Sunday, June 9, 2013

ROVANIEMI....NORVÄJARVI German Soldiers Cemetery.

88° Finland !!.

The Ice Road, now a liquid Ice Road.


88°F and in a few hot spots maybe 89-90?.

Even the Finns are complaining, "On todella kuuma", (too damn hot). Well, not all of them, but a lot echo these very sentiments.
It's the hottest it's been in Finland in over 50 years they tell me. In fact, northern Finland is the hottest part of Europe right now. -33°C in winter, +33°C now at the end of May.
Which is a bit of a problem for me right now. Not like a life or death problem, just more of an inconvenience. I'm not set up for summer and hot weather riding and hate it. I really don't like the heat anymore. It just drains me. I don't have room for a summer wardrobe on my sidecar outfit, as big as it is. But even if I did, winter is my preferred season to travel. And the hotter it gets here, the more I can't wait for December. Only another 6 months, I am counting the days.....

....until more of this. There's a Hilleberg tent under there....somewhere.

Some days here I feel like I'm back in Florida. The 31°C temperatures have me double checking the map just to make sure I am still in Lapland and haven't somehow been moved along a parallel universe to Majorca
It happens more than you know. 

As a result of this unusually hot May, things that grow in nature, like Blueberries and Cloudberries for example, have now started to bud. Normally, they don't start for another two or three weeks.
And another visitor has begun to show themselves too.

I HATE mosquitos.

However, they are a necessary evil in this world, just like attorneys. 
Up here in Lapland, mosquitos supposedly keep the Reindeer together in groups from wandering all over the place, which makes it much easier to round them up for the annual baby reindeer ear clipping event coming up in a few weeks here.
Mosquitos also are flower pollinators. Even though they are primarily known as mammalian pests, only the female mosquito needs a blood meal for development of her eggs. The male mosquito lives and feeds exclusively on plant nectar, and because of this, accidentally serves as a vector for pollen transmissions. The mosquito larvae also serve as food for fish, frogs, birds bats etc.
Now, some scientists say that if you removed all of the mosquitoes from the planet, those animals wouldn't starve, as it only makes up about 1% of their diet. So, what else are they good for?. Pollination. Ok. Well, then again, mosquitoes are not the only pollinators to visit those plants. So one could make the argument that even when it comes to pollination, if you got rid of all the mosquitoes in the world, the impact wouldn't be all that great, right?.
Well, there is one plant that is pollinated only by mosquitoes. It grows in bogs and other swampy or wet woody places, and it's called the blunt-leaved bog orchid.
So, what role does this plant play in the greater scheme of things?. Nobody has found the answer to that yet, so until mother earth is mosquito free, I suffer. Since I am much loved by them and one of their favorite meals. A delicacy I am to them even.... I found out when I went into the forest last week to pay a visit to Norvajärvi and the Cemetery for German Soldiers just outside of Rovaniemi.

Located 18 km north of Rovaniemi in a place called Norvajärvi, the cemetery was consecrated on August 31, 1963. You cannot drive right up to the Mausoleum itself, but must park 0.5 km from it.

From where you park it's a .5 km walk through a winding forest path leading to a pair of stone pillars, the entrance and the silent sentinels of the grounds. A continuous natural stone wall seems to grow from the outside of the two pillars and surrounds the mausoleum almost down to the lake.

The top inscription reads "German Military Cemetery" in German, the middle is in Finnish.

In World War II, approximately 15,000 German soldiers died at the Finnish border, most of them are buried on Russian ground.
In Finland, there are two main cemeteries for German soldiers killed in the war.
This one here at Norvajärvi in Lapland and another one in Helsinki, the Hietaniemi Cemetery or Hietaniemen Hautausmaa in Finnish. 
The Helsinki cemetery is smaller then the Norvajärvi cemetery, containing the remains of 371 soldiers from World War II and 6 soldiers from World War I. Most of the 371 fallen from the Second World War were Kreigsmarine sailors from 2 destroyers laying a minefield along the Estonian coast.
All together, there were approximately 200,000 German soldiers in Lapland during the Continuation War of 1941-1944.

The mausoleum itself is all constructed of red granite.

"Mother and Son" by German sculptor Ursula Querner.

The interior of the chapel was designed by architect Otto Kindt Hamburg, built between 1959-1963 by Kemi Construction in Rovaniemi, Finland.
The main room contains 8 large flat limestone slabs or tablets that are engraved with the names, rank, DOB and DOD of 2,683 German soldiers.

The way I understand and read the information on the burial is that each of the coffins is placed directly below the name of the soldier engraved on the limestone tablet up in the main room.

Leaving the mausoleum you can walk back and sit by the lake, Norvajärvi.

The inscription on the stone reads:
"Wir Gendeken Aller Kriegsgräber Die Unserer Liebe Unerreichbar Sind Und Befehlen Sie In Gottes Friden"
"We Commemorate All War Graves That Are Unreached By Our Love, And We Command Them To God.".

I went to visit Norvajärvi twice, the first time I spent quite an amount  of time there as I was all alone that day, no other visitors to disturb the air of somber tranquility. I wandered in the main hall and tried to read as many or nearly all of the 2600+ names of the soldiers buried there, in part out of journalistic curiosity, and also in part out of remembrance and respect to the fallen. 
Norvajärvi German Soldiers Cemetery is a nice place to be and spend half a day there, a serene setting right on the lake, a place to reflect and think.

I rode back that afternoon to Karu MC, a little melancholy, pensive and and reflective. My mood needed to be turned up a notch, needed a little boost.
So it got a nice little boost when I saw Jari getting ready to finally fire up, for the first time since last summer, his re-built chopper.

It went through a long winter tucked away in the depths of the clubhouse, this was only the second time it saw the light of day since last summer.

And here's my TIL (today I learned) moment, since we're in a Second World War vein.

The swastika, the most recognizable icon of Nazi propaganda, has become so widely associated with Nazi Germany that contemporary uses today frequently incite anger and of course, controversy. Not so in Finland.

A fellow motorcyclist and friend of Karu MC was visiting the club with his old VW engined Dnepr motorcycle, and while chatting with him and taking photos of the outfit, I noticed the patch on his jacket with what appeared to be a swastika in it. Sure enough it was a swastika, a Finnish Air Force patch with a swastika. I knew that the symbol of the swastika had been around and used long before it was forever changed for the worse by the Nazi Party, but just how long before I did not know.
Well, about 5000 years before is a ballpark of the swastikas origins, first used in Neolithic Eurasia. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika meaning "good fortune" or "well-being". It's still a sacred symbol in Buddhism, Jainism and Odinism.
So, why is the swastika still used today by the Finns, and why is it not regarded in the same way as it is in most of Europe, with hatred and disdain?.
Well, after the fall of the Third Reich in the Second World War, there came a purge of all Nazi symbols and emblems from buildings, equipment, flags, coins, everything that had a swastika on it, anything that had any association with nazism. And although de-nazification was strongly enforced throughout Scandinavia, it was taken lightly in Finland, where the symbol was an integral symbol for the Air Forces.

Back then, the Finnish Air Force was smaller than the Jamaican Ice Hockey Team, and some Swedes began flying over aircraft to help out their Norse brothers against the onset of the Soviets. 

One of the first planes to be sent to Finland was donated by a Swede,
 Count Eric Von Rosen, and he left his personal crest painted on the wings. 
A swastika. A Blue swastikaIt was the counts personal crest and all of his personal possessions were emblazoned with the ancient rune.
So the Finns kept the symbol. 
Which is one of the reasons it's not such a big deal to the Finns.

Today, the swastika cintinues to be used by the Finnish Air Force and some Finnish Army regiments on patches, flags and medals in memory of their great Swedish patron, Count Von Rosen.

A Volkswagen engine, a custom adapter plate mated to a 4 speed transmission with kickstart in a Dnepr.

An original perhaps?.

I still seem to be in a sort of holding pattern here in Rovaniemi, Finland.
Tentative travel plans to meet up with John of DriveAwayCancer somewhere in Europe in August are simmering, contingent on how Grace, DriveAwayCancer's 1953 Austin Healy mode of transport, fares after her complete engine rebuild. Until then, my downtime up here in Rovaniemi I am using to catch up and get many things done that cannot be done on the move, constantly traveling from town to town, country to country. My extended stay at Karu MC has also given me time to make some great friendships with the members, the longer I am there, the more woven I become in their lives. Just yesterday I was at Timo Happonens house helping to paint the exterior, as in my past living in Ireland, I was a house painter before I left for the shores of the US.
Timo has been a great help to me, so the least I could do was volunteer my time to him.
He also has some really seriously cool motorcycles, some of which I have already featured on the blog recently.

There are still a couple of Timo's bike that I have not featured yet, like his
1922 Harley-Davidson F Boardtrack Racer with a 61 ci motor and 22" wheels.

And his 7 year "labor of love' that he said he would never do again, his 1926 Harley- Davidson JD.
The JD I will feature in an upcoming article here on the blog, and the board track racer I will post updates on as it progresses.

I hope you all enjoyed another Sunday post here on

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I still have them available for sale. Just click on the "Buy Now" link above the WARN up on the right side of the blog.
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Until next time,


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Charlie6 said...

Hi Murph

yeah, things just aren't the same without the snow around eh?

too bad there's no way to easily displace to where winter is in the southern half of the world.

that sculpture of mother and son I found disturbing, but then, perhaps that was the purpose.

a Dnepr with a VW

Anonymous said...

i really respect your hard effort to get into things and explaining the facts behind them. yes, finnish air force swastika had nothing to do with n-people in 30s. i personally bet that mr A.H. did know about that fact we were using it, and just dig-ged it so much...? the counts name does sound bit german.

also another comment on that really architectural monument, i suppose there was not separeted the germans that were killed during 39-43 by russians- to those germans finns had to kill 44-45 when they were driven away from here.

and that brings another interesting question; how many ca. 3 million people nation has fought against 2 so called superpowers... and NOT lost. although peace came really expensive to us.

have fun exploring the mysterious and historical Finland! (J.P)

Anonymous said...

Reply to J.P:

Herman Görings first wife was a swedish lady named Carin Fock, whose sister was married with Count Von Rosen. So the origin of the nazi swastika could very well be the same as it is for the finnish air forces (Von Rosen family) when we remember that Göring played a big role in german nazi party right from the beginning and Count Von Rosen also happened to be one of the founding members of the swedish nazi party... But how Von Rosen family symbol ended up to finnish air forces happened way before any nazi party even existed, during the finnish civil war, in 1918. Von Rosen gave the first airplane to the White troops of Finland, who were fighting against the revolutionary Reds, also from Finland. Whites won 1-0, and thanks to that, we can now drive with old Harleys instead of old Urals, although I´ve had them both :) -Tomi-

Anonymous said...

interesting and precise knowledge. i assumed something like that and knew about the 1st plane with swastikas 1918 in finnish civil war, but all other was a novelty news for me. thanks!

IRISH Murph said...

Hi Dom, no. Not the same without snow for sure. I wait patiently.......

IRISH Murph said...

Hi JP,

Thanks for the nice compliments. Regarding your other questions, I am currently researching them and will touch on them in the next blog post, if I get my faacts right. A lot of interesting and sometimes complicated history from the way here in Finland.


IRISH Murph said...

Hi Tomi,

Thanks for your insights anf info. When I started to do my research, I realised that somehow I had to condense it, as it is very in depth and complicatd.

The Ural vs Harley, both unreliable, but Ural get the top spot as the worst I think....


IRISH Murph said...

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Glad you enjoyed the read,