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July 12th 2014
Published: July 15th 2014
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I got my passport with Finnish Schengen visa by courier from the Moscow Visa Centre. They were so generous as to give me a 90 days’ visa effective till January 2, 2015. It is both excellent and somewhat disappointing because one needs heaps of money to spend all 90 days in Europe. As for me, I will try to go on organized one- or two-day trips from St. Petersburg to Finland and Estonia or Latvia, time will tell.

My all plans have been suddenly changed when I received a phone call from an acquaintance of mine, a translator, telling me about a three months’ business trip to Moscow to an aviation enterprise. I am supposed to be on the premises five days a week with Sunday and Saturday for rest, and I will certainly explore the interesting towns in the Moscow Region and the Moscow museums. Payment will not be too much but money is money.

I planned no visit to Tampere (I had tickets to Helsinki for 18-20 July for a dance music festival) but several days before departure to Moscow I searched the web and found a one-day excursion, among many others, to Tampere. I thought it the most interesting of all, because it has old buildings and a Lenin Museum.

We departed at midnight and took the road along Saimaan Canal and crossed the border at night, arriving in Tampere at 6-30. I almost didn’t sleep because there were no beds in the bus. The bus was parked near a petrol station and we went to a café and stayed at the place for about two hours. I was anxious about our staying in the bus for too long and wanted to go along the streets as soon as possible.

Tampere was founded as a trading settlement in 1775 by the Swedish King Gustav III. Being a small town at first, Tampere grew to be a large trading and industrial centre in the XIX century, when the Grand Principality of Finland was part of the Russian Empire. It was even called “Northern Manchester”.

I wanted to sleep rather much throughout the walk, but the city’s sights revived my enthusiasm. In the morning, there were very few cars and people on the streets; the guide told us a lot about the city and its history. The bus took us to several places where we had free time for photographing and scrutinizing the sights.

We saw the Cathedral built by Lars Sonk in 1907, its style being national romanticism, a boulevard with a small fountain and a statue, Aleksanteri church, built in 1881, of Neo-Gothic style, the Old church of classic style, built in 1828 by architects Karlo Bassi and Karl Engel, and the Orthodox Church built in 1899.

Realizing that our free time was coming to an end, I asked to go sightseeing on my own and went past the train station, proceeding along Hameenkatu with its many shopping centres. The city center was undergoing repair works so the views were disorderly in some places. The city’s distinctive feature is the former industrial buildings of red brick (now used for various establishments such as museums, cultural centres, shops). Those red buildings looked particularly attractive in the lake’s waters, and the bridge across the lake bore several statues of Finnish ancestors.

I approached a square where a fair was arranged near the theater and the old church with various goods from different countries. It was approaching ten o’clock, and the number of people was increasing gradually. I went to the Lenin Museum (I’m interested in the history of the Soviet Union), but it was closed. At first, I did not understand why, but then came a man from our group and asked me whether I wanted to see the museum. I said yes and used my phone to surf the web to find its working schedule. And just then I realized that the museum was closed due to the time difference, and there were some forty minutes still before it would open.

I consulted the map and decided to go to the Amuri area. The guide had previously said that there were some nice old wooden houses. There is the Amuri Museum of Workers’ Housing. I quote from the Tampere website: “Starting from the 19th century, Amuri was mainly a residence area for the workers of the Finlayson factory. It consisted of blocks of wooden houses built together. The worker apartments in Amuri typically had shared kitchens, with two or four families sharing a kitchen together”. There are carefully preserved interiors of workers’ rooms: sleeping rooms, kitchens, a sauna, children’s rooms, with the authentic paraphernalia and furniture.

After this museum, I went to Lenin Museum located not far away. It is the only museum of Lenin outside the former Soviet world. I have also visited the excellent Lenin Memorial in Ulyanovsk. It is dedicated to the revolution leader’s life and activity, and the socialism epoch. It is very strange to see these things outside Russia, given all the hate towards many Russian leaders, regimes, etc, etc, etc, etc. Itfeelslikesurreal. Mr. Lenin lived in Tampere for many months and promised to acknowledge Finland’s independence if the Bolsheviks win power. The museum’s second hall tells about the relations between Lenin and Finland.

After the museum, I went to McDonalds for a coffee and wanted to visit the Spy Museum, going to the Finlayson area. During the search, I also found the Finlayson Church and the Little Palace. I found the museum signs but was too tired to follow them, and so abandoned the idea. Instead, I went to the supermarket and bought some food, and spent the remaining half hour before departure on a park bench.

We drove back fast and the bus felt very comfortable (the driver’s skill!), and soon paid a visit to a supermarket not far from the Russian border. We also paid a visit to a strawberry farm which annoyed me much because I do not like shopping on tours. I think good products can indeed be bought here, in Russia, to support the national manufacturers. The border had a surprise for us in the form of a long queue. In a couple of minutes, the guide informed us that we’d go to another border crossing, at Imatra (46 kilometers away), and entered Russia very quickly. We arrived in St. Petersburg at 1-00 in the night; I took the night bus home.

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