It’s like raaaain, with the water sprinklers on…
Turku, the oldest city in Finland, received a surprise visit from our family in the beginning of July. It responded with rain.
In an attempt to keep our toddlers dry, we visited the central library after some frantic googling in the car. Its area for kids was actually so nice that it made me daydream of snuggling up in a corner to read, read, and read. I started reminiscing about the books I read as a kid. The Famous Five, Asterix, Donald Duck… and the ones I just can’t quite put my finger on.
But as soon as you moved one or two streets away from it, my sense of aesthetics got struck hard.
Never mind the people drinking themselves unconscious in broad daylight, occupying all the benches everywhere so that parents and their kids had no spot to take a break, but the shopfronts were just depressing. They looked old, but not in a charming, quaint, old town way. Nope. They just looked dirty and outdated.
I was happy knowing that this wasn’t my home and that I was free to leave. Does that ever happen to you when you travel domestically?
I felt happy to come from a town that at least has some nice architecture in the downtown area, which – let’s face it – is the area most visitors will see when they drop by. It’s the city’s facade, its face. Turku obviously didn’t care much for facelifts.
Looking at what I just wrote, do you think I sound harsh? Does it stand out in a very negative way? I feel like a traitor, but why lie? No one is paying me to advertise Turku, or Finland for that matter. I’m just observing, subjectively. These are the thoughts that went through my mind.
I don’t know why, but I’ve noticed that to me, architecture, aesthetics, and the way a place or a building is maintained are very important. A building’s look gives off a certain vibe, a first impression. Buildings have souls. Their souls speak to me. I’m looking for something that I agree with, that inspires me. That doesn’t make me want to look the other way.
Last year back in my home town, Helsinki, I was very happy to get my boys into a daycare that was in a brand new building. I know the boys themselves don’t care whether it’s new or old, and the most important thing is to have good daycare staff.
But it made me feel more secure, like at least they were spending their days in a nice place and not some dump with broken furniture, worn toys, a funky smell and mold behind the walls.
Maybe I’m superficial, I’m not perfect. Life is too short for ugly.
The next day, we were off to Naantali, a small town nearby that just happens to be the home of Moomin World.
Moomin World, the culmination of our whole excursion, was a bit of a flop. They could have done more. In true Finnish fashion, it was modest and understated. And expensive and absolutely overcrowded. The weather was cold, too.
But Naantali had a stretch of pretty, wooden villas with green backyards and a public playground that the boys enjoyed far more than Moomin World.
The best things in life are still free, after all.