One of the first things I did when we moved here was search for a running route. I don’t need variation or even dramatic sights. I do need something that I can vary my distance and that I can start running once I walk out my door and punch the button on my watch. I don’t want to take a bus or the metro somewhere to run. In Montreal I spent a lot of time running a very urban path even though I circled several parks. While I am not exactly running in the country here in Finland, the path along the river feels rural especially compared to crossing Rue St. Laurent at mid-day. I haven’t quite been here a full month and already I love this route and I can’t wait to see it in different seasons. The river here is similar to parks in Montreal, in that it is really the heart of the city where people go and hang out to read or socialize, and not something you visit just when friends or family are in town visiting. If I turn left at the river, I am in the city center in just two minutes. But if you turn right, you can quickly be at a spot like above that doesn’t even feel like a city. Not a day goes by that I don’t make one turn at the river or another.
Further internet exploration led me to Eurokangas, a fabric store on the 3rd floor above my regular grocery store in the city center of Turku. From their website, it looked like mostly home dec fabric, which there was a lot of, but this store is really amazing. They have a huge selection of apparel fabrics, including fancy bridal and formal fabrics, but also some clearance fabrics starting at 20 euros a pound, significantly more expensive than Jätti-Rätti, but still a pretty good deal. Out of all the fabric on bolts there, I was drawn to the amazing selection of printed jersey knit, which I have almost no experience sewing with. But on my sewing bucket list is a jersey knit dress and the patterns were soooooo cute (foxes! tiny umbrellas!) that I was really tempted. The price was about 12 euros a meter, but the width was wide. I don’t normally buy this type of fabric, so I am not sure if this is a good price or not.
Other than the beautiful and expensive Marimekko fabric, and the usual stuff at Ikea, I haven’t run into much in terms of fabric/yarn/craft stores in the Turku City center. Some quick internet searching doesn’t turn up much either, but I did come across Jätti-Rätti online, which I think translates to Giant Tatters or something like that. It was about a 10-15 minute bike ride from my apartment, but on a bus line as well. I didn’t know what to expect based on the website, and the street and building had an unassuming light industrial/warehouse feel. Don’t be fooled! This place was amazing! Not tons in the way of quilt fabric, the emphasis here was more on apparel and home dec fabrics, but they have a little bit of everything, including notions and materials for rug making.
Trying to get in a little more local sightseeing while the weather is still nice. Turku is small, and most travel sites about Finland focus only on Helsinki (or northern lights trips up north). Tim and I haven’t really hit the museums yet, but wandering around new neighborhoods and visiting churches has proven to be a really lovely way to spend the afternoon.
And let me tell you that St. Michaels is one of my new favorites. It isn’t super old, it was completed in 1905 and the neighborhood around it is all busy streets and really unremarkable buildings. But approaching the church is pretty dramatic. The church rises up on a grassy hill, completely dominating its own block. The exterior is striking, with huge spires and giant pointy gothic revival arches and windows. Getting a good picture of the whole thing is surprisingly difficult, especially with the busy streets and construction surrounding the block.
The Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum is just a short walk from the busy city center, but feels like another world once you step inside. The wooden cottages were built on this site in the late 1700s and early 1800s as work and living spaces. The Great Fire of Turku in 1827 devastated 75% of the city, including the historic downtown but the Luostarinmäki site and cottages were spared.
Friday afternoon a research assistant at the University suggested we all go to Flowpark Turku for some end-of-the-week fun. This small park is tucked between a busy road and a shopping mall but never felt like you were in the middle of the city once you were there.
The concept is that you sign a waiver, put on a harness and helmet (provided of course), get a few minutes of instruction on your carabiners and how to always be attached to something, have a brief test with a staff person and then are let loose in the park. Climbing routes were marked with difficulty levels and you could pick wherever you wanted to go without waiting for a group or further instruction which was really nice. It helped that it wasn’t too busy – so no waiting for routes to open up and no one waiting for you to finish an obstacle.
The research group that Tim is working for at the University scheduled an all day conference on a cruise. Turns out that it is as cost effective as reserving another space and ordering in catering for two meals, teas and snacks for five people. I joined as a possible future member of the research team and was introduced to the project.
We left the Turku harbor at 8:15 in the morning on the ship above. Maaaaybe 50 people were on the ship, so it seemed pretty empty. We had buffet breakfast, took a quick tour of the ship and settled into one of the conference rooms downstairs. Turns out watching islands float past is pretty conducive to a productive meeting. What a beautiful place to get inspired by!
When I was using Google maps to figure out my river running route, I was zooming around and saw something labeled kirkko, which is one of the few Finnish words I recognize. I did a quick search, thinking it was nothing special and realized that I found a church that was built in the 15th century. In North America, buildings dating from the late 18th century are considered old, so I am constantly impressed by the age of things in Europe.
This would be a bit of a hike from the city center on foot, but surely there is a bus route in that direction. I have just pumped up the tires on the bike that was left to us by our landlords, and I knew that it would be easy to get to – just off my regular running trail, maybe a 15 minute ride.
Our apartment building is one of the ugliest on the block, but at least the street view is nice! The mustard colored buildings are part of Åbo Academy, the Swedish University and you can see the Turku Cathedral in the background, a super helpful reference point!
Before I left for Finland one of the most common questions I got was “how did you find a place to live?” Well….we are subletting a one bedroom apartment from a Finnish couple who have gone to Boston to do postdocs and research (funnily enough). They posted their apartment on a university listserv and Tim’s supervisor passed it along to us several months ago. Some people said that they would be wary of finding a place online and not seeing it in person. Really though the couple was really easy to work with and spent a lot of time via email answering our questions about utilities, internet, and other amenities nearby and in the building. Tim needed a place to stay for a month prior than our sublease was available, and he found something completely legit and non-sketchy through a FaceBook group (of all things). I think as a university town, there is a lot of tenant movement which actually helps. There are also a lot of international students and researchers looking for school year accommodation.
So much time has passed and so much has happened. I still want to record what has been going on and daily life in Finland. A quick recap: I left Montreal on June 22 and drove two very long days with my cat to Colorado. The movers came the next day while Tim was still in MTL and packed up our stuff. Tim then left for a conference in Istanbul on June 25. He then traveled directly to Finland and has been here since early July.