Last weekend we travelled to Turku with Noora, visiting this city on the south-western tip of Finland for the first time. Turku is the oldest city in Finland and thus has a lot of history (you can find short summaries on Wikipedia or at the Lonely Planet website) – of relevance to me is that the University of Helsinki was actually founded in Turku!
One of the city’s historical landmarks is the Turku Cathedral (in Finnish: Turun Tuomarikirkko). We thought it was a really beautiful old church, sharing some characteristics with the Porvoo cathedral, including the pastel colours used to decorate some of the arches and vaults.
Two traditional Turku events were happening the Saturday that we were there: the Paavo Nurmi marathon and the Medieval Market. While neither Brigitte nor myself are in a state to run a marathon, we were more than ready to explore the mock medieval market. The market had a great vibe, with all the salespeople dressed in “medieval” clothing and with mock sword-fighting, jesting and children’s theatre going on in the midst of the market.
We passed by the Vartiovuori observatory (glimpsing the city through the trees on top of the hill) on our way to the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum. Interestingly the observatory never really functioned as it was intended as the architect (the famous Carl Ludvig Engel) didn’t take the building’s function into consideration during it’s design… but it is at least a rather attractive building! The Luostarinmäki museum was great and well worth the €6 entrance fee – it is an open air museum consisting of 18 original buildings (the youngest of which is over 200 years old) displaying the living conditions and tools of a variety of artisans.
We also enjoyed a really high quality and good value lunch at Blanko (on Aurakatu 1, near the cathedral). If you are hungry and are in Turku, go eat there! You might also want to pop into the Old Bank pub, even if just to see how an old bank has been converted into a pub (be sure to go downstairs to the bathrooms so that you can see the old bank vault).
When we return to Turku… I’d like to go and visit the Turku Castle (we walked around it and it looks really fascinating) and ColourScape (a massive art installation which is also a music venue… sounds unique). I also have it on good authority that the Samppalinna swimming pool and CafeArt are worth visiting. And of course there’s lots more to do, including a stack of museums. If you’d like to visit Turku, you can find some useful information at WikiTravel. And if you’re going to be travelling from Helsinki or Tampere be sure to check out the good prices offered by Onnibus.