Ready for the Island
Arriving in Carelia
It's almost a miracle: The idea made in the tour bus, to take some time out by being invited by Mr. Holopainen to his home, became real with the landing at the little airport of Joensuu on a sunny evening in July. A few minutes later Tuomas is driving 110 km/h through the forests of Carelia where elk, wolves and bears live. After driving about 4 hours past dark conifers, where ravens frequently cross the streets and little paths, Tuomas reaches his destination: his family's cabin on a little island in one of Finland's "thousand" lakes. Here the End of Innocence DVD has been shot, here Tuomas goes to find some peace. "That's my paradise," the keyboard player breaks his silence and points to the island's shore. "Hopefully, our fans will leave me alone there and won't take this place away from me."
Within 15 minutes, on his own motorboat, Tuomas dashes over the clear water to the island, where next to the main house there is also a guesthouse, the obligatory sauna and the toilet cabin with a compost toilet. Then happens what has to happen in Finland: "Let us go to the sauna first. My brother has already heated it for hours." challenges the Carelian.
The Old Sweatbox
Going to the sauna in the evening is part of the daily ritual, but the first time is a real test. The sauna is a little dark cabin from the last century with a fireplace covered with stones and two wooden benches. Thick smoke comes out of the cabin when the fire is on and a pleasant smell of tar and old wood is in the air. The ceiling and walls are covered with a thick layer of smut and shouldn't be touched. "For us Finns the sauna means more than just a sweat cabin," Tuomas explains. "Here everybody is naked. There are no ranks and all the people are the same. We scheme big plans and come to important decisions. It's a place of psychic and physical purification - without any haste."
After theory there is practice: Already upon entering, the body is caught in a massive heat wave. After a few seconds on the upper bench sweat comes out of every pore. The Finn takes water from the sea in a ladle and puts it on the stones, and it vaporizes with a loud sizzling. Right after, rills form on the forehead which turn into salty streams after the second ladle. It gets boiling hot in the sauna and a little while after the third ladle vaporizes, the billows seem to burn directly in the bronchial tubes. The skin is on fire and the cabin rotates in front of the eyes. After 20 seconds only the escape helps: out of the door, over a slippery footbridge into the coolness of the lake. The Finns must have leather Hobbitsoles, because the stones on the ground have really sharp edges. Ouch.
Doesn't matter when the body cools down with a mental sizzling. "New German record in this sauna," Tuomas grins perkily, when he comes into the water slouchy and opens a can of beer for everyone. After the first try, the next ones are more comfortable. A lot more traditional would be to get full of alcohol first, argue really hard afterwards and celebrate reconciliation with beer in the end and finally fall into coma while the sausages burn on the grill, says visiting Nightwish-Backliner Tero Kinunnen.
But burning doesn't happen, because Tuomas turns out to be a true grill master and creative cook. Every morning starts with a cool bath in the lake and Holopainen's fried egg variations with all kind of herbs and spices. In addition to that, there is rustred, tasting slightly like reindeer meat and mild Finnish Räucher (cheese - sorry can't find real translations). In the evenings, the Nightwish-boss turns on the grill to roast steaks, bake mushrooms or, on sauna stones, makes packages with sausage and cheese. Tuomas uses a lot of garlic which maybe banishes Transylvanian blood-suckers but never the Nordic gnats. The mean chirping of these beasts belongs to Carelia as much as the ravens’ screams. Without chemical help, the visitor would be sucked right away especially when he sits calmly in the boat, trying to fish for dinner, to no avail. Holopainen enjoys the fishing trips, even when no fish wants to bite. "Unfortunately, I can't fish very often, but I love the mental relaxation," the keyboarder sighs. "And when a fish bites it is a really good feeling." After many tries without any results only another tactic helps: With thin bamboo rods and a huge amount of beer and Finnish schnapps (like the tar tasting Terva or the mint tasting Minttu) on board we go to the other shore. Among water lilies and reeds the fish should be. The lake is silent in the light twilight of this time. It doesn't get really dark in the short Nordic summers. A diving couple passes by. Gulls and swallows get into the water as well and then suddenly they bite: gnats and 15 centimeter perches. These young fish are also roasted. But the little ones are lucky: it's not enough for a meal and so they end up in the water again. "Catching one’s own food is masculine," Tuomas grunts. "The longer I live the more I find out that I am a cave-man. All business stuff I leave to my father, to whom I am enormously grateful. Money stuff drives me mad."
How these delicacies are prepared demonstrates the decadence of nomadic people later with bought chars: Eliminate their side and back fins with a fork then let the fish, without the head and tail but with bones, wander in your throat. But the great lounging on the island ("here you can do whatever you want - without having a bad conscience") unfortunately ends after a few days. Work calls.
But the holiday goes on for a bit in Kitee. At first Tuomas is looking forward to a game of the town's baseball team. In this Finnish version of the game you also have to hit the ball away from the catchers and then run to the bases. In contrast to the U.S.-version the pitcher throws the ball vertically in the air. The musician played for his team for six years and Kitee's team enters to Nightwish music.
"I am friends with the players," Tuomas says proudly and is happy about the 3:1 first inning win. But afterwards the face darkens. The other team gains 7 points. The sharp banging of the bats, the audience's excitement and the dashing game fascinates even the laymen. Then the miracle of Kitee happens (in German this is "Das Wunder von Kitee" very likely taken from "Das Wunder von Bern" when Germany won an important soccer championship many years ago): The team gets points and turns the game around with a 11:7 win. The usually silent Finn's cheers are rather loud. Holopainen face shines. "Something like that never happens." For celebration, a 25 years old Single Malt whisky runs down the throat. But he goes to bed early anyway because the next day holds a hard sport for the vacationers.
Paintball & Sausage Soup
Tuomas invited a lot of friends, among them his brother Petri, 38 and Petri’s son Riku, 10, who is with them for the first time. Out of a shack the brothers get ten short air guns, gas bottles and paint. In the little forest next to his parents’ house, where Tuomas will live as long as it takes to get his own house at another lake completed, two camps are marked. A plastic bag and a branch form the flag two teams will fight over today. It's really hot in the thick protective clothing and mask with temperatures at a little under 30 degrees Celsius. Short sprints and jumps do the rest for streams of sweat. But it's better to get out of breath and be on the ground than being hit by one of the paint balls because direct hits leave thick blue bruises.
Several hours of shooting, where the opponent team has an easy game, pass by very quickly. The last three runs Tuomas' team wins. He is really happy about his two sprints into the other camp with the flag in his hands. Any possible skepticism of this war game, the Finn doesn't understand. "I am absolutely against militarism but this is just sport among good friends." Tuomas says against possible criticism. "It's helpful to face the madness of a real war when already such a game gives you such respect." The tasty sausage soup from his mother, Kristi and a sauna wake the warriors up again. But sore muscles the next day it can't prevent.
A few elk meat pancakes in the stomach and the first melodies of new Nightwish songs in the head, which Tuomas played the last night on his keyboard with a strict request for silence, the journey to Finland ends. Although liver and muscles cry for a real holiday it was a pure amusement. Kiitos, Tuomas.