It’s been a long time coming, so let’s talk about Tampere. If it were possible, I would get Will Ferrel’s James Lipton on the line to call this little city two hours(ish) northwest of Helsinki to say, “You are a delight,” over and over again–there is no world in which the actual James Lipton would take my calls.
Fresh off the train and still riding my blue-sky-high, I dropped my bag at the hostel and took to the streets. It was a straight shot down the city’s main drag to Hämeenpuisto, a long, narrow park where there was an open air market going on.
Might have gone a bit overboard on the banana chips and dried papaya, but that’s the point of being young, hungry, and sunburnt. Besides, they came in handy during a particularly tense game of UNO later on. I was glad, though, to have avoided the French bakery stall, as one of the (really cheerful and generally awesome) staff members at the hostel told me a fist-fight had broken out over a baguette the year before. No bread is so fresh or crusty that I’m willing to risk my face for it.
And that was pretty much my first day. I went back to the hostel, ate my sad assortment of banged-up veggies, and went to bed well before the rockabilly concert a more energetic version of myself had been really psyched to attend. On top of its many other charms, the Tampere Dream Hostel has some really comfy beds.
Day Two I got up early and ran off with a pear meant for a guest who bought the breakfast package. I wouldn’t say I regret it because I love pears, but growing up Catholic means I still have to smack myself in the boob whenever I remember doing it. The day was grey, so I did what I do best, and wandered in and out of cafes and shops. Breakfast was a waffle with more than my fair share of strawberry jam at a cozy place called Vohvelikahvila. I didn’t have far to go–just down the street, actually–to find my favorite joint in town. Kahvila Runo is an obvious choice to be a favorite among blogger-types and I just don’t care. The place has books in several languages for customers to nose through, a massive tea selection, and a dark upper level for those of us who just want to be left alone on a rainy day.
I will say, though, that the bathroom is more than a little frightening.
I meant to explore a bit more and go to the Lenin Museum, but I didn’t. Next time.
My third and final full day is when I really got my money’s worth out of that second reheeling of my boots. After a brief trip to the post office, I made my way back down to Hämeenpuisto to hit up the Moominvalley museum.
Right before my arrival in Tampere, I’d been introduced to and gone a bit wild for Moomins. No photos are allowed inside the, but believe me when I say that it’s worth seeing for yourself. The exhibition occupies the basement of a library in the shape of a bird, and takes visitors through every stage of Tove Jansson’s creations. There are prints of the early Moomins from Jansson’s editorial comics, model scenes from each of the books, a dress-up area, a recreation of Moomintroll’s floating stage, and the truly gorgeous scale model of the Moominhouse, handmade by Jansson and her friends. When I realized that none of the tutus or riding jackets in the play area would fit me, I spent what, judging from the glares of my fellow patrons, might have been an inappropriate amount of time reading Jansson’s biography in an easy chair. Fun fact: she was fascinating.
Nearly three hours of darkness seemed like enough, so I headed up to the Pyynikki observation tower. One of the girls from a group of visiting university students from California told me that I had to go there for the best doughnut in town. Being short, I am drawn to climbing to the top of high things and feeling mighty, so I was planning to go up there anyway.
It was a good doughnut.
The way up to the tower is a green and mercifully shady hill off a residential area. Put mildly, it was beautiful.
Even more so than the stairs to the top, the view took the wind right out of me.
You win again, Finland.