No one knew that this Finnish factory worker was secretly an artist until he passed away, leaving behind an entire forest filled with his sculptures.
Veijo Rönkkönen was considered to be a recluse. He worked for 41 years at a paper mill and barely went anywhere throughout his life except to work and back home to his farm. He was never trained as an artist, but when he died in 2010, he left behind what is basically an outdoor museum.
The forest surrounding his home is packed with sculptures of human figures of all ages and cultures portraying every type of emotion you can imagine.
Born in 1944, Rönkkönen began his career at the mill at the tender age of 16. Local legend says that he used his first-ever paycheck to buy apple seeds and a bag of concrete and so began his sculpture garden, which he nurtured tirelessly for half a century.
Now known as the Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden, the site attracts around 25,000 people each year. Visitors are drawn in not only by the art, but by the atmosphere of the woods themselves, haunted by the community of figures that Rönkkönen’s own hands so thoughtfully moulded.
The artwork is seen by many people as a bit eerie. Children hold each other up in mid-air, while older adults sit in traditional dress. Some have mouths full of real human teeth, which seem to grin at passersby. Others have speakers inside, which mutter incomprehensible sounds.
There is even an area that is home to 255 near-naked figures practising yoga. Yoga is actually one of Rönkkönen’s only hobbies that we know about, apart, of course, from making art.
Rönkkönen is more than an installation or a sculpture park; it’s a community, and although some of the artwork is disturbing, the forest is unquestionably quite magical, an amalgamation of many different worlds coming together all in one place. This feels especially meaningful considering that it’s an outside world the artist never quite experienced in real life.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.