Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The spreckled hen explores Finland: Turku edition

My parents and I decided to take another weekend trip after all the craziness of moving during the week, plus this would be our last weekend together, so we decided to make a day trip to Turku. Turku was Finland’s old capital, before the Russians took over and decided that it was too far west and there should be a capital city that is decidedly more east (no joke). Turku’s cultural beauty and roots are still visible today and you can tell that it was and is a wealthy city.

It is only a two hour train ride to Turku, and from said train ride you can really tell the vastness of Finland’s wilderness. I read somewhere that it was one of the least densely populated countries in the world – something like each person would have 20 miles to themselves if they divided up land equally per person. Ridiculous.

After reading the guidebook, my parents and I decided on seeing three main sites. First, was Turku castle. Hilariously described in the guidebook as “plainly piebald on the outside but delightfully fascinating on the inside,” we took the book at its word and went in. Couldn’t have been more right. Definitely piebald on the outside:

And gorgeously interesting on the inside:

The castle itself was built originally back in 1280 or so, though naturally was built up over the next several hundred years as various sieges and fires destroyed it or this duke or the other overtook the previous. It was astounding to be standing in a place that is literally more than twice as old as (colonized) America! O_O Pretty awesome.

Here is a random picture of the King’s Hall, which was the best room in the place. Gorgeous natural sunlight and wonderfully graceful arches – this is where the king (or whoever was holding the castle at the time) would hold his feasts for guests and the like. I could totally imagine having a Game of Thrones-like feast in this grand hall. I would definitely throw a gnawed turkey leg behind my back to my group of hunting dogs.

Second was some archaeological ruins of a village, located under a modern art museum. Strange mix of venues to be sure, but actually it worked quite well. And despite the ruins not actually having much to show (naturally the ruins, but only very few exhibits and surprisingly little factual or concrete information on their subject), it was very engaging and educational. Basically Turku, back in the 1300’s and up to the 1800’s, was a very prosperous town and they can tell as such by the building materials and surrounding items they dig up (most are imported items of high quality). Like other “found” villages, this one was buried under several levels of dirt, as the current city was built on top of the older city and everything was just buried underneath it.

The modern art museum above it was small and cozy, but good. It was very, well, artsy. We did a quick viewing of the paintings they had and then called it a day so we could get to our intended final destination: Turku Cathedral.

Another building twice as old as America, Turku Cathedral was coronated in 1300. A queen and “some religious guys,” (as my mom puts it) are buried there, and overall it is a nice impressive Lutheran church. Apparently it is the biggest and most revered Lutheran church in all of Europe. Something something, so much organ music is played there. So. Many. Organs. (A silly side story: I was at a gift shop buying a postcard and one of them had nothing but a collage of the different organs one could see in Turku…that many organs. O_O)

There was a huge organ right above me in this picture, not to mention the organ one of the fathers was already playing when we started leaving the cathedral. Like I said: So. Many. Organs.

Overall Turku was really nice – beautiful city with several good things to see. I’ve heard that if you’re there for more than just a day taking a cruise out to a cluster of islands nearby is really the thing to do. It also helped that we were in the midst of amazing weather – 15 C/62 F! Another novelty ice cream was bought in celebration of such luxurious “summer” weather. Man, I’m really turning into a Finn.

Until next time Turku, keep partying like it's 1399!

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