Rikala

17.7.2015                                                                     

Rikala may have been an important prehistoric trading centre. About a thousand years ago there was a fortified village on a hill still called the Castle Hill (Linnavuori). Surrounded by a wall raised on a stone foundation, the village was close to the shore of a bay that was navigable in the Viking era. It may have functioned as harbour for traders from Gotland on the Swedish coast of the Baltic Sea and others descending by a river from the Tavastia region in central Finland. The bay has shrunk since, because land on the Finnish coast continues to rise from the dent created by the pressure of the ice-age glacier.

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In popular tradition Rikala is said to be the place where Birger Jarl landed in mid-13th century with his military expedition called the Second Crusade. As a result of the “crusade” Finland was annexed to Sweden until 1809 when it was annexed to Russia.

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In any case, judging by the stuff found in the graveyard on top of another hill called Rikalanmäki, the Rikala Hill, the place was inhabited by wealthy people in the Viking age and in the era of Crusades. Burial offerings include an impressive silver adornment that has served as model for the Halikko necklace designed by Kalevalakoru.

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A handsome sword found in the graveyard carries the inscription Gicelin me fecit which suggests it was forged in master blacksmith Gicelin’s workshop possibly in the Rhine region around the years 1000–1150. Another Gicelin sword has been found close to Rovaniemi far up in Lapland.

Another graveyard on the hill dates back to the years 500-700 when it was customary to cremate the dead and the offerings – sometimes in a boat – and spread the ashes over a field covered with stones. The information board below shows where the older graveyard is supposed to be.

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Apart from information boards to inspire your imagination and a small restaurant (mainly in the summer) there isn’t really much to see. More history is available in the Museum of Halikko set up in a former communal grain store. (Rikala and Halikko are both located in the town of Salo where Microsoft recently sacked some 1000 people employed in mobile phone industry.)

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Halikko boasts a historic bridge dating back to 1865. A bridge over the Halikko river (brown is its natural colour) was first mentioned in documents in 1626 when the municipality was fined because neglecting the maintenance of the bridge that was crucial for the ancient coastal road from Finland’s oldest city Turku to Vyborg in present-day Russia.

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A small open air museum close to Rikala consists of a 18th century wind mill with a couple of store-houses and a cottage attached. The name Kreivinmäki, the Count’s Hill, refers to one-time owners of the manor the windmill used to serve. The present-day Wiurila manor is a sight in itself.

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The stone age hunting method consisting of a camouflaged pit onto and into which a predator was lured with a bait was used in Finland till early 1900s in wolf hunting. The stuff below is what remains of a wolf pit.

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Close by, in the village of Hajala, the Trömperi inn (Trömperin kestikievari, Vanha Turuntie 1326) gives an idea of the hospitality and accommodation services available for travellers till early 1900s. In 1734 the Swedish government (which was also the Finnish government) decreed there should be along the main roads an inn at every two Scandinavian miles (at every 20 km). Innkeepers were also required to transport mail and passengers to the next inn.

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In high summer you can have coffee and cakes in the former public room. The rest of the building is set up as a modest museum.

Using pine bark as emergency food is another ancient tradition that persisted into the 1900s. Pettu was made from the soft inner bark which was dried and ground and mixed with rye flour to make bread during famines.

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Notes on weather and important events of rural life were made in the almanac published in the Finnish language since 1705 by the Academy of Turku (by the University of Helsinki after the Academy was destroyed in the Great Fire). The almanacs were kept for later reference.

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