Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Hilltop in July

Last week, we revisited the hilltop of the Old Castle of Lieto. The green and red colours of Midsummer shown in my previous post had now turned towards a brown and yellow palette of blooming grasses of all sorts.

Time flies and our summer is short, which feels a bit unfair now that we still haven’t seen a single period of dry and warm weather this season.

Thankfully, there were some new pink blossoms on the hilltop meadow: quite a lot of maiden pinks (ketoneilikka), which is one of my absolute favourite wildflowers, some willow spiraea (pajuangervo) and even a few foxgloves (sormustinkukka) rising from the steep river-side slope. The two last ones must have originated from a garden that used to be somewhere close by.

This time, the reason for our visit was a concert held in the former cowhouse of the manor that has been turned into an event venue and restaurant. The trio Onda3 (Onda três), consisting of talented musicians studying at the jazz department of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, performed bossa nova – both well-known songs and their own compositions – to a hall full of thrilled listeners. Another concert very much to our liking.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


Some time ago we climbed a hill to have a picnic with a view. What a hill it was and what a view it offered!

There is a wooden staircase leading you to the top. In late June, the hill was lavishly blooming all over. This alone would have been reason enough to pay a visit.

Some of the plants flourishing on this hill are rather uncommon in our country and can only be found on ancient dwelling sites where livestock kept the growth of the native plants short protecting the ‘ancient newcomers’ or archaeophytes from disappearing. The above dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) (sikoangervo) is one of those.

But the views down to the river Aura and the surrounding fields were even more spectacular, at the same time soothing and energising. I could have stayed there for hours admiring the panorama. With the added effect of the blossoming around our feet the place felt heavenly.

In ancient times, the rock that is now largely covered in a meadow was an islet from where the early settlers could keep an eye on the traffic on the waterways around it. Later when the land masses had risen thanks to the phenomenon known as post-glacial rebound and the sea slowly withdrew an important road took shape nearby. This historical road is still winding through the fields here.

Archaeological research has revealed there was a castle on top of the rock from around the 6th to the 14th century. The place is located in Lieto some 10km northeast from downtown Turku. There are no longer any structures left of the fortifications but based on tradition the site is still called the Old Castle of Lieto.

There has been an estate by the name of Old Caste at the foot of the hill at least from the early 15th century. The present manor house dates from the 1930s. It is now owned by the University of Turku and houses a museum with both permanent and changing exhibitions (closed on Mondays). We didn’t see any of those yet as we made this first visit on the Midsummer weekend when everything was closed, even the summer café located in one of the former barns. (Should you ever plan a visit to Finland do remember to avoid Midsummer unless you are invited to stay at a local.) 

The Aura river valley is recognised as one of the Finnish national landscapes. We will certainly return to the hilltop often and are planning to hike the trail from downtown Turku following the banks of the river to the Old Castle soon. If only this prolonged period of changeable chilly weather would come to an end.

Here you can see winter views from the hilltop.