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Turku, 7/23-24

We've going to be living the wireless life for a couple of days, so this is not going to get posted until we get back to Helsinki on July 26.

Two packed days, and we hardly skimmed the surface of Turku.  Of course, we could have done our sightseeing more efficiently, but we prefer to aim for depth of experience over number of sights seen.

Also shopping.

Johanna A.  picked us up at Parainen, graciously stopped so we could get another tub of that celestial pickled herring in mustard sauce, and spent the afternoon showing us (and Tero and his 8 year old daughter Inke) through the Museum of Handicrafts, which is housed in the only part of old Turku to survive the myriad fires that have leveled the city over the years.

After two living history museums, I feel I'm beginning to get a handle on traditional Finnish urban living.  There isn't actually a word in English for how the early modern Finns organized their living space.  Apartments, while strictly accurate, conjures up visions of skyscrapers, or at least multi-story, block-like dwellings, with one door serving several suites of rooms, which isn't the case at all.  Each address is a block of one-story buildings ramifying inside the larger square, creating an interconnected maze of of smaller squares, each with between 4 and 8 entrances leading up to a set of 3 or more rooms.  At the Handicrafts Museum, most apartments include a workshop and a showroom  as well as a sleeping chamber and a kitchen.  The bookbinder is next to the goldsmith and across the street from the printer, which is in the same block as the tassel-maker, who makes glorious gaudy passementerie tassels and braids out of twisted silk floss.  All the houses are wooden, with entrance rooms to keep the heat from rushing out the door when someone comes in in winter, and tile roofs--except a few roofed with grassy turves (which, Tero pointed out, probably had a great deal to do with the fires).

Like the Amuri museum in Tampere, most of the rooms were arranged to look more or less lived in.  Unlike at Amuri, these rooms were definitely used.  We'd walk into a shop (the leather-workers shop, for instance, and the printer's) and find a woman in a homespun skirt and jacket and a business-like white coif and apron, snipping and stitching at a pair of shearling slippers, or a man in a striped smock and knee-breeches sewing signatures or inking a plate to print a postcard.   In the tobacconist's yard, tobacco-plants grew out in the courtyard, ripe leaves hung to dry over wooden rods, a rough round grinding stone with a pestle stood ready to shred tobacco for cigarettes, and little rolls of paper filled a row of pots down the middle of a long table.  Had we come another day, we could have watched cigarette makers grinding tobacco and stuffing the rolls and pasting them shut.

We were there for upwards of two hours.  Thankfully, the weather was cooler than it had been, and the sky grey, or I suspect we'd have pooped out sooner.  As it was, we wandered, peered, asked questions through the kind offices of Tero and Johanna, discussed history, aesthetics, wallpaper, and family history (Johanna's grandfather had been a goldsmith at the museum when it opened), and generally enjoyed ourselves.  When we couldn't take in any more, we headed (no surprise here) to the kahvi, where we recruited nature with tea and coffee and pastries (a rhubarb-strawberry-raspberry tart was particularly good).  Afterwards, we felt up to a little mild shopping.  Ellen found a pair of sturdy walking shoes, but all the optical places were closed, closed, closed, so I'm putting off my glasses quest to Helsinki.  Before long, everything else closed too, so we went to dinner.

Dinner felt like Finncon, Part I've-Lost-Count, as we were joined by Ben (who was one of the man who cried over "The Man With The Knives" ) and his wife Susanna, who is a translator--delightful people, who feel just as they ought about Myazaki and The Wizard of Earthsea and other subjects of importance .  We ate (duck breast salad for me, with pickled onions), drank a very nice Merlot, and talked and talked.  Inke was incredibly patient, considering she couldn't understand a word of what was being said, but we took pity on her at last--also on ourselves--and went back to our hotel to do some email and retire.  Our room was palatial, with 2 (count 'em, 2) double beds and a bathtub, tucked up its own private flight of steps in the attic of a charming hotel built in 1902.  Every room is furnished differently, in every style from Arts & Crafts to High Victorian to mid-20th century stainless, and boasts a famous parrot, who sits in his cage in the lobby, clucks his tongues, and wolf-whistles in several registers, pretty much at random.

Today wasn't quite as historically oriented as yesterday.  In fact, mostly what we did was shop and have lunch and wander, which is just exactly what one should do in a seaside town just outside a city.  Johanna and Tero and Inke drove us to Naantali, where there is an old town--this one not a museum, but inhabited by actual Finns, many of them proprietors of galleries, antique shops, souvenir shops--and a Moomin shop, where we got some things for our Moomin-lovin' friends (you know who you are) who have been writing to tell Ellen of their Moomin-longings.  There's also a Moomin theme park, but we decided that huge stuffed-looking Moomins waving and wanting to shake hands might be too scary for the adults. 

Between shops, we had yet another lovely lunch by the water and talked about stories and who in our families had told them, and memories of being a child among grownups, while Inke calmly ate her salmon and read her Scrooge McDuck comic book.  And then we walked back to where we left the car, and headed for Turku Castle, which, alas, we did not have either the time or the energy to do justice to.  It's a pity, since it's a gorgeous place, bombed all to hell and gone by the Russians during the Winter War of 1939-1940, and rebuilt in the 1970's, including as much of the original fabric of the tower and outbuildings as they could salvage. For some reason,  I was irrisistably reminded of the castle in the Danny Thomas movie Court Jester, and very sorry we had to leave without a full visit--but not without taking many pictures and visiting the castle shop, which was full of souvenirs from England and France--the European Union At Work!

We bid Tero and Johanna and Inke goodbye at Turku station, with mutual expressions of esteem and promises to come back and tour the castle and take the ferry to Stockholm.  And now we're on to the next thrilling adventure. 

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
yavannie77
Jul. 27th, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)
Hi from The Middle Of Nowhere On The Other Side Of Finland From Where You'll Be Going! :) I'm here in Peräseinäjoki, where the net is really not very usable... And swimming hasn't been happening, alas.

Love your notes about our weekend. Have to say a few things, though. Even if it collapses the last of the tiniest threads of internet connection I've managed to conjure up, heh. It's lovely that you mentioned my grandpa. Just a little correction there - he worked there in the 80's and 90's, when he was retired from his own jewellery store keeping and the museum had been well used for decades already. But on the other hand his grandparents (so that would mean my maternal great-great-grandparents, right?) lived in the area before the museum was opened. :) So there, just a little correction.

And the other minor detail is that Tero's daughter's name is spelled Inka.

I hope you'll end up having a spectacular time in Kajaani and Kuhmo (and of course in Helsinki, too) - I'm enjoying my stay in the middle of nowhere. It's so silent! And I also have had a few philosophical conversations with my friend's Finnish sheep. Her's aren't by the road, either, btw.

And anyone wanting to come to Turku for a visit, just let Tero and me know, we're pretty good with Turku Tours. ;)
deliasherman
Jul. 28th, 2010 07:52 am (UTC)
Oh, my terrible memory! Thank you for the correction! Also for the proper spelling of's name, which I should have asked about instead of just guessing. You and Tero are the Best Tour Guides Evar!

I'm sorry you haven't gotten the swimming you were looking forward to, but am glad of the philosophical sheep. I like sheep. They're very soothing--if you're not taking care of them.

xoxo
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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