This time last week we were in Finland, enjoying the wonderfully snowy landscapes in Saariselkä. We spent Sunday flying home via Ivalo and Helsinki, before spending Monday to Thursday at work. At 03.30 on Friday morning we were on the road again, driving down to Stansted airport to catch an early morning Ryanair flight to... Finland! We don't normally visit Finland this frequently! But an unusual coincidence meant that Tim was invited to participate in an Esperanto meeting in Tampere the weekend after we returned from Saariselkä. We'd never been to Tampere before so it felt like too good an opportunity to miss, even if we did feel rather exhausted at the point our alarms went off this morning.
We had a straightforward journey down to Stansted and got through the queue for security without too much pain. The slowest-moving queue in the airport was actually at the drinking water tap, where we waited for ages to be able to fill up our bottles! It was a distinct improvement on the terminal of Heathrow we were in a couple of weeks ago though, where there didn't seem to be anywhere to fill bottles at all.
Our flight arrived in Tampere around 12.30 (it was about a 3-hour flight plus a 2-hour time difference). As we were coming in to land, the surrounding countryside looked mainly green, as if it had perhaps snowed a few weeks ago and was now thawing. The pilot informed us that it was minus 5 outside though and we stepped off the plane onto a rather icy runway. It was a good job that we'd come dressed for cold weather, because we then had to queue outside the tiny terminal building for around half an hour as the passengers ahead of us inched slowly through passport control. There seems to be quite a difference between how seriously different border officials are inspecting UK passports after Brexit. In some countries like Spain, it's just been a production line of stamping with barely a second glance at the passports. In Finland they seem to be doing a much more thorough job; once again we were asked why were were here, how long for, what address we were staying at in Tampere etc. It definitely makes the passport control queue move more slowly!
By the time we'd emerged out the other side of passport control, I was concerned that we might have missed the airport bus. I don't think the bus from the airport to Tampere necessarily runs to a fixed schedule; the information I'd read online suggested that it departed 30 minutes after each flight arrives. It had definitely taken us more than 30 minutes to get through the airport and once we found the bus stop outside, there was not only no bus there but also no one else waiting for one. That didn't bode well, although another guy turned up shortly after us, also looking for the bus. He pointed out that an Air Baltic flight had just landed, suggesting that there ought to be another bus soon. Happily, he turned out to be right and we were soon on our way into the centre of Tampere
We got off the bus outside the railway station, got some food at a nearby McDonalds. We weren't able to check in to our apartment until 4pm, so we set off for a walk to explore some of the city centre.
Soon we came to what looked like the banks of a river flowing through the middle of town.
This is the Tammerkoski, a channel of rapids which links the two lakes which Tampere is situated between.
It was historically quite an industrial area of the city, with the fast-flowing water generating power for the nearby factories.
The thing that amazed me the most as we walked alongside the water was how icy everywhere was!
There were huge amounts of grit on the main walkways, but everywhere else looked like an ice rink.
We crossed the water on a bridge and continued into the centre of town.
Lots more ice!
We eventually came to a pretty church.
This is the Alexander Church, built in 1881.
In summertime I think there's a really nice park here, but it was quite treacherous today.
As we turned around and walked towards our apartment, we found another beautiful church. This is Tampere's orthodox church.
We knew approximately where the apartment block we were searching for was, but it was one of those that had been supposed to email detailed instructions for check-in and then hadn't. Tim had to phone them, getting through to someone on his second attempt who told him to send him a message. After he'd sent the message, he received some instructions in a reply, but the entire process was rather like a treasure hunt. We understood the keys were supposed to be in a key safe but it wasn't clear where the key safe was. Initially we managed to get into the correct building by virtue of someone else opening the door and locate the apartment, assuming the key safe would be outside the internal door. When we found that it wasn't, we then realised there was a picture in the instructions document showing the location where the key safe allegedly was outside. We both walked around for a considerable time, trying to match up the image that we could see on Tim's phone screen to the actual reality in front of us, completely unable to spot any kind of key safe.
Would you have found it?
It turned out to be attached to this pink bicycle!!!
It was completely bizarre and not at all clear from the instructions that we should have been looking for a bicycle, but never mind - eventually we were in! And once we got in, it turned out to be a really nice little apartment
We had a bit of a rest, before heading out to have dinner with some of the local Esperantists in a nearby Italian restaurant. I had a spaghetti bolognese, which was great. Tim ordered what we thought was going to be a chicken caesar salad, but when it came it turned out to be a pizza... covered in chicken caesar salad. That was a bit of a surprise Now we're going to have an early night and tomorrow I'm looking forward to seeing a bit more of Tampere.