Turku, old capital

Scenic Turku

Turku air 4Having been to Finland in the winter, it was really refreshing to see how the country changes as it slips into spring. What a far cry from the cold in Helsinki. Whereas it was dark by 3pm then, it was still bright at 10pm! As we were moving to Holland, Suan was once again with Melvin. Combining the house hunting trip with business, we flew from Amsterdam via Copenhagen to the city of Turku.Turku air 3

The first thing that strikes you is the number of islands and islets that dot the Baltic sea as we approached Finland from the direction of Sweden. This is the Aland archipelago. There are over 20,000 islands in this archipelago that stretches 100km out from the Finnish mainland. In fact, rocky outcrops occur all the way to the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia.Turku air 2

Another thing – when you look at the map of Finland, you will find that not only does it have a lot of islands, it also have a lot of lakes. The southern half seems to dot with them everywhere!Turku air 1

Melvin’s colleagues told us that for the islands, one can buy them and build your own house on it. Of course there will not be public amenities such as electricity or piped drinking water, but you get to play Robinson Crusoe whenever it suits you. The same applies to the lakes and people here build their own summer homes…

Seen from the air, it is a different experience on ground. And so we took a cruise out to the one of the islets in the middle of the archipelago. Loistokari used to be a lighthouse at the approach towards Turku harbor.

Loistokari2It is barely a rocky and barren blob of land. There is a small house on the site where a keeper lives all year round.Loistokari4

Our cruise came with dinner on this small island. It was a buffet and the food was cooked using an open fire by the rocky stretch…quite interesting! But it was still cold and the food got cold fast!Loistokari7

In between and after dinner, we had the opportunity to explore the hut that the lighthouse keeper used to live. Melvin was not wearing enough, just a long sleeve shirt!

It was blowing cold and he kept looking for shelter…tip to oneself, always bring at least a woollen coat even if it is spring in Finland.Loistokari3

Luckily for us, we continued on the boat very soon. It did not come as a surprise that we were the first ones to board even as the cruise ship associates were calling out to the Finnish passengers to reluctantly leave the islet. While onboard for the return cruise, Turku001there was a lot of singing and drinking all the way back to the harbor. Imagine this same scene in summer…

Turku Castle4While the city side of Turku itself may not have featured here in our photos, it is a nice compact “city” to explore on foot especially along the river where beautiful Turku cathedral stands. One such place would be Turku castle. Now you need to know that Turku used to be the capital of Finland until 1812. So it would not be surprising that the rulers of the land built a formidable structure here.Turku Castle5

Finland was ruled by the Swedes until the 1800s, before it came under Russian influence. While it is not opulent, it is still an impressive greystone castle.

Suan toured the courtyards, the King’s hall etc. Yeah, Melvin was in the office while she was doing all of that. Not many people visit and Suan pretty much has the place all to herself. It is spring and black and White tulips were blooming with Turku castle in the background.

In yet another trip, Suan had the pleasure of touring the Kylämäki Village of Living History. On the outskirts of the city, it is a collection of traditional houses of the Finnish people. The oldest house there is a storehouse from the 18th century.

Definitely need to come back to Helsinki and Turku. The days were simply too brief. Perhaps when we take the Baltic cruise, we should start here and spend some days ahead. Noted that for the bucket list.

If you’re game for more Finland, continue reading here for our Santa adventures!

November 2001 / April 2002

 

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