By Marion Ueckermann
I hope you’ve been as excited to see the sights of the quaint town of Savonlinna, located in the south-eastern Lakeland district of Finland, as I’ve been to show them to you. Narelle, thank you for hosting me again.
With the amount of water surrounding Savonlinna, it was no surprise that one of the first things to greet us were the boats. Some moored, waiting for a sunny weekend; some seemingly abandoned; show boats taking tourists sightseeing; and yachts banked up on the green verges of the lake.
It was the single wooden ‘viking-type’ rowboat that really caught our attention and had us fascinated by its beauty and perfection.
As we strolled through the town, we came across a quaint area of cobbled streets and vintage-style shops with colorful window boxes.
It was here that we began to spot the black-suited musicians pressing forward, instruments in hand, clearly on a mission as they made their way toward Olavinlinna Castle. They were performing in the evening’s opera. How fortunate we were to be in Savonlinna at the time of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and that summer of 2012, they celebrated their centenary. One hundred years of opera within this medieval castle.
The month-long festival is held annually during July and attracts a total audience of around 60,000 opera goers—2,500 at every performance—from all over the world (about a quarter hailing from outside Finland). The castle’s Great Court is covered with a giant marquee, and a stage and stands are set up inside this courtyard.
We looked on amused as patrons dressed in fancy clothes, ice-cream cones in their hands, ambled down the same route as the musicians to attend this major society event. We soon learned that it didn’t matter whether it was summer or winter, whether out to play, entertaining guests, or on the way to the opera, for the Finns, there’s always time for ice-cream.
We followed their path which stopped at the 15th century three-tower castle. This northernmost medieval stone fortress was fascinating, but unfortunately, we could only view it from a distance. At the bridge, we could go no further. Only opera ticket holders could cross the watery divide to the castle—some of those tickets selling for a whopping 250 Euro (of course, those were the best seats in the house). In its short season, the festival offers seven operas on one of the most unique opera stages in the world with unsurpassed atmosphere and magnificent acoustics. The 2012 operas were: La Fenice, The Flying Dutchman, Aida, The Magic Flute, Peter Grimes, Den fjerde nattevakt (The Fourth Watch of the Night), and Free Will (created collaboratively by a worldwide web community).
Some great links for photos of the operas and behind the scenes shots:
Olavinlinna Castle was built by a Dane, then conquered by Sweden and Russia. It helped to protect the border against neighboring Russia.
The next time we took a drive into Savonlinna from the summer cottage, we decided to take a tour of the castle. It was a rainy day, and there was nothing much else to do. It was a good decision.
The castle was fascinating. Access via the footbridge; spiral staircases leading to the citadel towers; the King’s Hall used for receptions and banquets, and the hagioscope—a small chamber located in the wall of the southern side of the chapel for persons who were not allowed in the chapel itself. Faint fragments of al secco wall paintings are still to be seen against the stark white walls of this tiny chapel in the heart of the castle.
Oh the history that echoed through those ancient stone passageways and thick-walled chambers. I particularly loved the one story the tour guide told of when the castle was under Russian rule. The Swedish army came to attack the castle but their siege failed. Their plan to scale the high walls with ladders might’ve been successful had they not arrived at the foot of the castle by boat and discovered they’d forgotten to pack the ladders.
The best part of visiting the castle had to be the backstage tour. It was incredibly interesting. I found this YouTube video which gives a little glimpse into this. For a good laugh, track the sub-titles with the audio J https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxWucTA52NM
Next week I’ll introduce you to some fascinating wood, marble and bronze structures of this area—the largest wooden church in the world situated in Kerimäki; a tranquil Finnish cemetery; and creatively crafted bronze statues.
He needed the island to himself. So did she.
Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter’s plan. But sometimes plans go awry.
On an impromptu trip to her family’s secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.
Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.
Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.
Will he be able to resist her temptations?
Can she withstand his prayers?
Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube
MARION UECKERMANN’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series). Her second Passport to Romance novelette, Oslo Overtures, will be published in 2015.
Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.
Connect with Marion Ueckermann: