The drive from Turku was flat and boring. There is no way to sugar coat it! At first it was nice to not have to work our poor Gunter quite so hard, but the monotony soon sank in. I was looking forward to driving through Finland earlier in the trip, hoping to be driving through pine forests and untold number of lakes. This might be true if we’d come from the north like I’d originally (and unrealistically) wanted, but this drive was rather featureless, and I was jealous that Risa was able to sleep her way through it.
We arrived around dinner time, and again, instead of pushing and checking out the city of an evening, we decided on an early evening. Again. We found a nice quiet campsite by a lake just outside of town. There was a small beach, and to my true amazement, a steady stream of people passing by for an evening dip!
Just before closing the curtains for the night, I noticed the sky glowing. We walked down to the lake to investigate. It wasn’t a memorable sunset, but there was something serene about standing out on the jetty, admiring the sky and the forest surrounding the glowing waters. It almost made me want to jump in, too. Almost.
Before driving in to town, I worked up the courage to have a quick swim in the lake. I won’t lie, I was back out of the water before I had time to really understand just how cold the water was! There are photos, but no one wants to see a skinny white man in a swimsuit!
It was a short drive into town. To save a few Euros, we parked towards the edge of town, which meant a 30-minute walk to the central sights. It gave us a chance to look at more than the key sites of the city before forming judgement – so far there wasn’t much taking our interest.
We stopped for some lunch in the central market hall, again feeling like we were back in Russia with the canteens selling meat and soups by the gram. The town has a famous blood sausage. We were feeling game, and after enjoying haggis in Scotland, we thought it could actually be quite tasty. It might have looked and sounded a little terrifying, but it was actually very mild, and tasting more like the grain it was stuffed with than meat – the lingonberry accompaniment was a weird clash of flavours. The meatballs, however, were fantastically rich.
The main buildings in town were pleasant enough, but the red bricked buildings were my clear favourites. We continued our exploration of the town on foot, walking through what used to be a giant factory and is now an exceptionally quiet shopping mall.
Our path took us across the river to see the cathedral, who’s stone exterior made it look much more modern than we’re accustomed to. Inside, the central space felt like a theatre, with a mezzanine curving around the elongated central apse. The paintings and decorations also gave it an air of being much more modern than we’re used to visiting, and at the same time, not quite feeling like a church.
We’d basically seen what we wanted to see here, and thought we’d take off and see Hämeenlinna before it got dark. We took a more scenic return path via the riverside, and looking at the people enjoying the sunshine from the green parks on the side of the river made me enjoy the town a little more.
As we drove out of town, we made one last quick detour to see Kelevan Kirkko. This one truly is a modern church, being built in the 1960s, and consisting of 18, 30m high concrete towers. If it wasn’t for the large, though amazingly still quite subtle, cross on the roof, you’d have a hard time picking it as even being a church. Stepping inside and looking up at the enormous cavity was dizzying. I have to say, I was a fan – though, I do love the look of clean concrete lines and timber.
It was such an unusual space, but the attention to detail was outstanding – even the pews were custom designed modern shapes. They had a copy of the floor plan on display, and seen this way it was incredible how it resembled the outline of a fish – which surely wasn’t a coincidence.
By the time we’d arrived, the weather was miserable. We quickly passed through the centre of town, but with no must-see sights, we didn’t bother parking to walk the streets.
Instead, we drove just outside of town to visit the Häme Castle. We attempted to park, but we were ushered away. It was confusing, but we were undeterred, and found a park on the street a little further away. We walked towards the large red brick castle, but as we approached, we were once again ushered away from the castle itself. We weren’t sure if we were too late to visit, or if it was closed for another reason.
But, we’d now spotted what looked like a Medieval Fair in the park beside the castle, and like the children with short attention spans that we are, we forgot about seeing the castle, and went to look at the market.
There were hundreds of canvas tents, and even more people in period clothing. Some of the tents were performing demonstrations, like smithing, or skinning animals. It wasn’t from the same lady, but Risa picked up a really nice sheepskin pelt (and for only €40!), which she absolutely treasures.
It looked like the people here were having a great time re-enacting the period, even with their clothing/tents that probably aren’t as weather proof as what we were wearing.
We managed a couple of glimpses of the castle from outside of the walls, and while being very large, robust and imposing, it was surprising to me how modern it appeared for a 14th century building. It wasn’t a complaint, just a surprise to see a large red-brick castle.