Kangasala is a municipality in Finland, next to Tampere. It was founded in 1865. The municipality has a population of 26,807 (2006) and covers an area of 651.3 km² of which 158.7 km² is water. The population density is 54.6 inhabitants per km².

It is famous for its natural beauty, as depicted by Zacharias Topelius in his poem "Kesäpäivä Kangasalla" (made into a song by Gabriel Linsén). It is also known for its mansions, such as Liuksiala where Swedish queen Karin Månsdotter lived, and Wääksy. Kangasala has a long history of tourism.


The healing springs

Kangasala was a popular destination already in the 18th century. The water of the Kuohu Spring (Kuohunlähde) was believed to have healing effects. At that time, refreshing in a health spa bathing, taking outdoor exercise and enjoying healing waters was fashionable amongst the aristocracy. It was also why the first real tourists in Kangasala came to spend their holidays there.

A spa was built by the Kuohu Spring which was a little later followed by a separate restaurant and hotel building. Even people from more distant places came to refresh themselves there, preferably at least once a year. At the same time travelers had a good chance to exchange news, discuss with each other and find out about the latest trends of fashion. Spa tourism can probably be considered a predecessor of modern holidaymaking. At that time, however, it was primarily a pastime of the noble and the prosperous bourgeoisie only.

The spell of the ridges

The golden age of spa tourism lasted about a hundred years. The interest on health springs began declining in the 1840s. However, a new ideology had arrived from Germany: Romanticism. The artists of the Romantic period admired nature greatly and praised its beauty. Artists were drawn to Kangasala by good connections and the stunning landscapes. Especially the many ridges and plentiful lakes made a permanent impression on many a man. Amongst university students, wandering in their homeland's nature became a way of showing patriotic love.

Already before that had those ridge panoramas stunned people, even monarchs. In 1775 the king of Sweden, Gustaf III became attracted to the scenery of Syrjänkorkee ridge so strongly that he believed it to have been the very place where Satan tempted Jesus and promised him all the wonders of the world. Syrjänkorkee also impressed the Russian tsar, Grand duke of Finland, Alexander I in 1819. Thus it was later renamed Keisarinharju (Emperor's Ridge).

In addition to Keisarinharju there are at least three other great ridges that are popular sightseeing locations because of their panoramas. The largest and highest one of these is Kirkkoharju, also called Helaamäki, stretching from Vatiala to the church of Kangasala. For centuries it has been a renowned place for spending time. Also Kuohunharju (Kuohu Ridge) and Vehoniemenharju (Vehoniemi Ridge) are well known for their views. Haralanvuori, or Haralanharju, located in Suinula, northern Kangasala, instead is a rocky hill despite its second name. Nevertheless, it has its own role in the development of Finnish national romanticism.

A Summer's Day in Kangasala

In the summer of 1853 Helsinki was diseased with a cholera epidemy. Also Zacharias Topelius had escaped the disease to the peaceful countryside. He visited lieutenant-colonel Aminoff's farm near Haralanvuori with his female acquaintance, Lotta Lindqvist. Topelius became fond with the views from the "Harjula's ridge" and wrote his famous poem A Summer's Day in Kangasala . Later Gabriel Linsén composed a melody for the poem. From 1995 that melody has been the provincial hymn of Pirkanmaa region at it is for sure one of the most widely known Finnish melodies.

Since Topelius's times the Finnish national landscape has often been experienced just like in his depiction: with wild, dark forests and lakes with silver-glistening surfaces reflecting a blue, fluffy-clouded sky.

Spiritual landscapes

The landscapes of Kangasala impressed also other remarkable Finnish authors than just Topelius. Even before Topelius the natural beauty of the region was applauded by poets like Frans Mikael Franzén, Johan Jakob Nervander, Emil von Qvanten and Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The beauty of Finnish nature was described in letters and travel accounts.

These rugged landscapes were a source for an arising sense of nationality and arts were a way of concretizing the admiration and pride directed at them. In particular, the early 19th century art of painting with its idyllic portraits of country and nature expresses the intellectual world of Romanticism. Countryside, fields, forests, hills, ridges, lakes and rivers have a central role in them. The average city-dwellers two hundred years ago were probably just as alienated from nature as their modern-day suburban counterparts.

In the 19th century Kangasala's landscapes were painted by several famous painters. Finland didn't actually have independent artistic circles in the beginning of the century. The earliest portrayers of the local landscape include Emanuel Thelning, a Swede sent to Kangasala by baron Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt after he himself had visited the healing spring of Kuohu in 1811 and the German Carl von Kügelgen, royal painter of Alexander I, who painted at least three paintings representing Kangasala. His workpiece "Vues pittoresques de la Finlande" which includes 15 litographies can be considered the start of Finnish landscape painting. At least the Hermitage in St. Petersburg contains pieces of art by von Kügelgen.

Other artists who painted Kangasala were Werner Holmberg, Einar Ilmoni, Eero Järnefelt, Hjalmar Munsterhjelm, Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa and Magnus von Wright who painted six paintings on Kangasala in the 1860s.

The invention of dry plate photography in 1882 made taking photographs easier and cheaper than before. Also landscape photography started to gain popularity. As far as is known, the first actual landscape photographs in Kangasala were taken by Gustin Lojander in 1893. His series of photographs presented the landscapes and sightseeings of Kangasala.

The increased popularity of landscape photography decreased artists' interest in the province of Tavastia (Häme). The search for the roots of Finnishness now turned towards Karelia (Karjala). Still, Kangasala wasn't forgotten by artists. The number of local artists – who often were landscapists of their home district – kept on growing all the time. Photographs helped in making the whole nation aware of Kangasala's landscapes. At the end of the 19th century advances in printing press made it possible to spread the pictures throughout the country in the form of affordable picture postcards.

Observation towers

The artists' descriptions of Kangasala lured more and more travelers to the parish. People had to climb high, even up the trees, to be able to enjoy the views. Although the ridgetops were relatively treeless at that time – because of the sawmill industry's great demand for wood – the construction of observation towers was considered necessary to provide the multiplying tourist hordes with new experiences. All the most popular lookout spots except Kuohunharju got their own observation towers in the 1880s or 1890s. The first observation tower was built on Keisarinharju in 1881. A panoramic pavilion had been built there at the time of the visit of Alexander I but it had already vanished by the 1850s. The towers at Haralanharju and Keisarinharju were destroyed by an arsonist in 2006 and 2007. Now only the towers at Vehoniemenharju and Kirkkoharju remain but plans were already in progress for rebuilding both towers after barely a year had gone by from the first arson.

The ridges of Kangasala and Tampere are part of the same ridge formation. Travelers often used to visit both the ridges of Kangasala and Pyynikinharju (Pyynikki Ridge) in Tampere. Together they were the most popular tourist attractions in Western Finland. In 1890 approximately 800 visitors came to Kangasala, 1200–1400 visited Pyynikki and Imatra, the most popular tourist attraction in Finland that time, was a destination of about 5000 tourists. These figures seem small but it has to be noted that there were no amusement parks and festivals, fairs and other major happenings were rarely organised. Most of the travelers spent their holidays in nature. People looked for a spiritual connection with their fatherland in "the wilderness".

The idealogical conceptions created by artist had a great influence on Finnish sense of nationality but so had also such everyday-sounding things as picture postcards and the lake views from the observation towers. When the period of Russification began at the end of the 1800s Finnish nature worked as an upbringing force for national self-esteem and as a unifier of Finnish culture. Kangasala played a great role in that development.

Notable residents

* Karin Hansdotter, mistress of King John III of Sweden, was given the Wääksy Manor in 1561.
* Finnish politician and journalist Agathon Meurman was born and lived in Kangasala, and owned the Liuksiala manor.
* Finnish author Jalmari Finne was born and lived in Kangasala.
* Finnish actor Markku Peltola lived in Kangasala.

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