Due east of Luosto and reached via Pyhä on Routes 962 and 9621 (a total distance of 44km), the ravishing village of Suvanto is immediately different. It is the only settlement in the whole of Finnish Lapland where all the buildings survived the destruction of the Germans as they retreated. It’s not known why the Germans soldiers never reached Suvanto to set fire to the village as they did elsewhere in the province – but the result is breathtaking: houses, barns and storerooms of gnarled timber titillate the senses at every turn. In short, you should make every effort to get here to fully appreciate what Finnish Lapland used to look like and to comprehend the full horror that unfolded as entire villages and towns were systematically torched in the closing stages of World War II.
Before you cross the bridge into the village itself, pause and turn left into the visitor car park and you’ll see the old cable-guided ferry which once shuttled back and forth across the Kitinen River and provided the only access to the village – Suvanto’s relative isolation is one theory, at least, as to why the Germans never got here. Today, all the buildings in Suvanto are protected by Finland’s Board of Antiquities and Historical Monuments.
From June to mid-August a modest museum (free) is open in the village school which you’ll see signposted ‘Museokoulu’ off to the right as you enter the village. Look out, too, for the small gallery and café, Säpikäs, housed in a renovated barn where work by some of the artists, who come here to paint the old buildings, is on display.
The Village Houses
Although Suvanto was first settled in the late 1700s, the current wooden buildings date, in general, from around a century later. Located on the northern shore of the river (and, hence, south-facing) in large open flower meadows, the buildings are designed according to the building techniques of the day – namely grouped around an open courtyard. Typically, the main dwelling house faces the cowshed across the courtyard, while on the third side a warehouse is usually found. Granaries, drying houses, smoke saunas and barns are then located outside the central courtyard. The buildings, all hewn of impressively sized logs, are just one storey in height and are usually heated by a stone oven. The colourful verandas, which you’ll see adorning many of the dwelling houses, were added in the early 1900s, painted in lighter colours than the rich red ochre which decorates the outer walls of most of Suvanto’s buildings.