Hudson Storde:
snapshots from summer 1939

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lapland’s busiest man drinks lemonade

Hotel Pohjanhovi stood majestic in its paleness, impressive in its modernity against the backdrop of the shimmering blue of the Ounaskoski River and the yellow wheatfields to the north. In the entrance hall, three storeys in height, the brightly gleaming white col-umns supported the electric-blue ceiling as if they were pillars of ice suspended from the heavens. The east wall, made of glass, opened up to the terraces, where people sat be-neath sky-blue umbrellas and gazed over the broad frothing rapids to the beach and the houses on the opposite shore. The furniture was of chrome, glass and blue-grey leather. The dining hall with its glass walls loomed behind the entrance hall, a spacious portal winding at the top as part of the balconies, like the stands at the opera.

Nobody expects to find this sort of inn in this neck of the woods, which a few years ago was still virtually non-traversed wilderness. The entrance had been made, quite appro-priately, into an icy fairy tale palace, a god of ice in the kingdom of Boreas. However, the atmosphere changed into everyday reality immediately when an official requested our passports in order to deliver them to the police for accommodation inspection. Therese remarked cautiously that we had already been in Finland for two weeks. The of-ficial winced at the mild criticism: ”You don’t understand! We are near Russia, Ma-dame!”

The glass lift carried us up to the lobby, in which the mirrors reflected the glass and chrome in the tables, on which there were vases filled with daisies and cornflowers. Our room, together with its bathrooms, fulfilled all our expectations with its elegance, com-fort and technical equipment. In its tones of silver, beige and night-blue, it appeared as cool and clean as an iceberg. The broad corner window opened up to the swirling stream where men fished in their boats, as well as to the wheatfields in which red-bloused girls and men without shirts raked the freshly cut hay into hayricks. The Arctic Circle was less than five miles away to the north.

Nimble in his movements, a blond young man who spoke a little English and kept a red pocket dictionary in his hand came to pick us up for lunch with the Governor. He ex-plained that my friend had telephoned the Governor from Helsinki and had asked him to take good care of us. The young man was a lawyer by profession and was a member of the Governor’s staff. His name was Eero Eho—easy to remember—and his official title was that of a judge.

Although Rovaniemi had not obtained city rights until 1938, it had in reality been the capital of Lapland since its establishment in 1929. It lies at the nodal point of traffic. The important log-floating channels and gravel roads from six directions are merged here. In February and at Midsummer, a market is held in the spirit of doing business and having fun. Foreigners also arrive for the winter fur market. Rovaniemi is the most important centre for summer tourism north of Tampere, and during the last three years it has begun to attain a foothold as a winter sporting venue. At this particular moment it was suffering a great deal from growing pains.

Rovaniemi is a marketplace built of wood which was in the midst of changing rapidly into a city of concrete and mortar. One block resembled a mining town during the gold-rush of ’49, whereas the one next to it comprised the architectural dreams of the future. The pavements, constructed of planks, merged with those of concrete. At the other end of the main street, there was a tent with a firing range where phonograph records were played loudly in an attempt to lure visiting merchants. In the city centre, the cooperative stores carried out commerce in German cameras, delicious Californian fruits and over-coats from London. At the fringes of the city, the reindeer grazed in their native peaceful environs. A large blue motor vehicle laden with fish proceeded along the main street, transporting the fresh product kept chilled by electricity from the arctic city to Hel-sinki—across Finland as a whole. A positive and vibrant town was what Rovaniemi pro-jected, a city that really wanted to be noticed.

(Rovaniemen kuvauksia [Descriptions of Rovaniemi], pp. 219-220)



 

luettelomerkki

Land of the Arctic Circle
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Mountain of the
Midnight Sun

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Finland’s Klondike
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From sleigh rides to the
age of the Concorde

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The nearest real hotel
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Santa Claus Land
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A city called by many
names - and the heroes
take the spoils

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