A fine Thursday morning in Jyväskylä. Spring seems to be making its way to Central Finland. Your intrepid columnist has no observations to relate and has decided to stop in for a coffee at Ylä-Ruth. If he wasn’t a family man with a day full of responsibility ahead of him he’d gladly be enjoying a cold bottle of beer, but times change and so do old habits, most likely for the better.

Ylä-Ruth, in operation since the sixties is, in case you haven’t noticed, located right next door to the campus library. Known historically in the vernacular as the “branch library”, this fine establishment has undergone change in the form of expansions, remodels, and personnel over the years, but its basic purpose has remained the same – to provide a meeting place for both greater and lesser minds to meet and discuss issues ranging from the mundane to the pseudo-intellectual.

When I first moved to Jyväskylä, some referred to “Ruth” as the world’s worst wax museum. One was guaranteed to see the same faces in the same places during every visit. I chose Ylä-Ruth as a regular watering hole for a simple reason – nobody would bother to try and speak English with me and as a fresh immigrant I was desperate to improve my Finnish skills by any means necessary. This extreme form of language immersion proved invaluable and as a side benefit I received a healthy dose of Finnish history and culture. The clientele has undergone a youthful transformation over the past few years, but you can still find some of the older characters embalming themselves slowly. This is a good thing.

Ruth provides musical instruments for those who wish to play them. In most bars this is a truly bad idea, and even at Ylä-Ruth this is usually the case, although on occasion I have found myself lucky to have stopped in for refreshment and been pleasantly surprised by some of the most amazing impromptu performances I have ever seen. One winter’s evening I witnessed Vilkki and Down’s duet of “Reppurin laulu”, a composition by Oskari Merikanto -an experience that gave me quick peek through the window that is the Finnish soul. You won’t encounter moments such as this anywhere else in our fair city.

Home of the 6 euro soup lunch, which includes bread, salad, and the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice, followed up by a cup of coffee, Ruth provides an dining alternative for those who aren’t interested in waiting in line at the student cafeterias just to save a couple of coins. For those addicted to nicotine, the year-round outdoor seating is also a plus. Do yourself a favor next time you find yourself overwhelmed by your studies and swing by the branch library, you might learn more there than you ever will in school.