Virrat Heritage Village is a museum and travel destination for the whole family as well as a summer recreational area on Marttinen island, full of natural beauty. The Heritage Village is located in the immediate vicinity of Youth Centre Marttinen.
In Rajalahti House Museum and in Hali Loggers’ Cabin you can explore rural life in Virrat at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and the everyday life of loggers and forest work in the 1950s and 1960s. The Heritage Village also has many other old buildings, such as stables (1820s), a smock mill (1828), a smoke sauna (1840s) and a village storehouse (1878). In addition, there is a War veteran museum presenting 20th century war history and the Canal Museum maintained by the Transport Agency.
The museums in the Heritage Village are open for groups upon request around the year.
In the summertime, events and exhibitions are organised in the Heritage Village. The area has a café-restaurant, kiosk, handcraft, gift and art shops, a playground and Herraskoski canal.
You can book accommodation, restaurant, café and programme services from Youth Centre Marttinen, and you also have free use of the beach, guest boat dock, nature path and field fortification area from World War I.
The old farm house, built in the 1840s, is decorated in an early 20th century style. The house has artefacts from as early as the 18th century. In the large main room of the house, you can sit at the table that belonged to Martti Kitunen (1747–1833), a famous bear killer, and enjoy the atmosphere of the olden times. There are four granaries in the yard area, with oldest one dating back to the 1750s.
Hali’s cabin community takes the visitor back to a time when forest work was going through a transition. At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, machines, such as chainsaws, began to change the nature of forest work. Hali Loggers’ Cabin was originally located in Orijärvi, on the shore of lake Rutajärvi, as a J.W. Enqvist company cabin in 1948–67. The cabin community included a cottage for 25 men and a room for the hostess, as well as the house of the boss, sauna and stables.
The veterans took care of the museum service for 17 years, from 1992 until 2008, with help from reserve organisations, women’s division, peacekeepers, etc. Since 2009, the museum service has been handled by long-term unemployed with the help of the Employment Office, and a representative of the veterans’ association has guided and supervised them.
Most windmills in Virrat have been located near Southern Ostrobothnia in Kurjenkylä.
The windmill came to Europe with crusaders from the Middle East. The first windmills were built in Denmark in the 12th century, from where they spread to the rest of Europe. The first known windmill in Finland was in the Turku region in 1463. Southwest Finland and Southern Ostrobothnia were the central areas for windmills in the 16th century. From these areas, the windmills gradually spread out to inland areas.
Most windmills in Virrat were located near Southern Ostrobothnia in Kurjenkylä. The windmill in the Heritage Village is a smock mill and it was originally located in the Isoniemi estate in Kurjenkylä. The windmill was built in 1828. The mill was transported from Kurjenkylä to Lakarinharju in 1962 and from there to the Heritage Village in 1981.
The keys to the village storehouse were in the possession of the chairman of the board, the storehouse clerk and Virrat and Ähtäri chapel representatives.
The storehouse was completed in 1878. To prevent moisture and thieves from drilling into the storage, the actual grain storage is a separate log building inside the log structure.
There are six grain bins in the storehouse, and the two in the middle have been turned into a corridor and the ones on the sides serve as an exhibition space. Rye, barley and oats were kept in the bins. There were two bins reserved for each type of grain, one for bread grain and one for seed grain. The storehouse clerks worked in the vestibule area, which had the clerk’s desk and dispensing hatches leading to the bins.
The robust locks of the storehouse came from the first village storehouse that was completed in 1825. At the time, the common grain was protected with four locks, and the keys were only in the possession of the chairman of the board, the storehouse clerk and Virrat and Ähtäri chapel representatives.
On the other side of the market square, opposite to Mikontalo, there is an old barn building of the Marttinen vicarage. In the drying barn, the grain was dried, treated with smoke and threshed and cleaned.
Mikontalo was built in Jalasjärvi in 1892.
At the edge of the market square, there is a two-floor building in Ostrobothnian style, which was transported from Luopajärvi village in Jalasjärvi, where it was built in 1892.
The building was named Mikontalo after metal crafts artist Mikko Haapsalo. Originally, the building was supposed to have Haapsalo’s metal crafts workshop, shop and café, but the building turned out to be too small for all this. At first, the building became a café and later also a restaurant. Restaurant Mikontalo is open all year round, every day during the summer season. Some of Mikko Haapsalo’s artworks are exhibited under the birch trees next to the building.
The war historical past of Marttinen island begins in 1808–1809 during the Finnish War. In those days, there was a large depot in the terrain of Herraskoski between the Tampere maintenance centre and the major part of the Western army fighting in the Ostrobothnia area.
After the Lapua battle (14 July 1808), which was detrimental to Russian troops, lieutenant colonel Eek sent a guerrilla section to interfere with the Russians’ maintenance transportations. Flag-bearer Jaakko Juhana Roth was appointed as the guerrilla leader and sergeant major Kaarlo Juho Spoof as the deputy leader. The guerrilla section consisted of 41 men.
The section led by Roth arrived near Herranen on 18 July. They decided to give up on the plan to attack the Herranen depot, as the depot troops consisted of 200–300 men according to the scouts. The guerrilla section continued to Visuvesi on water, and two days later the section attacked an escort that was carrying a flour cargo and burned the Jarkko bridge.
The section continued their attacks in Ruhala and Kauttu (20 July), Teisko (21 July) and culminated in an attack in Mustalahti in Tampere (23 July). On the way to Tampere, Roth got the area’s peasants as well as troops retreating from Viapori as reinforcements, and the section increased to nearly 200 men.
The uncertainty among Russian troops increased due to the attack made in Mustalahti. Commandant Nyevnev in Tampere told his supervisors that their troops had been attacked by general Spuff via land and admiral Rutt via water. In addition, the guards in the Herranen depot decided to burn their storage and retreat to Alavus.
Roth’s operations in the area continued until the beginning of August. In the beginning of August, the Russians sent altogether 2,000 men to clean the Ruovesi area, and after the battles of 6-8 August, Roth’s section retreated to Kauhajoki.
Herraskoski became a proper battleground on 21 August 1808, when the Russians retreated to Virrat after losing the Alavus battle and set up their defence on the eastern shore of Herraskoski. The Herraskoski battle finished with the victory of the Swedish Finnish troops and the 2,100 Russian soldiers retreated to Ruovesi. When, at the same time, the Swedish Finnish troops had losses from the sides, the troops had to retreat towards Sweden. The Finnish War finished in 1809 on the Swedish side.
The restored base on the field fortification area was built during World War I. After the World War started, securing St. Petersburg, the Russian capital, was very important. Immediately after the war started, the Gulf of Finland was mined with such a tight minefield that there was little danger of the Germans landing.
The Gulf of Bothnia was left unguarded. Even though there were more than 40,000 Russian soldiers in Finland, they decided to start fortification work to protect St. Petersburg.
Field fortification works began in 1916. Several fortification chains were constructed. The outermost chain travelled the line Nurmes-Kuopio-Viitasaari-Ähtäri-Virrat-Tampere and Viapori, which was the main fortification of the chain.
There were not enough Russian engineering troops to execute the fortification works, and therefore the Russians started to recruit workers for barrier works. Recruiting volunteers was not difficult, as the fortification works paid a good salary.
However, in addition to volunteer workforce, municipalities were given forced labour duties in order to acquire additional workforce.
The work pace at the barrier worksite was lazy. And yet, you had to seem like you were working all the time. If you were caught not working, you would lose your salary for the day, which was four marks for a man and seven marks for a horseman. The builders developed an alarm system to warn of the Russian bosses. The alarm system made it possible to play cards or even to pick berries during the working day.
The barrier works ended unfinished when the March revolution started in Russia in 1917.
Virrat produced approx. 500 barrels of tar per year (approx. 62,500 l).
The significance of tar burning as a livelihood increased in Virrat after the 18th century, when the tar acquisition areas of the Ostrobothnians expanded to the south. Tar burning had most economic significance in the Virrat area that was limited to Southern Ostrobothnia, in Kurjenkylä in particular. According to information from 1785, the largest estates in Virrat produced approx. 30 barrels of tar. In the beginning of the 20th century, Virrat produced approximately 500 barrels of tar per year (approx. 62,500 l). The longest tradition of tar burning was in Kurjenkylä, which had the shortest distance to the Gulf of Bothnia coast. Tar burning tradition is visible in Finnish place names, which says something about its popularity: “Vanhanhaudanmäki”, "Perälänhaudanmäki”, “Hautaneva”, “Hautamäki”, “Hautavuori”, etc. (“hauta” is “pit” in English).
Tar was burned, either from peeled bark or pitchy pine rootstocks for tar burning. Pitchy pines were peeled before Midsummer, when the tree was peeled to the height of a man. A vein was always left on the northern side of the tree, so that the tree would not die. The following summer, the bark peeling continued approximately to the height of three metres. There were several pitchy pines at the same time, so that tar could be burned each year. The peeled trees were cut and carried to the tar-burning pit site in the winter, where they were ground into splinters.
The bottom of the tar pit was shaped like a funnel. In the middle of the funnel, there was an eye leading to the tar pipe. The bottom of the tar pit was cleaned and water was used to check that the pipe was not blocked.
The bottom of the pit was covered with birch bark and one layer of stems was laid on the bark layer. A flat eye stone was placed on top of the stems where the eye was, under which the tar could trickle down through the pipe to the entry of the pit.
After this, the pitchy wood splinters were stacked. The splinters were stacked on three blades around the pole log that was placed on top of the eye stone. The first blade was stacked at the height of two cubits, the second blade at the height of three cubits and the third blade at the height of four cubits.
The stacked splinters were planed or pummelled into tight piles, after which the pit was covered. It was covered using hummocks, spruce twigs, moss and soil. Around the bottom of the pit, the splinters were not covered in order to light the pit on fire.
The pit was lit on fire on each side at the same time. When the pit started to burn, the places that were lit were covered with dirt. The fire in the pit proceeded from the edges towards the centre. When the splinters heated, water and turpentine evaporated and, finally, tar condensed and trickled to the bottom of the pit. Burning the pit lasted for about five days, depending on the size of the pit. The tar master led the burning of the pit and supervised that the pit burned evenly. Usually three barrels or 375 litres of tar was obtained from the pit. In addition to tar, also coal was obtained.
The church boat was last rowed in the summer of 1980, when it was brought to the Heritage Village.
The church boat house was finished in 1981. In the boat house is church boat Koro that was built in 1902 and that made its last rowing journey in the summer of 1980, when the boat was brought to the Heritage Village. Koro was accompanied by Koro II, which is the exact copy of its predecessor.
Church boat Koro is 17.5 metres long and has ten pairs of oars. The boat carries approximately 45 people, but it is said that there have been even 70 people on the boat in special circumstances.
Koro is not the largest church boat in Virrat by far. In Seurasaari Open-Air Museum in Helsinki, there is a church boat from Ikkala village in Virrat that is 21 metres long with 14 pairs of oars: the boat had space for 60–70 people. The boat was built in 1897.
In lake and waterway areas it used to be common that the villages behind the waters formed so-called church boat associations that built a church boat together. Bigger houses provided construction material and smaller houses workforce. Each house had a right to the boat spaces according to how the house had participated in the building.
Church boats were usually made sleek and high-speed, as the custom was that the boats would compete with each other on the way home. When going to church, competing was absolutely forbidden. The farmers’ wives would sacrifice kilos of butter to be spread on the bottom of the boat so that it would go as smoothly as possible – or at least this was the belief. There was not always a clear winner in the rowing competition, and we know that when enough badmouthing had been done between the boats, the teams would get on land to finish the business. Later they would settle who had hit whom and what they needed to pay at the village court.
The church boat was an important means of transport for the villages behind the waters, as the connections via land were long and difficult. The journey to church was not just for the mass but you could run other errands at the same time – do business, meet friends and relatives, check out potential spouses and exchange news. Not everyone was able to go on the church trip every time, as it would be a long journey even with the boat. Those who lived far away would have to go to the boat shore or to church already on Saturday, where they had to stay the night somewhere. From the back of Toisvesi, people would set off for the church journey with a steamboat at 3.30 in the morning.
The community hall was originally built in Monoskylä village.
The old Monoskylä community hall is at the edge of the market square. The hall, originally named “Torppa”, was built in Monoskylä with communal efforts from the logs of Sammalisto house in 1911. Meetings, festivities, study groups and soirees were organised at the hall. There were usually speeches, musical performances, poetry and plays as well as dancing towards the end. It was also possible to gather at the hall just to spend time and the building also housed the community association’s library. The house was maintained with communal work and income from the soirees.
As a result of the civil war of 1917, the operations of the community hall ceased, but started again in the beginning of the 1920s. The hall was a popular gathering place for youth in the 1920s and 1930s. The community association owned a harmonica, and there was always someone to play. In addition, a gramophone was bought for the association’s use, so there was plenty of music for dancing. There were as many as twenty soirees a year with full-length plays organised at similar community association or youth associations halls.
The community association’s activities shrivelled again during the Winter War and Continuation War. After the war, the Monoskylä association continued to decline, and the last meeting was held at this community hall in 1953. The house was left unused and started to fall into decay.
Monoskylä community association donated the house to the Heritage Village. Disassembling and moving the house was carried out with communal effort, and the building was inaugurated in the summer of 1983. The building has been rented out for different kinds of events, meetings and family celebrations.
The smoke sauna was built in the 1840s in Koronkylä in Virrat, on Ylä-Patala land. The sauna was moved to the Heritage Village in 1981 with communal effort.
The Finnish sauna is Baltic-Finnish joint heritage. The word sauna with the same meaning is known in the Votic, Estonian and Livonian languages. Sauna was known in the 19th century in the area that spanned from the Baltic Sea region to behind the Ural Mountains.
Saunas were always built, due to danger of fire, outside the yard area. The sauna stove, the heart of the sauna, was usually built by the door. At first, the stove was a pile of natural rocks. Later it was made of bricks.
The sauna has a separate bathing bench and malt bench, the latter of which takes up most of the space. In addition to bathing, the sauna has been used for manufacturing linen, smoke-drying meat, brewing beer, making malt and kama flour mixtures, as a place for cupping blood and for giving birth.
In Finnish folk tradition, a special system of rules was associated with the sauna, controlling people’s behaviour in the sauna. These rules emphasise the holy nature of the sauna and oblige the sauna-goer to behave in a calm and restrained manner. This has been based on the fact that the sauna is a place to give birth and seers, healers and blood cupping practitioners operated in the sauna. “You are blessed because of fear when you go to the sauna”.
In the Finnish tradition, the sauna is an intimidating place. The sauna and the drying barn were the most intimidating of the buildings in the house. “It used to be horrible when you had to go to the drying barn or sauna in the dark to get something. Both of them had a sprite, and the most feared place was an abandoned sauna.”
Most stories and beliefs emphasised how you shouldn’t bathe too late on Saturdays. The Catholic church in the Middle Ages made this idea even stronger. The church demanded to start preparing for Sabbath already on Saturday, so that Sunday could be dedicated to rest. The last sauna-goer in the folk stories would often meet supernatural bathers.
Another common story topic was what the servants told about the devil, who would skin any late bathers, usually the master of the house. This is how the story goes: The greedy master makes his servants work late on a Saturday night and the servants don’t have any free time. At last, they are able to go to the sauna and the servants bathe first. The last person to go to the sauna is the greedy master, and the devil bathes and skins him.
Tulijoki in Liedenpohja, Herranen and Heikkilä in Jäähdytyspohja have served as innkeepers in Virrat. Kankaanpää inn and tavern was established in the Herranen and Heikkilä estate in 1823 at Virrat church.
The inn stables were built for the carriage horses taking people to Kankaanpää inn. The stables were built in the 1820s. At one end of the stables, there was a carriage shed and at the other end the stables for two horses. On top of the shed and stables, there was a sleeping loft. This served as a sleeping place for hired men and horse carriers in the summertime.
The inn stables were transported to the Heritage Village in the summer of 1981.
Virrat Heritage Village
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Accommodation, restaurant and programme services for groups upon request.
Map of Virrat Heritage Village
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The ArtHouse is kept open by Virrat Arts Association(Finnish webpage)
Marttinen is one of the nine centres supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.
Read more on the websites of Finnish Youth Centres Association
Youth Centre Marttinen
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Youth Service, school camps
Conferences and celebrations