 o'clock. The events are organized by Rautajärvi village association along with groups from nearby Luopioinen and Kukkia. Free entry, and all are welcome. Maybe even setup a stall yourself, or just sell from the car boot - there are no booking fees but arrive early for a good spot. Sausages and coffee are available in the market, along with the lovely ice cream, of course - welcome!
31.07.18 from 17:00
28.08.18 from 17:00
25.09.18 from 17:00
More information on the evening market (in Finnish) can be found here: