tampere is the third largest city in finland and the largest inland nordic city. it is/was an industrial center (it is/was home to the finlayson textile company, back in the day the company had its own little community and neighborhood, kind of like henry ford created in dearborn). it is a beautiful place however with two lakes and a river running through town, and most of the buildings were either made of brick or were the traditional finnish wooden houses. tampere is also famous for the delicacy 'blood sausage' (mustamakkara, literally 'black sausage'), dave had some and found it was very good. all in all, we had a nice trip.
*lessons learned that were not shocking*: 1. with two kids you take even fewer pictures on vacation. 2. its harder to manage the flow of the day to suit everyone's hunger, tiredness and fun levels.
tuesday: we got a late start to the days drive and so we stopped in hämeenlinna for lunch at zante. this was a business person's lunch place, thus, it was low on variety, and was not that exciting. afterward, we went to the town's häme castle. its a nice structure, a small unfancy castle. the amount of restoration that has been done on the inside made it rather lackluster, but the medieval narrow staircases, window nooks and toilet were interesting. the knights workshop that was a space designed for kids was seriously uninspired though. i think the castle visit, overall, would have been more beautiful in the summer, as it was built on a lake that is frozen over in the winter.
(real, untouched medieval toilet, it was in a little nook off a room and the hole when down several stories to some mystery ending point; narrow staircase)
back in the car, we drove the rest of way to tampere. we encountered some annoyingly confusing construction as we tried to get to the peninsula our hotel was on, but, we made it. we stayed in a historic brick building on a marina. the inside of the hotel kind of felt like a cruise ship. our apartment/studio room was a nice sized loft and was tucked in a pretty quiet corner. we had dinner downstairs at the classic pizza place. dave and i made a mistake getting the garlic sauce on our pizzas though, yuck. afterward, the kids played in the hotel's toy room and we just walked around and scoped the place out. bedtime went well but we were all tired.
(pizza on vacation!)
wednesday: we paid for the hotel's hot breakfast (at the ravintola arthur). it was a decent value for the selection though there was not much for me. we talked to an italian guy while making our waffles, he was quite nice and stood out from the finns because he actually spoke to us(!). he wondered how we ended up living in finland, was there a 'lack of opportunity' in the US he wanted to know. and during breakfast, we saw, as always, the finnish men with piles of mini sausages/hot dogs for breakfast (i guess this is no different than american piles of bacon and breakfast sausages, but something about hot dogs for breakfast seems weird to me).
after eating we decided to check out a toy store downtown to get something X had been asking us for, unfortunately the place (BR-lelut) sucked so we drove to stockmann. of course. we then proceeded to have lunch there. of course. we did find new beers and DELICIOUS gluten-free treats from a place called bönna. plus, we were able to buy a couple 'trash pack series 7' guys in the toy department and made X's week. then we drove back to the hotel and while i rested with Y, dave and X went to the hotel's spa/pool. for dinner X and dave had sandwiches and i went to the cafe (lapinniemen ansari) around the corner for some chicken soup and desserts to bring back. what a LOVELY place: romantic, eclectic, charming, cozy, unique, friendly, delicious. for desserts we got a blueberry pie slice and a chocolate fudge brownie.
thursday: oh, have i mentioned that i hate finnish showers? they are usually just a faucet spraying into an open space of the bathroom. the spray goes everywhere and you are expected to just squeegee the ponded water toward the drain after you are finished. the water swirls around the toilet, the shower is drafty because you need to heat the whole of the bathroom to be warm, and you generally feel worse afterward that before. i do not get it, except that it satisfies the finnish preferences for simplicity and ease of cleanliness (yes, its easy to keep a bathroom clean when you can basically hose the place down from top-to-bottom at your every whim), but its certainly not attractive or comfortable.
but i digress. i had to use the shower in the middle of the night with Y because he was congested and we werent getting any sleep. needless to say, the day got off to a slow start. we did end up at the vapriikki museum group, in a lovely old factory on the river, for the mineral museum and natural history museum. such beautiful bite-sized exhibits that were very accessible and interesting. we also ended up exploring the 'time to play' toy museum and the shoe factory museum and the museum shop. these museums grouped together in one building (we visited one in espoo over christmas break) are a great idea. we even had lunch in the museum overlooking the water. in the gift shop, X picked out an amethyst geode/crystal for a souvenir.
(fossils. photos by X)
(toy museum play area)
back at the hotel, we took it easy and went for a swim in the spa. 'spas' in finland are not what you think of a 'spa' in north america. they seem to mostly be a series of pools (pools with massage water streams, mineral pools, hot pools, cold pools) that are open for use to adults, children, seniors, handicapped people, etc to just relax in and enjoy. this place also had a baby pool, and the main large pool had a current that flowed every 20 minutes. Y had an absolute blast and X has been getting more impressive with her swimming. for dinner we all walked over to the cafe and had pea soup and finnish pancakes (it was thursday after all). it was such a beautiful little place, we were so lucky to have it nearby. before bed, X and dave popped out to a beer store to get some local brews that we cant get as easily in helsinki.
(traditional thursday meal: pea soup and pannukakku)
(he came for the bread)
friday: X and dave went swimming one last time before checkout. afterward, we drove to vegetarian restaurant gopal for lunch. X tried all the things i put on her plate and raved about the meal (weeks later she still talks about it). im finding it is so nice to finish vacations with a vegetarian meal. then we walked to a bakery for some valentines treats and said our final farewell to tampere. everyone had a wonderful time. i think it is my favorite finnish city so far. the whole place seemed to be under construction though, it would be lovely to come back and see the improvements, and to see it shining in the summer.