Day 7, Monday 11th July
Moose count = 0, even on a plate
It was time to leave Helsinki, checking out of the hotel Klaus K after one more of their excellent breakfasts. The bread alone was worth getting up for and the other offerings such as smoked vendace were also excellent! We did a quick market and supermarket raid for supper for the evening and breakfasts for the next few days as we would be staying in a series of Airbnb properties for the next 6 nights, packed the car and hit the road for Turku going via Raseborg Castle and Fiskars (or at least that was Plan A). What we hadn’t taken into account was that Raseborg Castle isn’t actually IN Raseborg, and Raseborg used to be known as Ekenäs (its Swedish name) or Tammisaari (its Finnish name), a fact our satnav software was unaware of. It turns out that what happened was that the former municipalities of Snappertuna and Tenala together with the town of Ekenäs merged with Pohja and Karis to form the new municipality of Raseborg on January 1, 2009. So only 7 years ago, no reason why the satnav should know where we wanted to go. This too would trip us up more than once on our travels.
We eventually arrived in the town, the satnav resolutely refusing to admit to there even being a castle anywhere nearby, just to add to the confusion! We’d arrived there after a fuel stop at the first of the very odd service stations (this one also contained a store selling bric-a-brac and another selling garden ornaments) we would encounter over the next few days. It was pretty peculiar. It also offered a lunch buffet (of course).
Anyway once in Ekenäs it would have been a shame to just rush off again. We found the Tourist Information office easily and were soon provided with brochures and a map, along with directions to the castle (back the way we came and look for the Swedish word ”Slott” on the signs, plus the implausible Snappertuna).
First we’d have a look round Ekenäs which was really quite lovely, spread along the lakeside and packed with the typical old wooden houses we would see more and more of over the next few days (and that were the cause of so many “great fires of…” of course). The church was very attractive, light and airy, and contained a less than self-explanatory exhibition of christening gowns, a very modern sculpture just outside, and something else we would see a lot of, a votive ship (or church ship) hanging near the pulpit.
Given how much water Finland consists of, and how much the sea has figured in its history, this shouldn’t have surprised us. Apparently the church was designed by Italian-born architect Carlo Bassi in 1839–1842 following a fire a few years earlier.
It didn’t take long for all that history and scenery to make us hungry so lunch was sought. We settled on Knipan, apparently the oldest summer restaurant in town which is on a pontoon jutting out into the lake.
Declining the buffet we both went for variations on pike-perch from the menu, and sat and enjoyed the views from the windows while we drank a glass of wine and ate excellent fish.
From there it was on to the castle, which was easy enough to find now we had a clue what we needed to look for. It’s on a lump of rock that was apparently once an island but isn’t anymore, Finland having an ongoing case of post-glacial rebound (or as it’s now trendily known glacial isostatic adjustment) it’s not anymore, because Finland is still rising from the sea at around 1cm a year, and in fact is surrounded by greenery, and forests with a small stream running alongside it. In fact my first response was that if anyone was considering refortifying it, then those trees would have to go straight away. You could definitely be snuck up on really easily now!
It was also raining cats and dogs by now. We donned raincoats and soldiered on to nose around inside, coming across an interesting lack of rigour on the health and safety front with some very uneven stairs at every turn. That’s the sort of thing that in the UK would have yellow and black tape plastered all over the edge, extra powerful lighting and lots of warning signs. The Finns had put up one notice outside and that was it. No tape, no lighting, nothing else – who says the EU has made everything homogenised? Whoever they are they are talking complete and utter nonsense.
What was interesting was that apparently the castle hadn’t proved to be particularly effective in defensive terms with it being under Danish, Swedish and pirate control at various times in a chequered career before being pretty much abandoned in the 1550s after the administrative centre was moved to Ekenäs. What was also interesting was the King’s Hall which we would come to discover all Finnish castles have, which would be the grandest room in the place and presumably came in handy when Charles VIII of Sweden, who’d been deposed (more than once actually), fetched up there repeatedly. It seems to have been rare for these rooms to be used for their intended purpose and they usually seem to have ended up as a dining hall for the more important members of the household. By the time we finished the rain was still coming down so we skipped the Lovers’ Walk (which is apparently a beautiful forest path) in the grounds that Lynne can’t swim, and decided that the Snappertuna Forngard folk museum was also not on the cards as it would have meant a ½ kim trek in the rain.
Instead we wandered over to the cafe by the summer theatre for a coffee and the chance to dry out. The summer theatre was something we would also find was a very Finnish thing.
Rather like the bandstands in every town, there were open-air summer theatres pretty much everywhere, some of them seemingly in the middle of nowhere at all. You had to wonder where their audiences come from. I’ve concluded that it’s because no one wants to go indoors at all in the summer when all that lovely daylight is available. The bandstands are a whole separate thing – and at least in Helsinki apparently people wanting to play just book a time and turn up. It means all sorts of music is out there for people to enjoy (or not) for free. In Helsinki it seemed to be largely Finnish rap music, something I really can’t get my head round, but there were all sorts of other musicians in many of the towns we visited. Even Ekenäs had its own bandstand, small though it was, and there were people playing classical music in Helsinki, just set up on a street corner, or on the grass in the middle of the Esplanade. It was rather wonderful.
Anyway the rain hadn’t eased but we’d finished our coffees so we had no choice but to go back to the car. From there we headed to Turku via Fiskars, but opted not to stop as it was raining harder than ever. And so to Turku where we would spend the next two nights in an apartment in the old town, close to the Cathedral. We were delighted to found we’d be in an old wooden style house, and so we unpacked, got organised for the morning, and ate dinner cobbled together from fresh chanterelles, prawns, smoked salmon and potato salad and felt all the better for it.
In the morning it would be time to explore one of Finland’s oldest and grandest towns.