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Phespirit goes to Finland
Helsinki     February 2004


Map of Finland

1 Helsinki

The heart of Helsinki - between the waterfront to the south and the Olympic Stadium to the north; the Uspenski Cathedral to the east and Hietaniemi to the west - is not a compact area, but it can just about be covered on foot.

The biggest test for newcomers is walking on pavements that are covered by layers of grit and snow and ice in varying degrees.

Phespirit avoided falling over, but developed an ache in the arches of his feet as his toes vainly tried to clench the ground through the soles of his boots - a latent primitive reflex?

In fairness, though, the Finns do a good job with their pavements.

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2 Hämeenlinna

Phespirit stopped at Hämeenlinna whilst travelling from Helsinki to Tampere by train. Without much time to spare, he had a brief look around the town church - a Lutheran version of the great Pantheon Temple in Rome - before heading directly for Häme Castle.

February is not the tourist season so no other visitors were at the castle. Phespirit wandered around the courtyard, the wellyard, the chapel, the strongroom, the kitchen, the Great Hall, the vestibule, the Queen's Chamber, the King's Hall, the Cock Tower (sic), the clerk's chamber, the Knight's Hall and second floor chapel rooms, all alone save for some silent attendants and a cleaning lady.

One question: why was there a Mongolian Yurt in room 301?

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3 Tampere

Called the "Manchester of Finland", Tampere has an English-style industrial town feel beyond the red-brick chimney stacks and dark satanic factories. It's in the main street and the store fronts, in the pace of shoppers and traffic, the malls, the mix of high commerce and low civic buildings, the young fashion and anti-fashion.

Lenin was here. In his leaflet of 1st May 1905 he wrote:

"A Jew and a Christian, an Armenian and a Tartar, a Pole and a Russian, a Finn and a Sweden, a Latvian and a German, - all, all of them go together under the same flag of Socialism."

Which doesn't sound at all unreasonable .....

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4 Turku

Turku Castle alone is suffient enough reason to justify a two hour train journey from Helsinki, but it is not the only show in town.

Turku Art Museum owns works by Picasso, Magritte, Rembrandt, Munch, Gallen-Kallela, Whistler and van Leyden. As usual it was the Gallen-Kallela pieces which Phespirit found most pleasing.

Fans of enormously frustrating shopping experiences will enjoy a visit to the Hansa Shopping Arcade, which is about as intuitive to get around as a formicary.

Turku also has a pleasant riverside walk, a striking cathedral and some fair architecture. Bravo Turku.

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  1. Helsinki
  2. Hämeenlinna
  3. Tampere
  4. Turku
images 1
images 2
Helsinki Hameenlinna Tampere Turku