By Federico Buldrini
The region of Southern Savonia is in the heart of the Finnish lake district, where the Saimaa creates its labyrinth of water and land. It’s the largest lake of Finland with its 4 380 km2 surface, 13,710 islands and 14,850 km of shores. On its islands many historical buildings were built, here are just few examples.
The St.Olaf Castle of Savonlinna was built in 25 years by the citizens and completed in 1475. Due to the habit of preserving food under layers of salt and despite being over a freshwater lake, the castle was guarded by beer fueled soldiers, or so is told. It was abandoned in 1840 after three wars between Sweden and Russia and brought back to life in 1912 with the creation of the International Opera Festival.
The Kerimäki wooden church, the biggest one in the word, can hold 5000 people. The parishioners used to reach it by boat.
The New Valamo orthodox monastery was originally built in the 12th century on lake Ladoga, in the now Russian part of Karelia. After the Winter War the monks moved to west and built a new monastery in Heinävesi.
Aside from man’s works, lake Saimaa is a natural treasure in itself and holds, among other species, one of the three living freshwater seals: the critically endangered Saimaa ringed seal.
The wetland environment, paired with the deciduous forests, is the ideal place for the summer nesting of the golden oriole. This reserved yet active bird, whose male sports one of the most melodious voices among European birds has become one of the regional symbols of Southern Savonia.
Blacksmith Martti Malinen, working in Niinisaari island, crafts, among the others, a puukko named after this bird: the Kuhankeittäjä.
“For me the bird itself has been the source of inspiration. My summers here are hectic because of number of tourists. And they all want to get my knives or other products from the local blacksmith! My hobby has been to have a cup of coffee on the entrance door of the workshop and talk to Oriolus (I use Latin name often) for fun. He answers and flies to me when I imitate him. They nest here on our yard. Few years ago I wanted to do something different after a number of koivumäki and other normal knives. Something which have more colours and have a message from summer.
During a day off from workshop I took my family for a short boating trip to our sauna cabin 10 km from here. Just before we arrived back we met a ringed seal. I stopped the engine and he dived closer to the boat. Finally he was ten meters from us. One of the most endangered mammal in the world! Perhaps the next knife will have colours from the ringed seal…”
For a profile of Martti Malinen see Martti Malinen Profile Link
And for a review of one of his puukkos see Malinen Koivumaki Puukko Review