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July 14th 2017
Published: July 14th 2017
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Lake in Nuuxio National Park
We arrived yesterday from Stockholm, by a short forty-minute flight. It was an easy pick up of rental car and then a twenty minute drive to our apartment, rented through a Air BnB and situated 5km from the city centre in a district called Herttoniemi. Our hosts were a lovely couple, very helpful and friendly and, as expected, their English excellent.

We only ventured as far as the local shops to buy some food to cook some meals- a welcome change to eating out constantly over the past few weeks. It was a cold, bleak afternoon- a mere fifteen degrees and raining as the evening went on. The forecast was not promising for the coming days. This morning, was much the same with an overcast sky and rain along our journey to Tampere. We decided to break up the 168 kilometre drive by stopping into Hämeenlinna, a small town not quite half way. It is the birthplace (and first twenty years of the life) of composer, Jean Sibelius. It is home to Häme Castle, one of Finland's medieval royal castles surrounded by a moat and bridges and paths leading around it and across to the Museo Militaria next door. This

Nuuxio National Park
is a war museum showcasing the history of Finnish artillery, engineering and signalling from the Middle Ages to today. There is an extensive display of canons and tanks. These landmarks are situated on Lake Vanajavesi and are very well preserved. On the grounds there is a prison museum, depicting prison life and the history of Finnish administration. The prison relocated to Kylmäkoksi in 1993. It remains as authentic as it once was for people to see what is was like to be imprisoned here.

Onto greener pastures, we arrived at Tampere a bustling small city. Three quarters of the Finns live in the south between Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Porvoo. The total population of Finland is just over 5.5 million. We parked and wandered around the reasonably crowded city, admiring old buildings, the theatre, city hall, cathedral and Finlaysons brewery and art gallery, ventured through the food market, sampled coffee and hot chocolate and Marcus bought a sweet cake which was covered in peanuts and chocolate. We browsed through the stores at local clothes and textiles and homewares. We decided we would go and throw ourselves into the cold lake nearby. As luck would have it, there was an

Nuuxio National Park
orienteering competition going on and it was extremely crowded at the beach we were trying to visit, so we had to go along further to a walking track area to the edge of the lake, between boats. We parked and walked to a patch of grass, near what appeared to be a kommune, with an incredible community vegetable garden. We were not sure whether it was people's residences or summer cottages, which is evidently common here. We spent little time in the water as it as shallow and very cold. It was approximately twenty degrees today. The weather had cleared slightly though and blue sky was breaking through.

We returned to Helsinki, a beautiful drive back, through canola fields and roads lined with colourful Lupins along the road. Occasional small cottages and farms lined the roads. Marcus snoozed quite a lot of the journey, whilst I bopped along to my eighties playlist. We decided to stop in to Marimekko, a famous Finnish textile design company which makes expensive furnishings, accessories and clothing. I bought some fabric and a pair of tailored pants, whilst Marcus waited patiently.

We returned to the apartment, had a rest and a snack and

Nuuxio National Park
then went out on the bikes that Päivi and Pertti had lent us and rode around the shoreline of the lake right beside our apartments. There were loads of people outdoors, cycling, running, walking, fishing, with family, bird-watching. It was after 7p.m. and everyone was very active. We completed our 13.5km lap of the Bay of Vikki and then returned home for dinner and relaxation, before bed. It was the most beautiful evening- clear blue skies and cool breeze. Perfect way to end a Finnish Summer Day.

Our next adventure was Turku- which is part of an archipelago. We had a slow start to the day, as it was overcast and windy weather. We decided to do some shopping in outlet stores for Finnish products. We bought some homewares from Finlaysons and Pentik. We also looked in Arabia and Iitalia but we felt their products, whilst lovely, were too fragile (and expensive) to buy to bring home and risk getting broken on the journey. After consuming a good portion of the morning, we got in the car and headed to Nuuksio National Park, which was only forty-five minutes from Helsinki, in a small part called Haukkalampi. The National Park

Hameenlina castle
is 53 square kilometres, which was established in 1994. We did a short walk, about four kilometres, through typical Finnish scenery- through the green pine forest, beside lakes, over bridges, traversing beds of pine needles, tree roots and rugged crags. It was drizzly on an off, but it was a peaceful forest with few people there. We did see something very unusual from our national parks- we saw people having a fire in their picnic areas, with family gathered. They were contained, but we do not see fires lit on walking trails generally. It was a nice way to spend an hour.

We continued on to Turku, arriving late afternoon. We parked and walked down to the main square where the market was packing up for the day. We walked up the pedestrian mall, down to the canal taking in Turku's eight hundred year history displaying several several sailing ships moored there from the Maritime centre, out past the Turku castle (built in the 1280's) and to the ferry point where all the cruises came into port. Turku Energia's chimney has illuminated numbers which represent Fibonacci numbers in sequence 1-55. We were considering taking an evening boat cruise out

Hameenlina castle
to the archipelago however there were only 3.5 hour cruises left, departing at 7p.m. and we still had a two hour drive back to Helsinki, so we decided to skip it. It was a shame, as we thought it would be a highlight of Turku. We strolled along the River Aura, past people out after work, exercising, or tourists on holidays. It was a busy place for a Thursday night. We observed a Pharmacy museum, many quaint houses and lovely architecture and the bridges were charming, dotted across the river. The river seems to divide the city into two sides- the cathedral and the newer stuff like the market hall and square. There is a little orange ferry that takes passengers and cyclists across the river for free. It has been operating for over one hundred years. In fact, Turku is celebrating two important anniversaries- the Finland (Suomi) 100 anniversary as well as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October 2017- this marks the passing of 500 years since the theologian Martti Luther published his these in Wittenberg. Turku was pivotal in spreading Protestant ideas around Finland. That said, it is recognised as an open and ecumenical city. There

Tampere, Finland
is also a university there, where students can study medicine. We met one of the new students who is about to embark on her six year medicine degree. It is one of five universities where she could have chosen to study medicine in Finland. University tuition is covered in Finland's taxes, to enable all people to access tertiary education. Students can access loans and must pay for text books. Loans, if paid back on time, get a discount such that they only have to pay 30% back.

We continued main the main cathedral, up through the main square and back to the car. We went up to Turku's art museum and then drive out to part of the archipelago, connected by bridges to see the beautiful little shacks on lakes that people escape to for their weekends and holidays. There were lots of boats bobbing in the water. Within an hour, we saw a mouse, squirrel and a family of deer. Other than birds, this is the only wildlife we have seen. We have seen many signs warning about moose on the road and haven eaten moose and reindeer, but not seen any anywhere. We had a long drive

Tampere, Finland
back to Helsinki, where I fell into bed and straight to sleep.

Our final day was a glorious Summer day. We got up, organised and headed out to the shops to buy last minute souvenir and gifts. We drove to Porvoo, sauntered along cobbled, charming streets, admiring small wooden houses and buildings that lined the quaint streets and laneways. There were window boxes filled with flowers in bloom peeping out at passers-by. Window ledges filled with sweet, little trinkets that symbolised something to individuals in each home. We did a last minute ship of Brunberg's chocolate store, then raced through a couple of supermarkets in search or salty licorice- what a good sister I am!

After we had completed our circuit, we returned to Helsinki, dropped off our provisions and then headed into the city. We managed to jag a brilliant free car park and walked into the market. Unfortunately, I was unable to find my Spectrolyte pendant set in gold, so I consoled myself with a reindeer and moose stew which was very tasty and Marcus ate his Whitebait that he had been dying to taste, followed by a visit to the famous Fazer cafe. I bought

Tampere, Finland
a divine cappuccino and chocolate, whilst Marcus devoured his make your own Magnum. We waddled back to the car, filled to the brim, to return to our apartment for the final pack up. We had one final stop before the airport... Marcus was desperate to fill his bags with new clothes, so we went to the Halti outlet near the airport and he bought some new hiking gear. Bags almost splitting, we returned our car and caught the shuttle bus to the terminal.

That brings us to the end of our tale... as we know all good things must come to an end. We are about to board our flight home, via Singapore. That said, whilst we have had a wonderful holiday, tried many new and exciting things, I am always a firm believer that there is no place like home.

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 28



Tampere, Finland

Communal vegetable garden, just outside of Tampere, Finland

A typical house in Tampere, Finland

Lake in Tampere, Finland

Sunset over Helsinki, Finland ??

Sunset over Helsinki, Finland ??

Mall in Turku, Finland

Turku, Finland

Turku Castle, Turku, Finland

Cathedral, Turku, Finland

Archipelago, Turku, Finland

Archepelago, Turku, Finland

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