Eukkojen polku on Ruokolahden kirkonmäen välittömään läheisyyteen rakennettu n. 3 km. pitkä vaellusreitti joka esittelee kirkonseudun historiaa sekä sen erikoisia ja mielenkiintoisia geologisia muodostumia.
Guide board texts in English
RUOKOLAHTI LOCAL MUSEUM
This beautiful old building from 1861 presently serving as the local museum was originally a grain storage. The museum is open during the summer months. The building is owned by the Ruokolahti Municipality, and run and maintained by the Ruokolahti Society.
During the great famine of the years 1866-68, the grain stored in this building helped alleviate starvation among the poor. Seed grain was also borrowed to farmers who had run out it due the bad years.
In its three levels, the museum exhibits artefacts mainly related to farming. The first level has church museum department with artefacts related to the Ruokolahti Parish.
OLD POSTAL ROUTE
In the old days there was a road running along this ridge which served as a military and postal route. It was part of the road from Vyborg to Olavinlinna Castle. Postal services were taken care of by famers, who did this as a service to the crown and received some benefits in return. There were postal farms at intervals of 20-30 kilometers.
According to the first Postal Statute post had to be carried running, day and night and in every weather. Should the postman stop without good reason, he would be sentenced to prison for four weeks with only water and bread as nourishment. The postman was to proceed ten kilometers in two hours. The postman’s equipment included a horn with which he would tell where he was going and warn others on the road. Letter thieves would be threatened by death sentence, and some postmen were carrying weapons in case of robbers.
Later, postmen traveling by foot were replaced by postal farmers on horseback. The riding postman had to gallop at full speed, and anyone coming from the opposite direction had to yield and allow the postman half of the road.
THE NEW CEMETERY AND THE FUNERAL CHAPEL
The Middle Cemetery was becoming too small in the 1930’s. In 1935, the decision was made to expand it towards Lake Saimaa. A funeral chapel was built on one side, with a storage area for the deceased. There are over 2000 burial sites at the cemetery. Part of the area has been left untouched forest. The New Cemetery was inaugurated in 1937.
The Chapel was originally designed by Mr Lehtinen, the local construction foreman, after visiting corresponding buildings in neighbouring communities. The drawings of the chapel were approved in 1936 and it was completed the following year. In 1954, the building was expanded on the basis of Ilmari Wirkkala’s drawings.
In 1996, cold storage facilities for the deceased were built. In 2020, toilet facilities were added to the building.
The chapel lends itself well for small funerals.
In the terrain of Ruokolahti church hill you can find depressions of different shapes and sizes, along which skiers have gained wild speeds in winter! Many may wonder how those, at times, very deep pits were born. To find out, we travel about 12,000 years back to the ice age.
At the end of the ice age, the meltwater of the continental ice sheet flowed in glacial river tunnels and crevasses. The material carried by the meltwater was deposited in the tunnels, forming esker ridges. The material also deposited in glacial bays as the melting tunnel channels opened into crevasses and further into wider bays. The area of Ruokolahti church hill is such a glacial river deposit created in a glacial bay.
As the glacial river deposit formed, large blocks of ice were buried in the sand and gravel. As they melted, the undulating landscape was formed, punctuated by kettles seen today. Kettles can be pits in which forest grows, but if they are in contact with surface or groundwater, they can form kettle ponds or paludified kettles.
The church hill area is bordered in the west by Ukonsalmi strait, which was formed as the ice sheet deeply eroded the fractured bedrock’s weakness zone. These zones can be fracture zones where the bedrock is broken, or fault zones where lobes of rock have moved in relation to one another.
In nowadays weakness zones are the narrow straits and bays of Saimaa. The Ukonsalmi strait is eroded into fault zone. The fault continues northbound as Virmutjoki river and southbound towards Immalanjärvi. At its deepest, Ukonsalmi is 26 metres deep.
At the end of the ice age about 12,000 years ago, when the edge of the ice retreated from the area, the water level was higher than it is today. Ukonsalmi and almost the entire church hill area were covered with water. Only the hill rising to the northeast of the kettle holes poked out from the waves of the Baltic ice lake as a small island. However, as the weight of the glacier eased, the land began to rise and the shore correspondingly lowered. In Ukonsalmi strait, the water flow has been strong, so a steep bank has been eroded on the slope of church hill area towards Ukonsalmi.
The land uplift that began at the end of the ice age is uneven. As a result, the lake basins began to tilt to the southeast and the water level in the southern parts of Lake Saimaa rose. The ancient Saimaa or Greater Saimaa (Suursaimaa in Finnish) was formed, during which, before the outbreak of Vuoksi about 5,700 years ago, Lake Saimaa flooded the shore areas and, for example, Lampsiinlampi was part of Lake Saimaa.
Source: Saimaa Geopark
THE SKI JUMPS
The first ski jump was built here in 1936 by the Ruokolahti Civil Guard. The length of the record jump was 28.5 meters. When the civil guards were abolished in 1944, the local sports club took over the ski jump. The new owner repaired the structures a couple of years later. At the end of 1950’s the ski jump was deemed useless and it was dismantled.
In the winter 1964-65 a new ski jump was built with financial support from the municipality. The record jump was 37 meters. Popularity of ski jumping diminished over the years, and there was little use for the new jumping facility. The ski jump was dismantled in 1982.
Story tells that after the opening competition of the new ski jump, a local fellow Einari climbed to the top of the structure with his long overcoat on. With his coat buttons open, he would start sliding down the hill. The audience watched him in awe and thought this would be the end of the poor fellow. But the Einari glided like a flying squirrel a long successful jump. The length of the jump was not measured, and it ended up being Einari’s first and last jump.
The bridge over the Ukonsalmi Strait was completed in 1985. It was designed by Juhani Hyvönen, MSc (Tech.) The bridge has two steel bridge girders and it is 208 meters in length and 10.75 meters in width. The height of the bridge from the lake surface is 5 meters.
The bridge replaced ferry traffic across the strait and made travelling easier to and from Salosaari and Äitsaari, the two major island communities of Ruokolahti. The scheduled maintenance and repair work of the bridge will have been completed by the end of 2021.
SHIPPING ON LAKE SAIMAA
A ship named S/S Imatra II owned by the company Saimaan Höyrylaiva Oy operated in the waters of southern Lake Saimaa after the wars. There were 42 docking places along the route, one of them being at the Ukonsalmi Strait. Ship traffic was vital especially for people living on the islands. Goods, as well as animals, were transported aboard the ship. Country folks were able to take their produce to the market for sale. On Sundays there was a scheduled service carrying people from the more remote parts of the parish to the Ruokolahti Church.
Gradually, as cars became more common and roads more passable, ship traffic slowed down, and ended completely in 1965.
FERRIES AT UKONSALMI STRAIT
In the old days, people would cross the strait on an ordinary row boat type vessel. In 1874, a bigger vessel was introduced with two pairs of oars. This vessel could easily accommodate different kinds of horse and buggy combinations. This type of vessel was used for decades with new models deployed in 1881, 1891 and 1909.
With increasing automobile traffic this kind of boat did not meet the new requirements. Therefore, in 1920 a new, manually operated cable ferry started trafficking at the strait. It continued operating until 1952 when it was replaced by a motor-operated ferry, which was in use until 1985. That year marked the end of ferry traffic at the Ukonsalmi Strait with completion of the bridge that now runs across the strait.
This trench is part of the defense lines built in Southern Finland to protect St Petersburg against possible military aggression by Germany. The presumption was that the Germans would land on the western coast of the Grand Duchy of Finland and start their military operation from there. In the area around the Ruokolahti Church about 30 trenches, ridges and bunkers were built during 1915-16. Land owners were compensated for the loss of their land for this purpose. In total about 100 000 builders worked on the defense line, mainly Russian – some Chinese as well. The builders were housed at the local community hall.
The defense lines were used to some extent during the Finnish Civil War. The structures were taken down after Finland became independent. Usable lumber was recycled.
DOCKING SITE FOR CHUCH BOATS
The cape in front of you is the place where church boats used to come ashore in the old days. Church boats seating up to about 60 people were used to bring people to church. They were used here in Ruokolahti from the end of the 18th century until the 1930’s. The different villages in the parish would have their own boats, worth a small fortune. The boats had up to seven pairs of oars, and the rowers would sit in fours so that two rowers would be handling one oar. Some boats would even have sails. Sometimes the boat crews of different villages would compete which one would be the first to reach the destination. Women and children would sit at the bow or the stern of the boat, together with baskets of provisions for the day and women’s church dresses. It was important to reach the destination early enough to have time for a snack, change clothes, put on shoes and meet relatives.
WINTER WAR AIR BATTLE
During the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force had a base on the ice of Ukonsalmi Strait for a fighter fleet of Fokker and Gladiator aircraft. On 29 February 1940 this area saw the most severe air battle of the Winter War. During the battle, 7 Finnish and 3 Russian fighters were shot down. One of the casualties took place on the reconnaissance flight in the morning and the rest during the battle just after 12 noon that day. Four of the fallen pilots were Finnish, 2 were Russian. The headquarters of the air base was at the municipal hall. Municipal operations had been moved to Rantalinna.
MEMORIAL STONE FOR ALBERT EDELFELT
On one side of the church, there is a two-part memorial stone for Albert Edelfelt, the painter. The place is the same where he sketched his famous painting. The memorial stone was designed by Gerda Qvist and Erkki Pitkäpaasi. The stones come from Salpalinja, the war-time defense line that runs in the region. The Ruokolahti Society was in charge of erecting the memorial stone in 1955.
The artist finished his painting in his studio in Haikko, where he had local women as models dressed in costumes brought from Ruokolahti. Throughout the history of the painting, people have been talking about the identity of the women in the picture. Folks in Ruokolahti recognize features of women known in the community.
RUOKOLAHTI CHURCH AND CHURCH YARD
When the construction of the present church was finished in 1854, it was surrounded by fields where the tenant farmers’ cattle was crazing, keeping the grass short and neat. Later, cattle crazing was forbidden, and fences were built around the church, wooden ones at first. The area around the church had to be kept clear for fire hazard as well. Only in the 1900’s greenery, such as fir trees, was planted.
Later, a metal fence designed by architect Jorma Paatela was erected around the church yard. The gate pillars were designed by Ilmari Wirkkala. The fallen heroes of the Continuation War have been buried in the church yard. The memorial stone erected in their honour was also designed by Wirkkala.
In the church yard, there is also a remembrance site where people can light a candle for a loved one buried elsewhere.
The present church is the fourth in the parish. It was designed by Ernst Lohrman and the drawings were, presumably, made by Carl Edelfelt, Albert Edelfelt’s father. The parish officials chose Theodor Johan Tolpo as builder of the church as he had previous experience from building major wooden churches in Kerimäki and Rääkkylä.
The church is a wooden cruciform church with a high central cupola and a bell tower. It is said that the church used to be able to seat 1400 people, but at present less, as a few rows of benches were removed from the back of the church. The church saw major renovation in 1914 with interior paneling, new flooring and benches, and the balcony widened to enable installation of an organ. The first organ was put in the following year. An altarpiece was also ordered from painter Aleksandra Fråsterus-Såltin.
Central heating was installed in the church in the 1960’s. One old heating stove was saved and it is on display in the local museum. In 1986, a new, more powerful organ was put in. Parts of the old organ were moved to the museum.
THE PARISH HALL
Earlier, at this same place stood Ruokolahti’s Municipal House. The wooden building burned down at the beginning of the 1930’s. The municipality decided then to build a new hall at a different site a couple of kilometres down the road, and the new Parish Hall was built here. When the building was completed in 1934, it included a room open for parishioners, a parish hall, a service room and an office room. Upstairs, apartments for the janitor and the deaconess were built.
In 1993, a new annex was added to the building. At the same time, the interior of the building was renovated to meet the changed needs. The Parish Hall is used for parish meetings, different kinds of events and it is rented out for example for memorial gatherings.
THE BELL TOWER
The bell tower is one of the oldest buildings in Ruokolahti, and it is a well-known landmark in the region. The bell tower was built by the local carpenter, Tuomas Suikkanen, and was completed in 1752. The shingle-roofed bell tower was the first ecclesiastical building built by Suikkanen.
The bell tower has stood the test of time quite well. In the 1800’s the tower was ordered to be taken down because it was feared that it would not withstand the ringing of the big bell. The bell was moved to the tower of the new church, and the bell tower was allowed to stay in place. In the 1930’s the parish officials decided to sell the bell tower to Seurasaari Open-Air Museum in Helsinki. The parish priest fortunately managed to prevent the sale.
The roof shingles were replaced by new ones in 1915 using as raw material benches removed from the church. The tower has been tarred several times during the past decades.
THE OLD CEMETERY
The first three churches of the Ruokolahti Parish stood in the middle of the area which is nowadays known as the Old Cemetery. This cemetery has graves dating back to the time the parish was founded in 1572. The stone fence around the cemetery was built from stones brought in by the parishioners – each according to their resources.
A story tells that in one corner of the cemetery, there was a log hut where the grave digger stored the bones he had found. This and the trenches around the church area were endless sources of scary excitement and adventure to the local children.
The Old Cemetery has the graves of 24 White Army heroes, and the memorial stone was erected for them in 1920. The stone arched gate and the memorial stone for the fallen soldiers of the Winter War were designed by Ilmari Wirkkala. The sword stone that is part of the stone gate was moved from proximity of the gate to a place behind the rows of 90 graves.
This pine tree was used to tie the offender to. Until 1870 flogging was a legal form of punishment in the Grand Duchy of Finland.