Those of you who are regular readers of my blog may already be aware that recently I won an international blog contest organised by Talent Tampere, a division of Business Tampere which links companies with internationals and their networks. My prize was a four day visit to Tampere, Finland’s third largest city to explore the international and travel sides of the scenic Tampere region.
On the morning of my departure, to say I was excited was definitely an understatement as I waited to board my flight from Manchester Airport. Although there are currently no direct flights to Tampere, there is a very easy connection via Finland’s capital, Helsinki.
My flight on-board a Finnair Embraer 190 aircraft, seating 100 passengers was very pleasant. The cabin crew were professional yet friendly and although meals are no longer complimentary, free drinks are served. During the 2 hr 50min flight the trolley passed through the cabin three times and I enjoyed two cups of coffee and a refreshing glass of blueberry juice, all served in Marimekko cups, showcasing Finnish design.
Coming into land at Helsinki Vantaa Airport was like entering a winter wonderland with the entire landscape blanketed in thick snow. As I took the bus transfer to the terminal, a convoy of snowploughs drove past, working hard to keep the airport open as snow continued to fall. I had a short connection of only 40 minutes but the airport is both compact and efficient, allowing sufficient time to clear immigration and reach my gate just as it had opened.
My short Finnair flight, operated by Nordic Regional Airlines (NoRRA) on an ATR 72-500 and seating 68 passengers took just 35 minutes to reach Tampere Pirkkala Airport. There was even more snow to greet me in Tampere and it only took a few minutes to collect my luggage as the airport is quite small.
Walking out into the arrivals hall, it was so exciting to meet Maiju and Eero, my hosts from Talent Tampere with whom I would be spending the next few days. Introductions complete, we took a taxi to my hotel in the city centre, taking around 20 minutes.
My home for the next three nights was the Lapland Hotels Tampere and on checking in, I was thrilled to find that my room reservation had been upgraded to a suite! Each floor of the hotel has its own seasonal Lapland theme, and befitting the time of year, my suite Lumo, was located on the winter floor. The suite was luxuriously furnished with separate bedroom and lounge areas in muted Nordic shades. Also, at my disposal were two large televisions, a private sauna and two showers!
I’d arranged to meet my hosts a little later in the hotel lobby and also joining us, was Olga from Visit Tampere who I would be spending time with the following day. We wrapped up warm and ventured out into the sub zero temperatures for a walk through the city centre to the Kattila Bistro where we were shown to a cosy window table.
As it was a cold evening, I started my meal with Jerusalem artichoke soup with sherry cream and prosciutto which was served with local rye bread and tasted delicious. To follow, I selected potato blinis with roe, sour cream and pickles which were also very good. It was a lovely, relaxing evening and I was made to feel very welcome on my first evening in Tampere.
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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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After sampling more Lapland delicacies at breakfast, I donned my boots and warm coat and walked across town with Maiju, my host from Talent Tampere. The conditions were perfect for walking, the snow being crisp underfoot with no dangerous icy patches to contend with.
Our first destination of the day was at Crazy Town which is a co-working space and business community intended for both start-up and established micro-sized companies and freelancers. My prize in winning the Talent Tampere international blog competition was to come to Finland and explore the travel, business and international aspects of Tampere, and what better place to start with international business than here.
Business Tampere had organised a winter warm-up event for local companies, Tampere ambassadors and members of Crazy Town. Stepping inside, I was impressed with the informal yet well organised layout. There’s a large open plan area ideal for seminars, networking and events like this. Surrounding this space are around 75 small office units on two floors, connected on the upper level by an eye-catching wooden bridge.
Timo Lahti, the sales director gave us a tour of the building and explained that there had been so much interest in this working concept that construction has already started to add an additional 25 working spaces within the existing building. It’s not only locals who are interested in this way of working, Crazy Town is also home to many international entrepreneurs.
The event was well attended by an international audience and got underway with a light breakfast. After a welcome introduction by Talent Tampere there was a talk by Woolman, an e-commerce company who design and develop on-line stores for their customers. This presentation started with some nature photos and of the speaker’s fly-fishing hobby that became the inspiration for the company, demonstrating how lifestyle changes can lead to a business plan. This was followed by a series of short pitches by Crazy Town members who were aiming to expand their businesses. Attending the event had been inspirational, demonstrating how it’s possible for development ideas to be transformed into successful small businesses
It had then been arranged for me to have lunch with the Talent Tampere team and one of their ambassadors so that I could learn about her role. We walked through town to the Puisto restaurant beside the Tammerkoski rapids. Utilising the power from these rapids, Tampere flourished with its cotton mills but nowadays it’s been transformed into a city noted for its technological innovation
Puisto translated into English means park, and from our window table we had splendid views across the park to the river beyond. The buffet lunch had lots to tempt me and I enjoyed a selection of hot dishes and salad whilst learning more about Tampere’s international links.
Later, we had a stroll through the town where I discovered a really nice design shop called Taito that showcased Finnish design and local arts and crafts. If only my suitcase was large enough to take home so many of their products!
Later, I was a guest at another of Tampere’s innovative tech companies but I’m going to hold back on that story for now and introduce you to them a little later – so stay tuned for more!
During the evening I enjoyed a final stroll through the town, the dark winter nights brightened by a thick covering of snow and twinkling lights. Each winter the centre of Tampere holds a Festival of Light when the streets are illuminated with hundreds of lights ranging from traditional installations to urban art projected onto the sides of buildings allowing both locals and visitors to view the city under a different light.
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My visit to the beautiful Finnish city of Tampere was coming to an end but there was still enough time for me to visit the Vapriikki Museum located by the Tammerkoski rapids in the centre of town.
Vapriikki is located in the old factory building of the Tampella engineering company who produced locomotives, turbines and linen fabric. When production ceased in the 1970’s, the historic premises were transformed into a museum. Under one roof numerous small museums are brought together, and these are: The Natural History Museum, The Media Museum Rupriikki, The Mineral Museum, The Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame, The Museum of Dolls and Costumes, The Postal Museum and the Finnish Museum of Games. Admission for adults is €12 with free admission each Friday between 3.00 – 6.00 p.m. The Finnish idea of bringing several small museums under one roof really works as I’m certain this results in lower running costs and higher visitor numbers.
The main reason for my visit was to take a look in both the Doll and Post Museums as I have a love for toys and anything post related and always try to seek out these collections on my travels.
The Museum of Dolls and Costumes was enchanting with its beautiful collection of dolls and a large scale furnished dolls house that visitors could enter. From 1966, this collection was originally displayed in the henhouse of the nearby Haihara Manor when the lady of the manor opened it to the public with 300 dolls. It has since been transferred to the museum and now contains almost 5,000 exhibits.
Continuing on to the Post Museum, it was interesting to see the uniforms of workers since the postal service was introduced in Finland in 1638. The collection also includes postal signs, vehicles, postboxes and stamps through the ages. Of particular interest was the world’s first e-letter computer from 1986 which looked very dated now.
It was then time to return to the hotel to collect my luggage and start the long journey home. Bus 1A runs between the city centre and Tampere airport however the timetable is irregular so it’s best to check out departure times in advance. There was ample room for my luggage and the journey, taking about 40 minutes passed through picturesque snow covered forests on its way to the airport.
Tampere Pirkkala Airport is quite small, making checking in and security checks quick and easy. Ready to board my plane, I settled down with a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun and struck up a conversation with a passenger returning to Vienna. I learnt that he had been in Tampere to discuss arrangements for the IAAF Under 20 World Athletic Championships due to take place in Tampere in July. It was interesting speaking with him and to learn that such a large sporting event would be taking place in the city.
My Finnair flight to Helsinki departed on time and took just 30 minutes to reach the Finnish capital from where I had a very short connection for my onward flight back to Manchester. As usual, with the ease of transferring through Helsinki Vantaa Airport, I had no problems reaching my gate on time.
My return flight to Manchester was on board an Airbus A319 airliner which was larger than the aircraft I had arrived on. Finnair operate a modern fleet and once we were underway, complimentary refreshments were served twice during the two and a half hour flight.
I returned home with so many happy memories from such an amazing few days in Tampere. During my stay, I was introduced to so many aspects of Tampere from its cultural attractions, beautiful lakes and forests to its innovative technology hub, which attracts many visitors from home and abroad to this Nordic city.
I would like to thank the Talent Tampere team for selecting my blog as their winning entry in their competition and for hosting me during my stay. It was a pleasure to spend time with them and hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m able to return and experience even more that the Tampere region has to offer!
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