Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Day in Turku

Here is an update of the last 2 days.

I arrived back in Helsinki at 7 AM yesterday and after a shower and breakfast I visited a huge department store here in Helsinki called Stockman's. It took me 2 hours to walk around all 7 floors of the place. This store has a hardware department, pet store, flower shop, 3 restaurants, a grocery store, a liquor store, and a fabric and craft department to go along with all the clothes, shoes and home decorating stuff you might imagine would be in a large department store. It was pretty amazing.

I then had a leisurely lunch at an outdoor cafe before walking to the site of the 1952 Olympics. The highlight here was being able to go to the top of the tower that held the Olympic flame. Here is a photo of the tower as well as a couple of views from the top.

For all you runners out there, here is a photo of the legendary Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish runner who won many gold medals in his long running career.

I walked a few more miles, checking out the marketplace and harbor area before heading back to the hotel. Jim has typically gotten back from work between 4 and 5 PM, but then has an hour or more of phone calls back to the J&J crew in the USA. There is no need for me to hang around in the hotel room while he is on the phone, so it is a good time to do more exploring.

We usually don't know where we are going to eat dinner when we leave the hotel in the evening, and just wander around checking out the menus of the various restaurants and cafes. When the weather has been good, we've tried to eat at a restaurant that has outside seating, which is fairly common. Mom asked what we've been eating. We've had salmon a couple of times, but mostly pretty regular food. It has all been good.

On our walk home last night we stopped to hear these guys playing the marimbas. They were awesome, and seem to play on this closed off street most every night.

So this morning I was off to the town of Turku, via the train. Turku is a 2 hour train ride to the west of Helsinki. When Finland was ruled by Sweden, this was the capital. When the Russians took over, they moved the capital to Helsinki. After a stop at the Visitor's Info Center, I got on a bus for a 3K ride to the Turku Castle. Lots of history here considering that construction on this place started in the 1200's.

Turku is built up on both side of the Aura River, which flows into the Baltic Sea.

After my return bus ride I crossed the river and walked to this Handicrafts Museum, kind of like the Genesee Country Museum. In 1827 most of Turku burned to the ground, with the exception of this cluster of homes and businesses. In the early 1900's a decision was made to refurbish this area and turn it into a museum and it is very well done. There were 7-8 people in various parts of the museum demonstrating their crafts, including this woman who was making lace. She had 44 pairs of bobbins that were intricately woven back and forth, while pinning the lace work open on a roller. You can see part of the lace piece that she has completed. It was fascinating!

Several of the homes had grass roofs, which looked to be thriving!

One more sightseeing stop before heading back to the train station and that was to see the Turku Cathedral. Don't have a lot of details, but another old building, with a long, rich history!

By now it was after 3 PM and I was starving! Turku has a branch of the Stockman's department store and stopped in hoping that they had a bakery and that they made these soft pretzels that I tried yesterday from the Helsinki Stockman's. Sure enough~they had 'em, so I bought 2 for my lunch and they were tasty!

My train back to Helsinki left at 4 PM and it was an easy way to travel. During my train travel today I got most of the heel done on my second sock.

Our pre-dinner wandering tonight reached a new high! We walked almost 3 miles looking for a place to eat! And then we ended up at a good Italian place less than a half a mile from our hotel!

Oops~ don't want to foget to tell you that I participated in another Finnish custom, that being the sauna. Saunas are everywhere and it is part of the Finnish lifestyle. Our hotel has a sauna so last night I decided to give it a try. Couldn't convince Jim to go. There were separate men's and women's sauna and I was the only one in mine. There was a sand timer in my sauna which I flipped over as I entered and I lasted about half of the recommended time, about 7 minutes. I think I would have died if I stayed in there for 15! I took a cool shower when I got out, got dressed and returned to our room. I didn't feel all that great when I returned so I don't think I will go again tonight. I guess the sauna is something you have to get used to! Mercifully, there are no photos from my sauna!

Tomorrow is a bike riding morning around Helsinki, rain or shine and then we board the ferry back to Stockholm tomorrow night.

Hope all is well!

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