I wish all mornings could start like this, waking in my luxurious suite at the Lapland Hotels Tampere and then enjoying a delicious breakfast in the hotel’s Dabbal restaurant. The dining area oozes Nordic charm having Lapland styled furnishings such as reindeer rugs and antler horns.
The buffet breakfast included several Lapland delicacies such as traditional Lapland cheese bread (Leipä juusto), which is a mild cheese made from reindeer or goats milk and is delicious eaten with cloudberry jam. I also sampled reindeer blood sausage which has a similar flavour to venison, and the local dark rye bread which, despite being dense and flat, was very tasty.
After finishing my breakfast, I met Olga with whom I’d enjoyed a meal the previous evening, and together we set out to explore the winter wonderland of Tampere. Nature is on the city’s doorstep making it an ideal place to live and work and it was only a 20 minute walk to reach the snow capped forest.
After walking off my big breakfast by climbing up several long flights of wooden steps, we reached Pyynikinharju which is the world’s highest gravel ridge. Standing proud on top of the ridge is the 26 metre red granite Pynikki observation tower. The building was completed in 1929 and after taking the lift to the observation deck we were rewarded with some splendid winter views over the city of Tampere and across the frozen Pyhäjärvi and Näsijarvi lakes.
At the foot of the tower I discovered a lovely little cafe famous for its doughnuts, their historic recipe having remained unchanged for 80 years and people come from far and wide to enjoy these sweet treats.
We continued our morning stroll through the pine forest where cross country skiers and Nordic walkers were enjoying the perfect conditions for some morning exercise. Cross- country skiing on level terrain looks so easy but I once tried it in Lapland and discovered it was more difficult than it looked. Perhaps one day I can have a few lessons and perfect the technique as it is totally different to downhill skiing.
After stopping several times to take in the stunning views, we climbed yet more wooden steps to reach the district of Pispala, an historic part of the city. Back in 1937 its narrow streets of wooden homes were inhabited by railway and factory workers.
Times have changed and nowadays Pispala is a popular residential area, home to artists, writers and musicians. The houses have been lovingly restored and offer magnificent views over the two large lakes below. There’s also several cafes, restaurants and grocery stores, giving the district a distinctive village feel.
Continuing, we returned to the centre of Tampere to take a look inside the old market hall on Hämeenkatu. This market, designed in the art nouveau style has served customers since 1901 with its traditional wooden stalls selling fresh local produce.
I sampled a Karelian pie which melted in my mouth, it’s pastry made from rye flour and filled with buttery potatoes. Next, I marvelled at the fresh fish counters and then decided to try some locally caught salmon for lunch. Located in one corner of the market we found a cosy little cafe where we rested our legs whilst enjoying a tasty lunch of salmon in a blue cheese sauce.
Feeling rested, it was time to see more, so I headed to the historical Finlayson cotton mill complex to seek out the Spy Museum. Tampere is home to the world’s first public museum of international espionage and in keeping with spying, it’s hidden away in one corner of the basement. The museum is quite small but includes exhibitions on eavesdropping, lie detectors, dead drops, spy cameras and much more.
Managing to find my way out, I took a look in the nearby Finnish Labour Museum which also incorporates the Steam Engine Museum and the Museum of Liberty in the same building, all offering free admission. This collection of small museums had much to interest me, I stepped into a 1910 style co-operative store, a workers’ savings bank and viewed the largest steam engine ever used in Finland. The giant Sulzer machine, purchased in 1900, functioned as a power source for the Finlayson mill and still stands today in its original location.
After such an interesting but busy day, I returned to my hotel room for a little rest as more exciting things had been planned for later. Feeling refreshed with a cup of tea, I walked the short distance to Tampere Hall in Sorsapuisto Park, home of the Moomin Museum. A tour had been arranged for me, and Viliina my guide, transported me into the enchanting world of a family of hippo like creatures. The Moomins are insightful and inquisitive with their strength coming from being part of a loving family.
The exhibits are structured to tell the story of the Moomins in the same order as the 12 Moomin books. The first gallery starts with the great flood, continuing to the puzzle of the lighthouse and finishing with the mysterious disappearance of the Moomins one grey November day.
The galleries are beautifully designed, taking visitors into the magical existence of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. The Finnish author was born in Helsinki in 1914 and from an early age displayed a strong interest in writing and drawing. During the outbreak of war in 1939 she sought solace by creating a fairytale world in a happy, green valley where the Moomins lived a peaceful, carefree existence.
Following my enthralling tour around the Moomin Museum, my Moomin experience was not yet over as dinner had been arranged in the Tuhto restaurant, also based in Tampere Hall. The Finnish name of Tuhto is thwart, translated into English it’s the crossbar that serves as a seat in a rowing boat as used by the Moomins.
The boating theme is evident in the restaurant and together with stylish Nordic furnishings, it creates a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Whilst enjoying pre-dinner drinks, we studied the menu and naturally selected the Moomin menu.
Our starter was a creamy salmon soup with dark rye bread, served in a Moomin enamel jug, poured at the table. This tasted delicious and for our main courses I chose the pork fillet whilst my companion opted for the wild mushroom pie, both of which were beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. For dessert, we were served pancakes with strawberry compote and whipped cream, leaving me in food heaven! The end of another amazing day in beautiful Tampere!
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