Touko’s letter to Hely, 5 August 1955

Helsinki, 5 August ‘55

Dear Heikkä,

I’m back at home again. We came back exactly a week ago, and Kaija left the following day.

Well, here we are. I’d have to say that, on the whole, the trip went according to plan in almost every respect. The rain that kept pouring down at the beginning was the only nuisance, but it only meant that we appreciated the clear skies and scorching hot weather that followed even more. My travel companion Nipa, who’s also my roommate, was great company. I blame the rain for the occasional sulkiness and the squabbles we had.

The boat trip to Kiel was very enjoyable, with no rocking and no cold weather as is often the case. There were also some people we knew, so the two days just flew past. We spent a few hours in Lübeck and took a tour of the old Hanseatic city. We then took an overnight train to Munich, and the train had good facilities. We arrived there early in the morning and went straight to the hotel recommended by Maiju Kuusoja. But more about arriving here. It’s always a charming mix of excitement and curiosity when you arrive in a strange big city. I’d learned the route from the station to the hotel on the map, and it is curious to compare the images you’ve created in your head to the actual scenery in the streets. This time, the images in my head corresponded to reality quite closely.

We received a warm welcome at the hotel and our room was very nice and tidy. We liked the hotel so much that we stayed there after we returned from the Alps even though it was a little over our budget. But it’s such a pleasure to sleep in a comfortable bed in a clean hotel with all the necessary amenities and which is also located in the middle of the city. The actual concert season was already over, and there were no music festivals; the next ones will be held in August, but I went to a smaller opera a couple of times, which was, admittedly, nothing like the ones in Vienna. 

Then it started to rain and we thought that perhaps the weather would be better in the Alps. The train journey to Mittenwald took a couple of hours, and along the way we passed famous places such as Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We couldn’t see much of them as the clouds were crawling along almost at the level of the rooftops and rain was splashing on the windows. The train arrived at a small station, where the sign read “Mittenwald”. We got off and thought that we’d get soaked through as we went looking for a reservation service desk and then a hotel. We didn’t have time to act on our thoughts when a man came to us to ask if we were looking for a room and said he had a vacant one. He was a taxi driver, and after we agreed on the price, he drove us to a most charming and neat house on the bank of the river Isar on the edge of the village, where his cheerfully smiling wife received us and directed us to a small, pretty room with whitewashed walls, two windows and the necessary pieces of furniture. We were more than happy with the room, though a little bothered by the dampness, as even the bedlinen was damp. Shivering with cold, we peeked out the window to see the scenery, but everything was grey and wet. Our hostess gave us directions to the nearest Gasthaus. We headed there – jumping over puddles – for something to eat, and that was the only time we went out that day. The rest of the day was spent playing canasta and reading. 

The rain had eased off the next day, so we said we would climb up a little distance along the nearest path. But then we became greedy. The path lured us into going further up. We came across clear mountain streams, huge slugs and a chamois with hooked horns. We climbed up into the clouds, and before long it was quite dark. But we were enchanted by the Alps, so there was no way we’d turn back. There were patches of snow, and no trees. We found ourselves above the clouds, and the only thing we could see was the nearest barren peak. We stopped to smoke a cigarette and decided to go higher some other time, even though the path still meandered upwards. We’d only descended a few metres when it started to rain, and by the time we got to the village we were drenched to our skin. Luckily we had a change of dry clothes as the wet clothes stayed wet for a couple of days. But when the sky cleared, the mountainscape was completely different. We could not imagine such snow-covered peaks while it was raining. It felt like I was arriving at another place. It was a Sunday morning. The remains of white rain clouds circled among the peaks across the blue sky, the scent of the flowers surrounded us, and the birds sang; and the Isar, flooded with clay-white rainwater up to its banks, rumbled down towards Munich to later join the Danube on some plateau. We were in a hurry to get out into nature. We could see an attractive café with parasols up on a mountainside on the other side of the village. We climbed there for our morning coffee. The waitress in her Tyrolean costume brought us strong coffees and large strawberry tarts, and recognised from the lid of the matchbox that we were Finns. Moved by some old memories, she told us that her husband once went to Finland, to Salla, and never returned. We felt bad for having brought back such sad memories.

Chairlifts went up to the Kranzberg from near the café, and we saw a peculiar procession of pilgrims. We sat down in chairs hanging on a rope and swung higher and higher between heaven and earth towards the top of the mountain. It was fun and quite exciting. And the views from the top! A passenger plane circled at our height between the mountain peaks. It was funny to watch it flying around like a bumblebee at the same level as us. Then we came across another great experience as we were having dinner on the terrace of a Gasthaus on the way back down: having spent the day on the mountain meadows, the villagers’ cattle came home for the night. Cows plodded past with big bells around their necks, taking their time to move along the alleys and streets to their own cow-houses. There was a lot of tinkling and jingling. 

We enjoyed some sunny, happy and carefree days. We climbed mountain trails, waded in roaring streams with crystal clear and ice-cold water, swam in alpine lakes, which had white sand and dark green water, or lounged on flower meadows as a gentle wind and the sun caressed our pale arms and legs, which had been stiffened by the winter. It wasn’t grand at all but we needed nothing. It was sheer bliss. And when we sat on the porch of our lodge in the evening, surrounded by twilight, our legs aching pleasantly from the climbing, we watched the peaks of the mountains in front of us, still bathing in the evening sun, listening to the clear sound of a young boy’s voice singing folk songs in the distance – and the scent of jasmine. Perfection. The stars lit up in the sky and the lone light of Mittenwalder Hütte sparkled from high up on the mountain. All those features mixed into such an intense experience that won’t be easily forgotten. You can guess that we were sad to have to set off on our journey home after we’d also seen a Tirolean festival with folk costumes and dances, fireworks from the mountain top, etc.

If you ever want to enjoy beautiful scenery and an energising holiday, I recommend you travel to Mittenwald in the Alps, it’s worth it! And it’s so cheap there. Please pass on my greetings from the Alps to Vinkala as well. I’m going back the daily grind of the job now. Love, Touko