Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tampere in the summer

During my holiday I made a quick visit to my hometown, Tampere, with the Englishman, Daughter and Sister, to mark a significant birthday. The weather was absolutely stunning - hot and sunny - making this old industrial town appear frivolous and fun.

We stayed in a hotel as there were so many of us. I chose a place close to the centre, the Sokos Ilves Hotel which was also recommended in the Conde Nast article I wrote about here. It's a multistory building, ugly to look at, but the views across Kehräsaari and the two new bridges across Pyhäjärvi from the (pleasant enough) rooms were stunning.

The view from our 18th floor rooms
I've written before about the incredible light in Finland in June. Because I'm so used to living in the UK where even in the summer it gets dark at a reasonable hour, on holiday I found it really difficult to sleep past the three am sunrise. Equally in the evenings it seemed strange to go to bed when it was still light.

In Tampere we decided to live according to the sun, and sleep as little as possible, so off we went in the evening to find a watering hole. Surprise, surprise, there were quite a few like-minded people out on the town...(OK, two....)

A pigeon had settled on the head of one of the imposing statues on Hämeensilta bridge
This is how light it was twenty past eleven at night. It's no wonder us the Finns drink so much; in the summer it's too light not to celebrate with a glass or two and in the winter it's too depressing not to have a drink...ok that's one of the most contrived excuses I've made up for our behaviour ever.

My grandmother had her business on the top floor of Tempon Talo (Tempo House). Isn't it a beautiful building?

The bar was by the water's edge.
Next morning was another stunning day, and as we headed out of the hotel I couldn't resist taking the classic shot of Tampere: of the rapids which used to power the two large factories in town, Tampella and Finlayson.

We walked along the water, past the men fishing (in the centre of a Tampere!) to the Cathedral where I, more than 25 years ago now, married the Englishman. That day was a similarly hot and sunny one.

This church means so much to me I have to go and visit it every time I'm in Tampere. It has wonderful frescos painted by Hugo Simberg, a pupil of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. 

'Interesting medium,' said the Daughter and peered at one of the pictures depicting skulls and dead gardens. I thought how fleeting life is when one's youngest can say such grown-up things. (The other day she started a sentence 'I remember when I was a teenager...' What the????)

When I was a child we'd come to Tampere Cathedral every Christmas Eve. Sitting on the balcony next to my sister, full of anticipation of the imminent visit of Father Christmas, I'd look at the haunting images and wonder what kind of awful lives these children must have had. I wrote a short story about one of the images, the Wounded Angel, during my MA in Creative Writing a few years ago. Unfortunately during various moves and changes in computers, I've lost it. The image still haunts me, though, as does this city.

The balcony was closed for renovations (I presume) so I could only photograph the painting of the Wounded Angel from afar.
Here is my favourite fresco in all its glory.


ML Awanohara said...

So what is the story behind the wounded angle? Very haunting and mysterious!

Helena Halme said...

ML, There's some explanations here, but basically the artist refused to say what it means.


ML Awanohara said...

Thanks for directing me to the Wikipedia entry on "The Wounded Angel." I must say, I find it curious that Hugo Simberg decided to put this heavenly creature into such a realistic landscape. That -- and the boy's gaze -- is what makes it so jarring. I'm beginning to glimpse how much I don't understand about Finland!

Anonymous said...

Very similar.

Anna Maria said...

Was it your birthday? I was lucky to visit Finland in June, it is definitely the best time to go, the light is just as you described it.

The Beauty Edit said...

Just booked flights to Tampere for two weeks time, pleased to find your blog whilst googling! Any favourite destinations there with young children? thanks.

Helena Halme said...

Anna Maria, No not my birthday, but that of a close relative. June is the best time I agree, but any time in the summer is good. xx

The Beauty Edit,

Speaking from memeory you oculd go to Särkänniemi - I've not been for ages but it has amusement park, and a planetarium. Then there's Moomin Museum and a place called Viikin Island which has events for children in the summer. The ferry goes every half an hour and gets quite crowded (by Finnish standards) but it's still a nice journey. (Forget about the restaurant)

Hope you have a lovely trip!

Helena xx