Finnish Road trip: Turku to Tampere (day 2)

On day two of our Finnish roadtrip, we started the day in Turku and drove to Tampere. It was quite a rainy day, so we didn’t do as much walking as usually, but we do alot of eating. Some of the highlights of our day include the Turku Cathedral, Tampere Cathedral, lunch at the Tampere Food Hall, eating the best donuts in town and ending the day with a satisfying Belgium gastropub meal.

Breakfast

We woke up in the Scandic Hotel in Turku, which was actually the only hotel we stayed in during this trip. The room wasn’t very exciting, so I didn’t photograph it. It was comfortable and clean though. The only reason we didn’t book an Airbnb for this location was because they were much more expensive at the time of our visit then this hotel.

The good thing about staying in a hotel is the free buffet breakfast. I was a bit curious what kind of foods they would give us for breakfast in Finland. I wasn’t disappointed either. There was a variety of pasteries, Finnish breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, ham, cheeses, herring, oats with berries, roasted vegatables. giant baked beans, juice and coffee. This was probably my favourite breakfast buffet on this entire trip, since I wasn’t a big fan of the buffets on the ships.

Turku Cathedral

The last place we had to visit before leaving for Tampere was the Turku Cathedral/Turun tuomiokirkko. It is located off the bank of the Aura River, across from Downtown Turku. We had been nearby the night before, when we walked along the promenade of the Aura River and had dinner.

This cathedral is massive in size and is considered to be one of the most important Lutheran churches in Finland. It was previously a catholic cathedral, built in the 13th century and constructed of wood. However, it was later renovated and constructed mostly stone during the 14th and 15th cenutry. It was also badly damaged during the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. During the reformation the catherdral became Lutheran and much of its present interior was designed during the 1830s, by various renown artists and architects.

The altar was just gorgeous and awe-inspiring. The Altar piece was painted in 1836 by the Swedish artist, Fredrik Westin and depicts the Transfiguration of Jesus. The walls and roof surrounding the high altar are Romantic fresco’s, which were painted by the court painter,  Robert Wilhelm Ekman. This series depict the events from the life of Jesus, and the two key events in the history of the Finnish Church, including the baptism of the first Finnish Christians by Bishop Henry and the presentation to King Gustav Vasa by the Reformer Michael Agricola. The rerdos behind the High Altar and the pulpit were both designed by the German architect, Carl Ludvig Engel in the 1830s.

The side chapels were originally dedicated to various saints. However, most were converted to funeral vaults. Many of these graves and memorials are of notable people, including bishops, military commanders and royals. One of the most famous is Queen Karin Mansdotter, wife of King Erik XIV. Her sarcophagus is overlooked by a beautiful stainglass window, featuring the Queen and her sons. It also had a large playroom for children. This is such a great idea and something I have only come across in Sweden and Finland.

Tampere

Driving to Tampere took about two hours. We were anxious to get there so we didn’t make any stops along the way. I am not sure that there are any notable ones to make anyway. We first settled into our Airbnb. We were hosted by a lovely elderly couple, who provided us with a cosy, modern apartment. It was located in the Amuri district, a short walk from the Särkänniemi amusement park.

So Tampere is not a place I knew about before we were planning this road trip. So I will tell you what we learned. It’s one of the most populated inland city of all the Nordic countries and it is located in Pirkanmaa, southern Finland. It is known as the ‘Manchester of Finland’, because it was formerly industrial history. It is surrounded by over 2000 lakes and ponds, which make up 24% of its land surface. It is full of parks and green areas and also has popular amusement park, Särkänniemi and a host of other attractions.

Alexander Cathedral

On our way into the Tampere city centre we first stopped at the Alexander Cathedral/ Aleksanterin kirkko. It is surrounded by a large green park, Pyynik Church Park. Previously this park was the old cemetery of Tampere, but ceased to be used for this purpose after a new cemetary for the city was built in 1880s. However, during the Civil War in 1918, the land was used as a mass grave. It has a beautiful little fountain which is overlooked by the stunning architecture of the church.

Alexander Church was constructed by Theodor Deckin in 1880-81 and is known as one of the most beautiful examples of Neo-Gothic style. It was named after the Czar Alexander II for his 25 anniversary of his coronation.

Tampere Food Market

By now we were pretty hungry so we headed to the Tampere Market Hall/Tampereen Kauppahalli. It has been operating in a gorgeous art nouveau building since 1901 and has become the largest indoor market amongst the Nordic countries. It is bustling with over 40 vendors, sellingn fresh fish, meat, cheese, pastries, local foods. It has a host of cafes and restaurants and is open Monday- Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-4pm. This is the perfect place if you after a quick lunch or Finnish snack.

After looking around a bit we ended up choosing Ravintola 4 Vuodenaikaa. They offered French faire, including homemade sausages. They actually make 20 different sausages for their deli stall, from a variety of local meats, including pork, sheep, elk, reindeer, bison etc. It’s a lot more fancy then I expected to see in a Food Market. Marco and I both ordered the same dish which was Housemade Sausage (I think it was boar) with roasted potatoes and dijon aioli, with a small side of bread, salad and watermelon. It was simple but delicious!

Tampere Town Centre

After lunch we walked down to the city centre. Here you can find various department stores, restaurants, music venues, concert halls, theatres and cinemas. The large square in the photos below is the Tampere Central Square or Keskustori. It is quite open and is lined with important buildings, including the Tampere City Hall, Old Church of Tampere and Tampere Theatre.

Since it was rainy, we made a coffee and donuts stop at Pynikin Munkikahvila. It is only a small cafe just off the Tampere Central Square, but they also have another location at the Pyynikki Oberservation Tower. They offer sweet option, including large, small, vegan and gluten free donuts, cakes and “Wilhelmiina” biscuits. For something savoury, they offer grilled foccaccias, salads and more. They also offer a range of beverages, including filtered and espresso coffee.

Well we only came for the donuts and damn where they good! We just got the regularly large donuts and they were just perfectly spongy and sweet. These were the fried sweet treat we had so far. Marco also got a filtered coffee, since he was such a fan by now. I got my favourite oat milk cappuccino. This is definetely a must-eat stop if you are in Tampere.

After that we headed towards Särkänniemi. We went past the large city park Näsi Park or Näsinpuisto. This park is 6.2 hectares in size and was originally a bare rock. However it was redesigned by Swedish gardener, Svante Olsson. At the highest point you can find Näsilinna Palace, which was built in 1898  and is now a museum. Since we were on our way through we only took some photos at the Näsikallion suihkukaivo (Näsikallio shower well). This Art Nouveau granite fountain was completed in 1913 by architect Birger Federley and the three bronze sculptures are by Emil Wikström. The statues are based on old folk tales and are in the style of French realism. It is quite stunning to see on a sunny day or even a rainy day.

We walked all the way to the amusement park Särkänniemi, which has quite a few attractions along side it. These include Doghill Fairytale Farm , Aquarium, Planetarium, and the famous Näsinneula observation tower. I really had my heart set on taking Octavia to Doghill Fairytale Farm. However, due to the weather conditions most of the animal were going to be put back in their enclosures and alot of the programming was cancelled. We decided not to both with visiting Särkänniemi either since with little for O to do and we would only have a few hours. Instead we stopped by a little playground on our way back to the apartment. I was a little sad, but I think for the ticketing prices you should really spend the whole day.

Dinner

For dinner we visited the Belgium Gastropub Tuulensuu. This is the perfect place for a hearty dinner and some drinks on a drizzly evening or with some friends. They menu is quite traditional and offers a variety of snacks and small dishes to enjoy with an alcoholic beverage or meat-heavy mains. The prices are also pretty reasonably as well.

We started with some Apple ciders, followed by Schnitzel with fries  and Smoked pork neckroasted potatoes, horse raddish, Sauerkraut and beer sauce. They were massive meals and was definetely enough for two and half hungry people. They were incredibily delicious and cooked really well.

Well that’s it for today. We have a couple more stops in Tampere tomorrow morning before we make our way to Jyväskylä during the Midsummer holiday.

Finnish Roadtrip: Turku Castle (day 1)

The Turku Castle or Turku linna is the top attraction to see in Turku. It is a well preserved medieval fortress and one of the oldest buildings in Finland. It was founded in 1280 on the banks of the Aura River, after the south of Finland became part of Sweden. Its has been attacked, extended and renovated over the centuries. It has served as a defensive fortress, luxurious residenital palace, prison, administrative centre, granary, garrison, and lastly as a museum since 1881.

To get there we travelled by car, but you can also take the bus from the Market Square in Turku, which delivers you straight to the castle. The current prices are: Adults 12 €, Children (7–15 yrs) 5 €, free for younger children and discounted rates for students, pensioners, families, groups etc. They offer guided tours, which are currently an additional 3 €. We took the guided tour and it gave us a great overview of the castle history. They only take you through the medieval part of the Main Castle, which I have detailed below. Just note that the tour won’t take you through every single room. Each room does have text panels and there are also a couple of museum exhibitions, which you can visit. When we enquired about the tour, they weren’t too keen on us doing it with our small daughter. However, she found it interesting to wonder through the rooms and wasn’t too much of a nusiance. Other than that there is a restaurant and shop on the grounds, which we didn’t get a chance to see. We arrived quite late and did the last guided tour of the day at 4:10pm, before visited the exhibitions. We also didn’t see the Bailey, which has more exhibitions.

If you would like to see more this castle without leaving your home, you can actualy do a virtual tour. It gives you great panarama views inside the varies rooms in the main castle, bailey, courtyard, etc.

Turku Fortress

The photos below include the exterior of the fortress, the castle courtyard (bailey) and the main castle. During the Middle Ages, the castle looked more like an island, as it surrounded by a moat, which joined to the River Aura. However, the keep (fortified tower, within castle) was built in the early 15th century and the bailey was built towards the end of the 15th century.  The bailey’s hey day was during the 1600’s, when it served as the Governor-Generals office and was the centre of regional adminstration. It later served as a prison until 1891. Today, it exhibits the history of the Turku Castle, Children’s Castle and model rooms which are decorated in different eras. We didn’t get a chance to see this part of the Turku Castle, but you can see it on the virtual tour, that I mentioned above

The main castle is seven levels and is built from grey stone. The bottom level were built through the Middle Ages and the spaces are dimly light with low ceilings. The upper level were built later in the Renaissance period, so they are more spacious, bright and lite with natural light. There have been not extra modifications since the Renaissance era, so much of its character stems from this period. It’s gold age was during 16th century under the reign of Duke John of Finland and Catherine Jagiellon.

We began our tour of the main castle, from the reception area. The guide took us upstairs to show us a diarama of the castle in its current form, since the 16th century. The green roof building is the main castle, which is where we would be exporing on our tour. Within that building is an L shape courtyard, which is where were standing (in the photos above), between the grey stone walls.

The Porter’s Lodge

The next room we entered is the Porter’s Lodge on the fourth level of the main castle. During the Middle Ages, this room had a direct view of the castle and there was a window where the door to the Jordon’s Chambers its today. There was a control mechanism in this room for the lattice gate (to gateway) and the drawbridge. This was the only room that could be access from the gateway, via a staircase. The beautiful wall murals were painted in 1530, to celebrate King Gustav Vasa’s visit to the fortress. These were the best preserved murals we had come across on this tour.

Sture Church

In the next room was the Sture Church, which is the last monument in the castle to the Catholic period. It was built in the 1480s, by the order of Regent Sten Sture the Elder, when the most extensive renovations of the Middle Ages were taking place. The walls were adorned with 12 crosses, to celebrate the Apostles, as well as the coat of arms of Sten Sture and his wife Ingeborg Tott (on the alter wall). In the back corner of the room tehre is a piscina, which was used to wash vessels used for Mass. During the 18th and 19th century this space was used for storage for grain and weaponry, after the court left the Main Castle. Today, it is used to exhibit the sculptures of the saints, from the Museums collection.

The Gaolers’ Room

One level down on level 3, we came to the next space, the Gaoler’s room. It had perfectly polished wood from top to bottom and side to side and didn’t seem like much of a torture chamber. However, under the floor lays the prison cell, where prisoners would be detained. One famous occupant was Jaakko Ilkka, who was one of the leaders of the Cudgel War (1596-1597). Although this room is quite bright today, during the Middle Ages it didn’t have any windows, except for a small slit in the wall.

The Guest Room

The next room is the Guest room, which is currently housing a small exhibition. It was previously the space where vistors to the castle were accomodated. It is located near the entrance of the castle courtyard, so that guests could freely come and go. It was only furnished with benches and it had a large furnace to heat the room and the upper floors.

The Old Guard Room

Besider the Guest room, was the Old Guard room. Today this room is filled with models of the castles various construction stages from the 13th century to today. The castle began as a small fortircatio on a rocky island, surrounded by sea water. By the end of the 13th and early 14th century, a two-storey residential building was built inside the fortress, with a three-storey palace extention. During the middle of the 16th century the Main Castle received a new Renaissance floor, for the Duke John. However, a fire damanged the Main Castle in 1614 and the entire court had to move into the bailey. By the 18th-19th century the castle became a base for the Swedish and Russian armies, storage and prison. It was lastly renovated again at the end of the 19th century to become a museum.

Medieval King’s Hall/State Room

Back up on level four we came to the Medieval King’s Hall, which was Finland’s most important secular room from the 14th to the middle of the 16th century. Both Finland and the rest of the kingdom has been governed from this very space and many celebrations were held here. Nearly every Medieval Swedish ruler has graced this hall. This room has large gothic windows, which open out to the courtyard. There are two small rooms within this room. One is a medival privy (toilet) and the other was a storage space

The Youth’s Quarter

Above on level 5 is the Youth’s Quarters, which was the very first room to be converted in the Renaissance Style in the 1530s. The valuted ceiling was replaced with a flat ceiling and window openings were enlarged to let more light in and make the room seem more spacious. Open fireplaces and tiled stoves were also added to provide more heat. John, the Duke of Finland and son of King Gustav Vasa , resided here between 1556-1558 while the renovation to the residential floor was being completed. After it was used by the children of Duke John and his mistress, Karin Hansdotter.

The Ladies’ Parlour

Next we arrived at the Ladies Parlour, which was a workroom for the women. It is located in the West Tower, which was contructed in the early 14th century and until the early 1580s it was only accessable from a gangway mounted on the outerwall. This room served as an entrance this floor (third) and upper levels, via a spiral staircase. This room has a beautiful large bay window with a benhc, which was added in 1585. Beside the window there is a labyrinth motif, carved on the wall. Supposely, it was meant to travel evil spirits that entered the room to protect its occupants.

The Scriptorium

On the same level, was the Sciptorium, which was a workroom for the castle scribe. The oldest ledger that would have probably written in this room, was from the middle of the 16th century. It told of everyday life, renovations and how the storerooms were used. The recesses in the walls were used as bookshelves. This room was later used as a guest room and some of the names of the guests have been recorded on the wall.

The Stone Chamber & The Great Guard Room

Next we went up to level four and first entered the small room, the Stone Chamber. This was the bailiff’s chamber, where the bailiff levyed taxes and acted as an assistant to the lord. Below this room is a medieval storeroom/pit dungeon. We continued into the Great Guardroom, which is a large room built in the 15th cenutry. During the Middle Ages it was was the gathering place for the castle garrison. Today it is a temporary exhibtion for various castle objects.

The Castle Church

Next we went up level six to see the new Renaissance style floor. The Castle Church was built during the 1550s, to serve as a residence for Duke John. Originally, it was a the Duke’s banquet hall, however after the fire of 1614 it furnished and conscrated as a church in 1706. This church served both the castle residents and local from the region. The church was destroyed during the war in 1941 and has seen been restored to its likeness from old photographs. It is still used today and is a popular wedding church.

The Vestry

Beside the church is the Vestry, which was the bedroom of Duke John. It was considered the most imporant room in the castle. The Duke also recieved imporant guests in there. It was converted into a vestry after the church as consecrated in 1706

The King’s Hall

The next room was another great hall in Renaissance style. This style was more spacious, had large windows, repetitive patterns on the ceiling and floor. During the 16th century it was known as the Duke’s Hall and the people of the court dined here on weekdays. It was later served as an armoury in the 18th century, but today it again serves as a banqueting venue.

The Queen’s Hall

Beside the King’s Hall is the equally beautiful Queens Hall. During the 16th century it was known as the Duchess’s Hall, as it was used by Catherine Jagiellon and her caught. Back then the walls and ceilings were panneled, fabrics hung from the ceiling, large tapestries lined the walls and rugs covered the floor.

The Queen’s Chamber

The Queen’s Chambers was the bedroom of Duchess Catherine Jagiellon. It was richly furnished with a canopy bed made of damask, drapes and rugs. Today it looks to be a banquting venue.

The Queen’s Dressing Room

Beside the Queen’s Chamber is the dressing room of Catherine Jagiellon. She brought many fashionable dresses from Spain, whch were hung on beams and kept in chests. She had 113 skirts with matching bodices, sleeves and headdresses. They were made of velvet and silk and were decorated with gems and pearls.

The Ladies’ Drawing Room

Next we visited the Ladies’ Drawing room, which is part of the West Tower. It was used by ladies as a workroom and sitting room. In the 1580s there was a open doorway between this room and the Queens Dressing Room. Prior to this it could only be access from downstairs spiral staircase which lead up from the Ladies’ Parlour. We had to climb many spiral staircases on this tour. They were often built in a way, so that one had to climb them in a clockwise direction, which would make it difficult for a right-handed attacker to weld his sword arm.

The Silver Vault

The last room we visited was top level (seven) of the Main Castle. The Silver Value was a storage room for valuables, such as weapons, ammunition, tax revenue, money and furs. It could only be access from the Ladies’ Drawing Room. It was built in the 15th century with a a vaulted ceiling, which is quite well preserved. It has small openings, which were used as medieval heating ducks.

The Exhibition Rooms

After our tour we visited the Exhibition rooms, which are in the attic floor (level 7). It exhibits the collection of the Museum Centre of Turku, which is comprised of over 280,000 objects of cultural and historical significance. The objects we saw were more from a more modern era, then we just came from.

One of the more interesting things we saw was the Dinner table at the end of the 1800s. It is in revival style, which featured the romantic idealization and imitation of past centuries. This was the only group of objects that a text panel English, the rest was in Finnish in Swedish, which was a bit disappointing.

This Finnish dresses were made in different eras, between the 1830s to the 1950s. Unforuntunately the text panels were not in English either, but you can get a good idea of the chronological changes to fashion that occured over time.