It’s Like Rain…

It’s like raaaain, with the water sprinklers on…

…who would’ve thought, it figures…

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.

At some point, we ventured outside. Turku had a beautiful riverside area, its old town.

One of Turku’s older streets

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 They just looked dirty and outdated.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.

The old bank building in the front caught my eye, in a good way. Behind my back, standing here, was some of the ugliness I was trying hard to avoid looking at. I didn’t take pictures of it.

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.

And…

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.

Which town did I prefer? Definitely Naantali. Will we be going back? Not likely.

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42 responses to “It’s Like Rain…

  1. Thank you for this most interesting insight (and pictures) of Turku and your thoughts about the appearance of cities through their buidlings. Buildings do have soul, I agree. I guess that is why (new) buildings can arouse so much debate. Buildings are mostly tall and can’t be overlooked, and they take up communal space, they MAKE that space. Pretty or ugly, the onlooker simply can’t get passed them. In my city they are building a very large, very modern thing in the midst of the historic centre. Many people hate it, some like it, but whatever one thinks of it, it is undeniable. That makes city planning such a precarious business. I’m sorry to read that Turku is mostly ugly, an no, you don’t have to feel a traitor saying so. We got cities like that, often former villages that have grown not in a slow and natural way but boomed up in an industrial frenzy, that didn’t last and left a dull, uninspiring, often poor place. Nobody likes them, except perhaps those who live there. I’m sure there are Turku-ians who crave their city 🙂 Naantali didn’t look that bad with its pastel wooden houses.But I understand that a two hour drive for, well, some pastel woorden houses is a bit much asked. Luckely Helsinki is a neat city to live in. (I would love a bowl of salmon soup again served by the harbour!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, salmon soup is lovely! It’s easy to make yourself, too. I just learned a while ago, since I’m now cooking for two hungry little boys on a regular basis. Though the salmon in it is quite expensive over here. As for Turku, I’m sure the locals think it’s the prettiest place in the country. The river area wasn’t that bad, really, it looked quite ”European”. Probably a nice area to have a drink in the evenings, plenty of cafes/bars there. But the main streets and shopping areas downtown… phew!!
      As for new buildings, especially modern-looking ones, same over here. They inspire discussion, both for and against. One hot topic here has (for many years) been a tiny airport for private aviation which the city wants to close down. The building has some historical value, functionalist in style, but the aviation enthusiasts demanding its preservation have their own agenda, not related to the building’s architecture.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. what a shame about moominworld. and a shame about the bad architecture. i too think everything should be the best version of itself; that things should be clean and beautiful. nothing wrong with expecting the best i think:-) cheers sherry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sherry! 😊 Sometimes the decisions made about public places are inexplicable. Like in Turku, I’m pretty sure they’ve torn down beautiful old buildings when they built the current ugly ones, decades ago

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  3. I remember reading some of those books when I was young, Snow. Nice memories of going to the library as a child, however the library had none of the facilities you mentioned. It was very basic. Books on shelves and that was it.
    I adore the pink cafe photo and all the traditional Finnish architecture but can understand that Moomin world was disappointing. Classic tourist trap! Sounds great but leaves visitors wanting more. My daughter loves Moomin, incidentally; I think that might be because my swedish friends used to send her Moomin storybooks when she was younger. It is heart warming to read about your boys preferring the public park as it brings back so many memories of my own kids when travelling or on holidays. We would spend more time at the parks than in the resorts with the fun facilities or the tourist attractions, or even the beach. They had fun and we had time to relax and just play with them. Treasure that, as it passes by very fast. And so good for their gross motor development. Long periods at sedentary activities is something that happens as they get older, so the more they run around now and have exercise, the better it is for their growth.
    It is so sad to hear about the state of Turku, a town I was planning to visit at one point. Is that due to a high rate of unemployment or refugee homelessness? I think I saw a Finnish film that highlighted this as a problem in some semi-rural areas.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Snow. I’d have never guessed that you didn’t find Turku so pretty. Turku was the first city I arrived in Finland back when I was 18. Obviously it was actually Helsinki but I took the train right away to Turku hehe. I found it quite nice actually. I visited a few more times during the summers. The riverside, the library which I also really liked, an outdoor pool of all the places and a few more places that I don’t remember 😀 My points of comparison were obviously Kokkola and Helsinki hehe. I don’t know how I’d feel if I went back. Back then I didn’t have much of a taste due to little world experience. One thing for sure that I love when I visit Western Europe (read, richer part of Europe) after living in Poland for so many years is how the buildings are new, free of ugly graffiti, the roads are free of potholes and what not. I absolutely dislike that about Poland, especially Lodz, that so many buildings are run-down, and are such an ugly sight. The historic old town districts here are nice but the communist-era residential buildings are definitely not. Lodz city is doing a good job revitalizing a lot of those old buildings and neighborhoods, and giving some character to them, but it’s still going to take some time as it’s only recently that Poland has started to move forward from the state of economic shambles it was in until and after the fall of communism. That’s why for me visiting Western Europe is always a welcome change.
    On the other hand, although the buildings and infrastructures in Finland are definitely better than here, I often found their perfect neat facades boring.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmm, maybe we didn’t venture far enough into the old town. I’ve visited Turku before, as a flight attendant, and I didn’t like it then either. We stayed at a central hotel which was ugly and its surroundings were ugly. So I was probably biased to start with! Still, outside of the old town and river area, downtown Turku was depressing, in my opinion! Maybe it brought me unwanted 1990’s flashbacks subconcsiously??? Helsinki used to be very soviet style too, no services, no shops, very dull… during the past 10 years it has grown and changed so quickly! For the better!
      Happy to hear Lodz is developing, too. I remember the old buildings in Krakow were quite dusty-looking, like they desperately wanted someone to wash and repaint them a little 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Don’t feel a traitor for criticizing Turku… I remember when I arrived to Madrid with 8 years old… the city center was dark and dirty, pollution covering all the facades and drug addicts everywhere and pickpocket also everywhere… Even if I was little, I could notice all of it!! Maybe the early 90s were the same everywhere, but I remember Madrid as if it were Gotham, hehehe It has improved a lot since those days, but they left me a huge impression! Maybe that’s why I like the northern countries… they look clean and tidy, hehehe
    I love the photos you took, even if Turku was disappointing, it looks nice!! And Naantali too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, I have dreary memories from the nineties over here, economic depression and a very soviet way of no businesses, no shops… there was probably one shop for teenagers clothes and we all had to shop there. I wasn’t much older than you, a few years. That’s maybe one reason why I never loved living here, because of my bad first impression! 😁 Thanks Mercedes for your thoughts! 💕

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  6. I so agree that buildings have souls and that it is not too harsh to find a city unappealing. I’ll go even farther and say that I was in my childhood hometown and state recently, and as beautiful as the landscapes are there, the buildings just made me so sad. Old in an ugly way, no sign of renewal, and just so tired. They brought me down harder than ever before. I realized I could never move back no matter how much I love the (pretty!) mountain house we have there. I need to live in a place that looks to the future both physically and philosophically.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s exactly how I feel, ”I need to live in a place that looks to the future”. Well put! Turku just felt like an unwanted blast from the past, a time warp in a depressing way. Thanks for taking the time, dear Lexi 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Life is too short for ugly.”
    Oh, dear Snow, I so much agree with that!!
    But sometimes I just need to experience something different, something new. To awaken inspiration in me – and to make me feel happy to get home again 😉
    (which I definitely will be, especially if it does not live up to my expectations! 😀 )
    May the weekend be filled with the most wonderful experiences, for you and your loved ones! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, your photos make these places look nice! I did click on your link to Moomin World (which I’d never heard of before) and it might take me a while to recover.
    On the subject of buildings, there’s a book called ‘A Pattern Language’ which is all about why people like or gravitate to certain features in towns and individual buildings. It draws on cultures from all over the world in identifying what resonates with people. I found it a fascinating and very worthwhile read. It’s one of a trio of related books by Christopher Alexander and several other authors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahah! Hope you recover soon 😁 I can’t bear taking ugly photos although I know ugliness should be represented somehow (I just want to forget it quickly and not keep photos). So I only have photos of details I liked 😊
      That book sounds interesting, looked it up and added it to my list, thanks for the tip!

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  9. Looked up the Moomin World… Sad. One can’t just put a costume on to make a place look cool 🙂 My daughter loved the book when she grew up though.
    Somehow the Soviet Union’s presence made a sad impact on the neighboring countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Pres has a great bike. 😀

    (I’m always in favour of telling and showing it as it is, or better, as it makes me feel. But my camera also tends to glance over the ugly parts and settle on the appealing parts. It’s natural, it’s our right to choose pretty.)

    Liked by 1 person

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