Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scandinavian Odyssey, Part 5

waterside home in Sweden
We got a very early taxi from our hotel on Friday, July 22, to take us to the Ferry Terminal.  Our 12 hour ferry ride started at 7AM, Stockholm time, and was aboard the Silja Europa, which was just as outfitted as any cruise ship we might expect to see - with a pool, multiple restaurants, shops, etc.  The only difference is this "cruise ship" makes 2 12-hour trips back and forth from Stockholm to Turku, Finland each day.
a boat, out for a peaceful sail, as we approached Turku.
When we got to our cabin, it was still messy from the night's boarders, but once we returned from our breakfast (at the very classy Maxim's a la Carte), it was ready for us to spend the day there, sitting by the small bay window, looking out at the passing ships and coastal homes, and snoozing on the two twin beds.  We also managed a trip to the duty free shop (of course) and a walk around the lido deck.
            We arrived in Turku, hot, tired and a little grumpy (at least I was, which means mom was too because she had to deal with a grumpy travel mate).  Around 9pm, we took a short walk in the area around our hotel and realized that there was no place to get food without waiting, so we got a little sandwich for dinner at the hotel and put our grumpy selves to bed.
Saturday market, with our hotel, the Hamburger-Bohrs
in the background.
            The next day started with so much promise.  When we woke, there was a great market set up in the square outside of our hotel.  We bought some fresh berries and cardamom bread and marveled at the green beans the size of our fingers.  It was raining on and off, but it was hot so the rain felt good.  Later in the morning, we thought it was time to go pick up our rental car (which was reserved for after 10AM).  Little did we know that the custom in small town Finnish rental car agencies is to only have the car available to you for one hour after your reserved time.  Since it was Saturday, the rental agency was closed by the time we got there, after 11AM.  We walked to the train station for help, then across town to the tourist info office, and had just about given up all hope of getting our car, or ever getting out of Turku.  However, one final trip to the rental agency was fruitful, since someone else had reserved a car for the afternoon and we happened upon the office, once again open for that other guy.  Victorious, we picked up our car and drove it the few blocks back to the hotel parking lot.
Lace maker at Luostarinmaki
            That afternoon, we snuck in and out of rainstorms at the Luostarinmaki Handicrafts Museum.  This was not the traditional museum we expected to see, but rather a preserved village in the heart of Turku, each building of which has been assigned a certain craft.  We had a private English-speaking tour with a very cute guide named Elizabeth from Austria.   We got to see a few artisans making lace, printing, making pottery, etc.
Turku Cathedral
            The next morning, in our rental car, we pulled away from Turku, but not before making a stop to see the Turku Cathedral.  There was a service going on, so we didn't get to see the sanctuary up close, but we enjoyed standing in the entrance hall for a while and listening to the beautiful singing.  On the outside, the cathedral looks rather primitive (it is over 700 years old) and a little shabby from being rebuilt many times, but inside it was clean, impressive, and almost modern in its simplicity.
Alvar Aalto's Sanatorium.
            On the road for real this time, we headed out to the Paimio Hospital, completed in 1932 as a Sanatorium, designed by Alvar Aalto.  There were no tours offered on a Sunday, but we enjoyed walking around the outside of the building and we weren't alone - what seemed to be a group of architecture students were scattered about, sketching the hospital.  The secluded, wooded spot was very serene, matching the simplicity of the white architecture, with shocks of color from some orange and green awnings, and some vivid flower beds.
           We made a great stop on the highway at a place called Design Hill, which was a veritable outlet of all of the best Finnish design.  We enjoyed a rather classy lunch of paninis, and dipped into our wallets to buy some Aarika jewelry.
Rya Rug couch, at Hvittrask
            We pulled in to Hvittrask just before 3pm, which was lucky because that was the time that the last English speaking tour of the day started.  We loved seeing Eliel Saarinen (and his two partners') home and hearing all of the stories of his love and life.  Rya rugs and some great wood detailing - a really homey, yet inspiring stop for this architect-to-be.
a wonderful selection
of Marimekko mailers,
at the post office in Espoo.
             There isn't much interesting to say about our hotel or dinner that night - it was a Sunday and we were still outside of Helsinki, which means nothing of note was open.  A stay at another Scandic hotel and a Chinese dinner got us through the night, anyway.  But we did do a little shopping in Tapiola Gardens the following morning.
The Gallen-Kallela museum.
            On Monday, we were off for our final drive of the trip, toward Helsinki.  First, we stopped at the Gallen-Kallela museum, the home of Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela.  The house was nice and quiet, with a great tower that seemed to keep on going, room upon room.  I especially liked the big dining room and the paintings there, including a portrait of Gustav Mahler.
            One more stop before the hotel - in search of the store where mom got her Rya Rug pattern 35 (or so) years ago.  Her pattern has now faded so she needs a new copy, but unfortunately, the store was closed for a week's vacation that coincided with our visit.  What bad luck!
            Anyway, we had arrived in Helsinki, for the final leg of our trip.

if you would like to see more of my pictures, you can check them out here.