Holiday in Kaarnaniemi (”Bark Point”)

fullsizerenderDuring the Continuation War in 1942, at a location below the State Hotel at Kaarnaniemi,15 simple cabins were built for war widows and injured soldiers and their families to spend their holidays. These legendary holiday cabins have endured many threats through the years from the pressure of changing times. On several occasions there have been plans to tear the cabins down, supposedly to keep them from spoiling the scenery.

In the 1920s, upkeep of the State Hotel was transferred to Suomen Matkailijayhdistys (“Finnish Travel Association”). During the Winter War in 1939-1940, and at the beginning of the Continuation War 1941-1942, the hotel was used by the military. However, once the battle front moved to Eastern Carelia, it meant that the operations of the Travel Association could start up again.

Lomaliitto (“Holiday Union”)

In the pre-war years at the end of 1930, travel was promoted and even the disadvantaged were considered entitled to go away on holidays. These aims were supported by establishing the Lomankäytön keskusliitto (“Central Union for Holiday Use”). Starting from 1944, the Lomaliitto (or “Holiday Union”) rented the State Hotel as a holiday village that was operated on a social basis.

The Suomen Aseveljien liitto (”Finnish Union of Brother-in-Arms”) and Lomaliitto began working cooperatively on the task of taking care of mothers and children, i.e., family members of men serving in the military. The unions decided to invite 500 mothers with their children to spend summer holidays at the Punkaharju State Hotel in 1942. The families were accommodated at the Czarina’s villa and surrounding service buildings, and the area was named Punkaharjun lomakylä (“Punkaharju holiday village”).

Tuulentupa and 14 other cabins

Right away, during the first summer, it was discovered that the accommodation capacity at the State Hotel and Czarina’s Villa was not enough. Despite the fact that Lomaliitto was in financial difficulties, with financing help provided by Aseveliliitto, 15 more cabins were built in Kaarnaniemi. The cabins had two rooms: one with beds, and the other contained a kitchen and small dining area. The cabins had attractive names such as Kaarnamaja (Bark Hut), Honkapirtti (Pine Cottage), Lintukoto (Bird Home) and Tuulentupa (Wind Room).

In its first year of operation in 1943, the holiday village was open for four months and accommodated more than 2 000 mothers and children. Families ate together in the hotel dining room, but Lomaliitto also recruited special “aunties” who organised activities for the children while their mothers rested. During the day parents could take time alone exploring the esker, while in the evenings everybody throughout the village gathered together to enjoy joint activities. A holiday in Punkaharju was an important respite for many mothers, as it helped them endure the hardships of war time in everyday life.

Hardships of the State Hotel

In the 1970s the State Hotel, Czarina’s villa and Kaarnaniemi cabins started deteriorating and fell into a bad state of disrepair. The county of Punkaharju established an unofficial, yet prestigious committee to think about the future, and to consider various options for the deteriorating attraction. One serious alternative was to tear down the whole establishment and build a new high-class hotel nearer to the lakeside. Also the Kaarnaniemi cabins would have been demolished.

However, the majority of the committee didn’t warm up to thoughts of demolition, and instead they decided to renovate the hotel thoroughly. Work was started in 1978, under the supervision of the state museum and building authorities. The hotel roof was renewed, windows were replaced, and the electrical works and sewage systems were renewed. Also the Kaarnaniemi cabins were renovated and their fixtures improved.

Continued Threat of Demolishing

The Kaarnaniemi cabins accommodated thousands of disadvantaged families during several decades. Numerous children and youngsters acquired memorable experiences at these cabins, and later on in life many wanted to return and stay in the same old cabin to reminisce. Among these holiday makers were some celebrities, such as the Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski.

The dilapidated 50-year old village was under threat of demolition once again at the beginning of the 1990s, when there was an aim to return the area to its natural state. However, the proposal came to nothing when decision makers realised the cultural significance and historical value of the cabins. In 1992, a plan for conserving the esker meant the demolition of two cabins and two others being removed further away from the lakeside. The plan raised much attention but was never carried out. Lomaliitto, and the following entrepreneurs running the operations, continued to rent out the small cabins and the sauna on the lakeside. All 15 Kaarnaniemi cabins are still in use and are now called “Forest rooms”.