Kristinestad (a.k.a. Kristiinankaupunki) is a small, picturesque Nordic town with narrow alleys and colourful wooden buildings, some of which date back to the 17th century. It is situated on the west coast of Finland, right on the Baltic shore, surrounded by forests. See our Facebook page for pictures.
Culture and history
Kristinestad takes great pride in its maritime past. After the glory days of the 19th century, when cotton for Finland's textile mills passed through the port, the town gradually lost influence and income. Migration, first to North America, later to Sweden and urban centres in Finland, has limited development. On a positive note, economic stagnation has helped preserve the cultural heritage, which is visible, for instance, in architecture and craft traditions. Another particular feature of Kristinestad is the truly bilingual (Swedish and Finnish) community, where both languages, to a great extent, are learnt and used by everyone.
Slowness and retreat
Situated at 6 hrs. from the Finnish capital, and with limited transport options, living and staying in Kristinestad takes a certain attitude. The town has not yet been exploited as a tourist destination or hit by gentrification. Kristinestad is the only Finnish member of the international Cittaslow network for small-sized towns, promoting quality of life, local production, environmental sustainability and general conviviality. If you are into nature, silence and slow living, this setting is for you. For peace to concentrate on a personal project with few things to distract you, look no further.
Having said that, we also encourage collaboration with the local community, such as the local art associations or schools. Fancy doing a performance or installation in public space? A workshop for children? You can also collaborate with young people, unemployed people, people with special needs or local associations in various fields.
Exhibitions or events
You will have access to spaces for exhibitions, installations or events, free of charge. Some of these are located in atmospheric, historical buidings - with no modern conveniences.
It's all around you. For the most part, it is not overtly spectacular – but in June, the seafront, the meadows and forests are enchanting. There is a nature trail starting just around the corner from your studio, and for some nice vistas, you can bike to Bötombergen/Pyhävuori (15 km), 129 m above sea level.
All Finnish children are taught textile craft and woodwork at primary school, and there is a strong DIY culture. Knitting, weaving, sewing and other textile crafts are widely practised. Home made striped 'rag rugs' still cover floors in most homes. The villages around Kristinestad are known for their folk costumes which were everyday attire as late as the 1940's. We collaborate with the local amateur crafts centre (Hemslöjdsgården). Sadly, there are few professional full-time craftspeople in the area.
Wood as a material is ever-present. The rustic log-structure buildings dating from four centuries will let you travel in time. They are known for being conducive to sleep and you will, of course, be staying in one. The town is not uniformly pretty: you will find some beautiful, carefully restored houses, while others are in a state of decay. For exploring and studying traditional architecture, and building techniques, we would be happy to help. If you would like to do woodwork, basic tools are available.
Is small beautiful?
Kristinestad's relative quality of life, tangible links to the past, sociolinguistic make up and multiple layers of identity makes it stand out among similar-sized Finnish towns, mostly in a positive way. At the same time, it struggles with lack of investment and a drain of human capital: school leavers head for university cities and rarely return. Will the town withstand migration and current centralisation trends? We encourage reflections on themes like centre – periphery, interaction – isolation, continuity – loss of tradition etc.
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Spectra, Skolgatan 10, 64100 Kristinestad, Finland; firstname.lastname@example.org
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