Recently I was at a work conference in Finland (I wrote about some cool Finnish things here). Despite all the talks and posters and networking at the conference, I still found a bit of time to discover all that I could about this intriguing country.
I actually really loved Finland – more than I thought I would – there are so many beautiful things about it! The Finns are so nice and friendly and really polite! Finnish is a peculiar language but English is widely spoken. In addition, Finland is so safe – bikes are just left lying around, no need to lock them up!
As we were there at Midsummer, we got to experience almost 24 hours of constant daylight. In fact it never really got dark! The light was just amazing… so energising!
In Finland, there is so much water and so much green! I was delighted with both the lakes of Tampere and the sea of Helsinki. The water was brilliant in the sunshine with so many trees on the edges of the lakes!
The conference was held in the small city of Tampere. Tampere was founded in 1779 on the banks of the Tammerkoski Rapids that connect Lake Näsijärvi in the north to Lake Pyhäjärvi in the south. By the 19th Century the rapids were a source of power that encouraged industrialisation.
Finlayson cotton factory has now been converted into a centre for museums, restaurants and bars.
Keskustori Square is the central meeting place of Tampere. However the old buildings and quiet streets inspire feelings of such serenity and tranquillity that I didn’t expect in a city centre…
Hämeensilta Bridge has these cool statues – the Tax Collector, the Maiden of Finland, the Merchant and the Huntsman – that were designed by Wälnö Aaltonen in 1929.
Viikinsaari Island, Tampere
The beautiful Viikinsaari Island in Lake Pyhäjärvi, south of Tampere is a dream. It is a nature reserve, has a 2.5km nature trail, beaches, playgrounds, a dance hall and a lovely restaurant.
In Finland saunas are considered sacred and Saturday is the traditional sauna day. For a population of <6 million there are something like 3 million saunas in the country! Sauna in Finland is something you have to try – spend as long as you can in 80+oC heat then jump right into a lake, possibly through a hole in the ice! Even in summer it was so cold! I got such a shock, dizzy, a racing heart…all part of the experience… And we met some lovely Finns!
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa as a trading post to compete with Tallinn across the water in Estonia. The city is built on a peninsula and indented by several bays so there is water everywhere! It is a really lovely city to wander around.
Make sure to visit the indoor and outdoor markets at Market Square (Kauppatori) overlooking the Baltic Sea. It seems this is where the people of Helsinki congregate as we found very few of them anywhere else!
Finland only became independent in 1917 so Russian and Swedish influences remain. Senate Square is a fine example of architecture from the Russian empire with a statue of Tsar Alexander II, highly respected by the Finnish people, in the centre. The Lutheran Cathedral, built in 1852, is also worth seeing.
Uspenski Cathedral is the biggest Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe, built in the Byzantine-Russian style with 13 copper clad domes. It was gorgeous but I was so annoyed that it was closed when we were there…or else I just couldn’t find the right door!
Next time I’ll be writing about Finnish food!