Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter

Jeff1Vice President Heikki Penttila presided over the July 9, 2018, meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum (FHM). He warmly welcomed all members and guests before turning the microphone over to Anne Pohto, who then introduced our program presenters, FHM members Jon and Brigitte Skytta. The Skyttas presented an informational slide show about their walk on the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James.

The Camino de Santiago is a Pilgrim walking route from France thru Spain, covering 500 miles. It begins at St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There was a film made about this pilgrimage walk called The Way, which was Brigitte’s inspiration for their journey. John and Brigitte decided to start their trek in September, reasoning that kids would all be back in school and the weather would be fairly nice. Of course, everyone wanted to know how long it took to walk the whole distance.

John did most of the talking, with Brigitte filling in and expanding on the story. The total time for the trek was 37 days, and they averaged 13 to 15 miles a day. When they started in September, the weather was summer-like; by the time they finished in October, it had started to cool off and the leaves on the trees had changed color. The walk began at the Cross of St. James in the village of St. Jean Pied de Port, and ended in Spain, where the remains of St. James are supposedly buried. Jon noted that it seemed as if every village along the way, no matter how small, had a church. Some of these churches went back to medieval times, as did an impressive bridge they came upon. The natural landscape ranged from forest paths to almost desert-like areas.

Their adventures were many, ranging from meeting new friends and sharing a bottle or two of wine (wine being cheaper than water), to almost being charged by a wild boar. Incredibly, Jon said there were no police or soldiers patrolling the route. There were pilgrims hiking alone, in wheelchairs, leading a donkey, and even one couple who made the trip with a tiny baby. Jon and Brigitte made friends with people from Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, and other countries.

The Way is well marked, either by scallop shells or yellow arrows. jonskyttaThe scallop shell has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Jon said he thought he got lost one night because he couldn’t see the trail in the dark, but he was mistaken. At the highest point of the Camino, called the Cross of Iron or the Cross of Forgiveness, there is a spot where people leave their concerns in the form of stones. Jon and Brigitte had carried with them several stones from FHM, courtesy of Anne Pohto, and added them to the pile already there. These stones had been painted by our own Ken Quiggle, with symbols of Finland and the Museum. Now they will be visible to all who take this walk.

Incredibly, both Jon and Brigitte each wore only one pair of hiking boots the whole way. Two changes of clothes, sandals, and shower shoes, plus sleeping bag inserts, were all they carried; and Brigitte was glad to learn that Jon knew how to wash out his clothes at the end of each day.

Most nights they stayed in auberges that were like dormitories with bunk beds for up to 50 people; a pilgrim passport was needed to stay in each one. A passport was given out at the beginning of the walk in St. Jean Pied de Port and was stamped as the various landmarks were passed.

skyttaBAt the end of this captivating presentation, there was a question and answer period lasting several minutes. When all the questions had been answered, Heikki announced that refreshments were served in the museum gallery, compliments of Beverly Harbour and Virpi Buck’s Finnish language class. As everyone headed for the table, the talk continued to be about the program. Heikki then called the business meeting to order.

If you are in the Fairport Harbor area, please stop in and visit for a while. We have some very interesting programs coming this fall, including a travelogue of Jovette and Lasse Hiltunen’s river trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, a presentation about the Sami people, and an overview of Finnish log cabins by Mr. Frank Eld, the Finlandia Foundation National Lecturer of the Year. In addition, we will be having a special fundraiser, a murder mystery dinner theater on September 14, 2018. For a list of all upcoming events, please check out our website: finnishheritagemuseum.org.

The Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, held a very special program on Monday, September 12, 2016. This year marks the 125th anniversary of Zion Lutheran Church in Fairport Harbor. The Museum meeting room was packed when member Jeff Werronen presented a 42 slide demonstration showing the history of this church. Tim Hadden, also a Museum member, provided the technical talent to keep the show running smoothly.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Jane Hiltunen 2018








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