Jyväskylä is the main city in Central Finland and is located 270km north of Helsinki, the capital. Elias Lönnrot, the compiler of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, gave the city the nickname, the ‘Athens of Finland, which refers to the major role of Jyväskylä as an educational centre. And so it is. Much of the life in Jyväskylä revolves around its university, which includes the very large campus and student village areas. I myself was a student there in the mid nineties.
One of the main reasons for visiting Jyväskylä after a 25 year absence was purely for the sake of nostalgia. However, I must admit that walking around the campus and the various parts of the city also elicited a wide range of emotions. Like with anything from our past there were both good and bad times, but all of them were certainly learning experiences. Now, with a much wider and clearer perspective, I could much better understand that the education I got from living life in this place was a lot more than just a masters degree in health and sports sciences.
The university campus is connected to the city centre via a long gently sloping road, which becomes a pedestrian mall at its ends. And when you see the massive number of bars, cafes and eateries, it’s pretty obvious this central area has developed as a place for students to party. Personally, despite having occasionally gone out to some of those places, my main life interests were elsewhere. The bar and party culture never actually sat well with me, and seeing it all essentially deserted on a very quiet Sunday morning, just reminded me of how little I cared for it. Still, with a regularly changing student population, as the graduates leave to make room for a new bunch of freshmen at the start of the fall, running a bar or café catering for the young and fancy free seems to be good for business. I saw a number of the same places still in existence after a quarter of a century, and no doubt good for the same again going forward. I then headed towards the Jyväsjärvi harbour precinct, itself situated at the northern end of Päijänne, the second largest lake in Finland. From here, it’s actually possible to take a cruise all the way to the city of Lahti, which is some 165km away, and connected to the Päijänne via Lake Vesijärvi and the Vääksy canal.
Crossing back over the railway tracks, I passed the new Transportation Centre on my way up to the ‘Harju’, the ridge overlooking the city and Jyväsjärvi. This park area is very popular with dog walkers and fitness buffs, as well as students armed with plastic bags filled with cans of beer and cider. For me, though, this area holds a particularly special memory. The city’s athletics field is located here, and it’s where I completed my last sub 3hr marathon, way back in the day when I used to be a very fit young fella. Then, there’s the crown of the Harju, the Vesilinna observation tower, and close to it, the long picturesque stairway back down to the city centre.
After my two or so hour walking tour of Jyväskylä, I headed south towards my next destination, the Päijänne National Park, the second of the three that I would visit on this maiden vanlife tour. On the way, I stopped at a rest area by a lake just outside the small town of Kuhmoinen to make myself some lunch, and just chill for a bill while marinating in the sounds and smells of nature. Immediately upon arrival at the Niemisjärvi area of the Päijänne National Park, I headed off to do some exploration before setting up camp for the night in a secluded spot. In the next video, I’ll be sharing what I saw while traversing the trails. So, I’ll catch you again in that one. Until then, be blessed.