Hietaniemen Hautausmaa

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Gravestone shrouded in snow.
Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

On my last day in Helsinki, my host and I walked through the northwestern portions of the city (Etu-Töölö — my recent featured Image of the Day includes images from this walk) to visit several places, including Sibeliuksenpuisto (Sibelius Park) where the famous monument is located and Hietaniemen hautausmaa (Hietaniemi cemetery). This graveyard is the burial place for many famous Finns, including writers, artists, actors, and nearly all of its presidents.

Gravestones and statues were visible through the snow-covered trees as far as the eye could see in every direction;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Unlike the cemetaries in NYC, which are uncared for and are mostly filled with broken-down and damaged gravestones, Finnish graveyards are carefully maintained, scenic and almost park-like;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Hietaniemi Cemetery is within walking distance of the city center, and it is next to a beach. This graveyard is unusual because it is comprised of four parts: Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Jewish and Islamic cemetaries. The Lutheran cemetery is further subdivided into two areas. The older portion is the final resting place of a number of famous people, including C.L. Engel, the man who designed a large part of the city, world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto, Finland’s best-known artist, Gallen-Kallela (whose home I visited shortly after arriving in Helsinki), authors Mika Waltari and Topelius and six Finnish presidents.
The strong winds from the previous day’s snowstorm deposited snow everywhere in a variety of patterns. I thought this gravestone had a particularly interesting snowy design;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Here’s another tombstone with an interesting pattern in its snow covering;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Some of these gravesites had such elaborate stones and markers that I thought it would be interesting to find the markers for some famous people and photograph them to share with you, but alas, my numb fingers and toes prevented me from following up on this idea.

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Since the Finns are predominantly Lutheran, crosses were quite popular as grave markers. I took this opportunity to photograph several different styles to share with you. Here’s a very plain cross made of marble;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

And a much fancier cross made of marble;

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Read more about the Hietaniemi cemetery [English or Suomi]. As you can see from this one reference, ther eis plenty more to see in this cemetary, so I plan to spend more time investigating and photographing it when I return to Helsinki.
But if you think I walked through twenty-foot high snowdrifts in a sub-zero blizzard just to look at a few grave markers, you’d be very mistaken. I actually made this perilous journey for a much different (and life-affirming) reason: to visit the birds to handfeed and photograph them. As if to remind me of my true purpose, a little birdie flew past my head and landed on the trunk of a pine tree and clung there, asking for something to eat;

Great tit, Parus major.
Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

I plan to publish a photoessay of the friendly birds of Hietaniemen Hautausmaa tomorrow, so be ready for that!


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Hietaniemen Hautausmaa

  1. llewelly says:

    finally! A pic of a bird from Finland. I was beginning to wonder if the Finns needed to import some penguins or something …

  2. Bob O'H says:

    I don’t think that bird was so much asking, as demanding with threats…
    llewelly – there are more birds here. My theory is that it’s only the stupid birds which stay in Finland for the winter. sensible ones would have migrated south by now.

  3. bob! resident finnish birds are not stupid, since the people there are well-trained to feed them. as we can attest.

  4. DeafScientist says:

    No atheist section in the graveyard? Just kidding…