Hameenlinna to Tampere

Trip Start Aug 31, 2008
Trip End Oct 05, 2008

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Well I don't know how this will go because I'm extremely tired tonight - so tired indeed that I've been feeling a bit teary. Just tiredness though, and today lasting a bit too long.

This morning we had our smorgasbord breakfast in the hotel & it was nice that a few things were familiar, although there were a few surprises.

Afterwards it wasn't raining, and our hotel was just beside the lake, so we decided to go for a walk beside the lake. A path disappeared into the trees. After a short while there were various old pylons, possibly the foundation for something long gone, now covered with moss. Or a solitary chimney or ...

We walked in the direction of the castle & had some lovely views across the lake to the castle, although mostly very cloudy but the sun did start to come out a bit by the end of our walk. We detoured off the main path for a while and found ourselves on a board walk amongst the reeds at the side of the lake. Literally a board walk actually - mostly it was 2 planks side by side. I was relieved not to fall in but it was pretty.

We walked back on the main path through the trees, some birch, some pine, some what we are now calling "Christmas trees".

Then we checked out of the hotel & drove in the direction of what map had translated as "City Park" - supposedly just beyond the castle. We should have paid attention to the Finnish name for the park because TomTom did not recognise it.

We drove on one side of the lake - also looking for a national park entrance - but we didn't find that either, so eventually drove back to Hameenlinna & around to the castle & continued looking for the "city park" that way & did actually find just the end of it, but not the end near the castle. So we gave up on that & headed on.

At Hattula we visited what translates as "The Church of the Holy Cross" (I don't feel like searching for the "a with an umlaut" to spell it in Finnish). This church dates from the early 1400s & inside are frescoes, painted all over the walls & vaulted ceiling. We weren't sure if we'd be able to see inside because the info only gave dates up to August, but here we had another of our fortuitous experiences. A film crew was preparing to make a feature film there, so the church was open, but the crew were just having an early lunch, so were not inside - so we could be.

Really really beautiful & astonishing history. 14th century carvings of saints - some we recognised & some we couldn't. A few things were hard to see because of the film crew's stuff, but we were just grateful to get in at all.

Next stop was a whim of mine, to the Iittala glass factory & shop. In the end we only visited the shop & not the factory, but I did buy a plate. My responsibility now to try to get it home in one piece.

At Saaksmaki (all those a's should have umlauts) we visited Rapolan Linnavuori - the largest prehistoric hill fortress in Finland. Of course there's not a lot left to see from an iron age village, but we bumped into a group of older Finnish people heading up the steep hill & joined them for a while. One woman translated the names on a few signs, and thus we learnt which sign pointed to "castle burial" etc.

Basically what these people had done was find a place sort of a valley with steep hills surrounding most of the sides and build them up with stone work & then wood on top of the stones. It was a bit of a hike & I was puffing near the end, but these older Finnish people were striding along & still chatting to each other. I said to David that it reminded me of the "Swiss grandmothers". When we were at Grindelwald in Switzerland, time estimates for a hike were how long it was anticipated it would take a Swiss grandmother to do the walk. At the beginning of our days there (in Switz.) the grandmother outpaced us. By the end of a week we were a little faster than she was.

Anyway, back to Finland. There wasn't a lot to see & it did start raining while we were up there, but there was a lovely view to water & island, as well as some pits which I guess I could believe were prehistoric graves.

Next stop was also a pleasant surprise. Not far from the hill forts was a studio that used to belong to Emil Wickstrom (o umlaut there). He was the fiance for a while of Dora Wahlroos - whose exhibition we had admired at Hameenlinna. Anyway this place was his home & his studio and later the home & studio of his grandson - a famous cartoonist.

We weren't sure the place was open - it was quite a way off the road & no other cars were there, but yes it was open. We looked around the room first where the cartoonist's pictures had numbers & we had sheets in English with translations. I guess they were clever, but political cartoons need some understanding of the situation they are commenting on.

Wickstrom's house was fascinating though - supposedly much as when he had lived there, but decorated with his art works as well as eg the elaborate fireplaces he had decorated or the bricks he had glazed or ...

But best of all was his studio - in the top of a café. The café was closed but the sculptures in his studio were wonderful. One face of a sleeping child made me want to cry - it was just beautiful. Right up the top of his studio was an astronimical observatory - right down to an opening roof & supports for telescope etc.

There were sculptures in the gardens - which looked out to water (lakes) on 3 sides. An unexpectedly good find.

As we drove on to Tampere, the rain became heavier. Tampere is the 2nd biggest town in Finland, and much harder to navigate than the small towns we've been in. One way streets & narrow roads.

Our first stop here was at the Cathedral - quite astonishing. Our book describes it as National Romantic - it was finished in 1907 - and also remarks that the frescoes and stained glass windows were controversial at the time.

Picture if you will a sort of Lutheran church - simple, elegant & whitewashed - with lovely galleries above and on the sides & columns. And around the galleries are frescoes of long weaving vines, being carried by boys - naked boys. In all sorts of positions! Behind the altar the rose window is just that, but below it is a large painting & I guess it is meant to represent crowds approaching (Heaven?). All elegant whites and light brown colours, but what is astonishing is that while the women are all well covered - some almost in white burkhas - the males were all naked.

As a piece of art both were quite lovely, but both David's and my reactions to it was "why?"

It had been quite tricky to find a parking place near the cathedral - I had to reverse park uphill on the right side of the road - and we'd had to drive around narrow & 1-way streets to find it, and then it was quite another drive to go next to no distance to the next stop, the Werstas, or Museum of Labour.

Now I hadn't wanted to go there & when we arrived I considered sitting outside and waiting because I was just so so tired. But I thought that David had come to the glass factory for me & he really wanted to see this. And I just might be interested in the social history even though the prospect of a museum about the history of the labour movement in Finland didn't exactly sound gripping. Anyway I went in, but I was really too tired to do it justice.

In all fairness it was fascinating history, and comes well after our other exposures to Finnish history. We went first into a special exhibition called "the Finlandisation of Finland". Apparently "Finlandisation" was a term - proposed by Germany I think - referring to the way Finland appeased Russia & imposed self-censorship & did whatever necessary in order to avoid upsetting a terrifying neighbour.

It made for fascination reading, the lengths to which the government went to not upset USSR. The pieces were written with an implied comment behind sort of "was the price paid, in order to keep the piece, worth it".

I won't try to recount the history, but it went so far that when there was a Finnish president who was very much on the side of USSR, and he was standing for reelection and looked like losing, and USSR had their doubts about the alternative, they "had a quiet word" with people who mattered in Finland - and the pro-Soviet president's term was extended - and extended etc - in the end he was in power for 25 years, and only left the presidency when he had dementia, and shortly before Brezhnev's death.

I had thought that Finlandisation would be about making Finland Finnish as opposed to Swedish or Russian, but it seems to be a particular political term. The exhibition really was interesting but I was getting too tired to cope.

The permanent exhibition we looked at next was also very interesting. About the poor & working classes in Finland, and life & death & education etc. In the early 1900s if one needed social security help, it was at the cost of your voting right, and you had to pay back any money given later. And there was deep shame attached. Later you didn't have to pay it back.

Child labour was essential on the farms & later the factories, and basically working class children did not go to school much before the 1800s and until the 1950s it was still rare for women or working class kids to attend secondary schools. As the exhibition put it, it was only the Baby Boomers in the 1970s who demanded further education that gradually led to many more places in tertiary education.

After this exhibition I said to David that I just wanted to get back to our hotel & collapse. But first we had to find it. Because of the 1-way streets we actually drove past it about 3 times before we managed to approach it from the side that allowed access to turning in to the hotel. This included 1 narrow street that I had to eventually back out of, and difficult left hand turns, and meanwhile it had started to pour again. There was one bridge I drove over a few times and we even drove down past the back of the cathedral once more.

But eventually I turned into the hotel & David went in - but no, the hotel only had 8 parking spaces, and those were all now full, so we had to go back over that bridge and park overnight in a parking station. So we dumped the luggage there & had to drive away again. It was with great relief when we finally were parked for the night.

Then we had to walk back over the river again, in pouring rain (& my umbrella kept blowing inside out). After a short time off we decided to go out to get some dinner.

The place David had found from a guidebook turned out to be fully booked, and he hadn't brought the book so we didn't know about alternatives. And here's where my tiredness kicked in I suppose. Other fast food places didn't appeal to me if they were really empty or ... Oh any number of other reasons. In the end we opted to go back to the hotel restaurant.

But that was expensive & really didn't have what we liked, so we had to go out again & then nothing appealed & in the end we chose a kebab place that was truly dreadful. Kebab meat covered in tomato sauce, on top of chips (which were soon mushy & covered in sauce too). The salad was cold slaw under pickles and a white yoghurty sauce and some other pickles under an orange sauce. Both of us picked at it a bit & then left.

The supermarket we'd been directed to turned out to be a rather plush department store, so in the end we went in there, bought a Finnish chocolate each as comfort food & returned to the hotel.

I said I thought I needed something like a few hands of cards as a distraction. David opened the new pack of cards he'd brought from home. Goodness knows where those cards came from - the box looks like any other pack of cards, but the cards themselves are all of scantily clad females, some definitely R-rated.

The cards aren't even strong & so aren't easy to see or hold but I guess it was a distraction. And now I've written a long message after all, so I will soon get ready for bed.

Hopefully we can take it a little easier tomorrow. I think the lesson I realised today was that we can only push ourselves so much, and ought to have stopped around 4 when I was feeling "too tired to cope" rather than a couple of hours later. Now David is yawning a lot too, so we won't want to be up much later.

Love to you from Kerry & David
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