we rented a car, which we picked up after breakfast. the road west was nice, full of trees, wildflowers, and tunnels. plus, we got to test out a finnish rest stop (clean/nice), but when we got out of the car we were hit with more grey, wind, rain, and cold than we had dressed for. we werent quite to our destination (the weather hadnt been predicted to be this cold) yet so we hoped for the best. it was still grey when we arrived in turku but the temperature and wind were more manageable.
turku is the oldest city in finland and used to be the capital (until it was moved to helsinki in 1812, when russia was in charge). also, being on the western side of finland, there is more of a swedish-speaking population here, the citys swedish name is åbo. when we drove into turku it seemed like a hodge podge of building types and time periods, at least from the direction we entered town. we parked near the market square and made our way to lunch: china & thai palace. yum, the food was simple, fast, and flavorful. we hadnt had good thai in a while so we were pleased.
after lunch we went down the block to the fantastic main library branch. since the weather was still kind of yucky we were happy to go in and explore. there were so many nooks and creative spots for kids and kids at heart, so much more than dusty books on shelves to intrigue the mind, and the library had one wall of all glass windows looking out onto an interesting courtyard with art sculptures too. the place was almost too interesting, we didnt actually get any reading in. lol.
(one of many views of the kids area)
our next stop was the 100+ year old toy store called casagrande. the shelf presentation wasnt anything to write home about, but the toy selection was wonderful, and the owner was chatty. we ended up getting a new animal toy for X (a snake) and some awesome kinetic sand (really cool product from swedish company, waba fun). we also found out we can email the owner to have toys mailed to us (even though the store doesnt actually have a webstore), so that will come in handy for unique things at gift-giving times.
then we started just wandering around. we made it into the turku market hall and got some treats (GF vanilla/cherry pulla, raspberry macaroon, gingerbread cookie, and an apple pulla) and then walked a few blocks along the citys central canal/river. there was certainly lots more to see, but we were ready to just settle into our cottage and relax a bit. so, we grabbed some simple dinner stuff from the grocery store and headed 15 minutes north toward the town of naantali.
(turku market hall. so far, all the finnish market halls weve encountered look similar)
we checked in to our little red cottage at tammiston tila, a nice piece of property with an old wooden farmhouse, gardens, and a few cottages. after exploring the grounds for bit, we had a dinner of fruit and sandwiches. then we headed into picturesque naantali in search of dessert and a nice end to the evening. we won on both accounts. the town was rather packed because it was the final night of their music festival and the sun had finally decided to make its glorious appearance. the little harbor of naantali is perfectly situated to soak up every ounce of the eternal summer sun of finland. the town seemed very much like the little coastal tourist town gems of northern and UP michigan. it was so lively by the water, and the place was filled with families and couples of all ages, it could enchant anyone. we got ice cream from a little window and sat in the sun by the docks people and animal watching. then we wandered around, played at a playground, and headed back to the cottage.
(naantali harbor; playground fun)
in the morning, breakfast was served in the bright and comfy farmhouse dining room. the selection was perhaps good for most peoples diets but it was certainly not that great for people needing gluten free fare (probably the least varied offerings ive had at any nordic place weve been). to add to our leaving day experience, when we checked out we found out the linens we had rented for the cottage were 12€/person!! are you f-ing kidding me!? the cottage was quaint and the property was nice, but i cant possibly fathom going back there. nope. unfortunately this was just the beginning of our costly day because our destination was moominworld (the disney-like franchise of finland).
we did manage to dodge the 8€ parking fee for moominworld and just parked on the street in naantali. we did take the (free) moominworld train from the naantali town church to the bridge onto the island. the park entrance was 25€/person (only kids under age 2 are free)! while i will say that the island the theme park is situated on is very naturally beautiful and serene it is not worth the price, in general. when we first entered the park, we did the walking/exploring adventure through the moomin side characters storyland. and that was fun, though a little scary in tone at times (i have found that nordic stories/authors for kids are not afraid to be a little scary or 'controversial'). then we toured the whole of the moomin familys iconic house (up to the 4th floor attic and down to the cellar). and next was moominpapas area, that was fun because of the water play area.
(bridge at the end of the storyland; water play in moominpapa area)
lastly, we continued along the forested trail past moominpapas with little stopping points of other lesser characters play areas. there was a 'barefoot trail' where you were invited to take your shoes off and walk on sand, rocks, smooth stone, and through water. X loved that, but ended up slipping in the water and needing to change her clothes. then our visit descended to its dissatisfying (at least for the adults) ending. we had a nearly 40€ lunch at 'moominmamas kitchen'. it was a buffet place (which we thought would be better than the hamburger/hot dog/fries stands elsewhere) with mostly meatball, hot dog and mashed potato offerings with a few additional soggy or bland foods. and again there wasnt very much for me to choose from. sucked. then we zipped through the gift shop where there were thumb sized moomin figurines for nearly 5€/each. ha! we left that place empty-handed. and we completed our moominworld day by catching a moomin musical show that was going on by the entrance/exit of the park. what a dull and uninspired show. ugh.
so, in summary, the park was situated on a truly lovely island in a great little gem of a town...the rest...was crap. it was the most un-finnish place weve been to since we lived here, and if they were trying to take a page from american theme parks/tourism they only really seemed to have stolen the yucky parts, with just enough 'finnish'-ness sprinkled in to be offensive and feel manipulative. the moomin franchise has actually slowly been bugging me more and more since weve lived here. its the biggest literary export of finland and the characters are all over the country and are basically a symbol of childhood. the stories seem wonderful (they are for older kids so we havent gotten to reading them for ourselves) but the branding and usage rights for the commercial aspect of the famous family are distasteful, at least in contrast to the rest of finnish culture. its so off-putting that i think i will be avoiding pretty much all moomin things in the future, except for the books. thats where the real, original enchantment and value is.
anyway, to end our trip, we walked off moominworld and stripped off the yucky feeling to be re-wrapped in the loveliness that is naantali. its called the sunshine town for a reason. the sun brightens up its harborfront for pretty much the whole day in the summer. we absorbed the energy of the relaxing people, got ourselves another ice cream treat, and ended our mini vacation on a good note. heres hoping we make it back to the west coast sometime soon.