Finland 2016 – Day 9, Wednesday 13th July (Naantali, Moominworld, Ahvenisto, Tampere)
Moose count = I’ll give you three guesses!
Here’s where things started to get a bit weird, at least if you were expecting the touristy stuff to continue unabated. We repacked the car, tidied up the apartment (we never did meet our host but he’d left instructions as to where to stash the keys) and headed down the road to Naantali, one of Finland’s oldest towns, which used to be known for its knitted socks but is now probably better known for being the location of Moominworld. Now we don’t have kids, but we both loved the Moomins as children (and still do to be honest) so Moominworld was on our radar from the start.
The SatNav promptly provided an element of confusion yet again, as it navigated me to Naantali and then insisted we were at our destination. We couldn’t see anything especially obvious, because what we didn’t know at this stage was that you have to park up in Naantali and then walk along the waterside to a bridge that takes you across to the island the attraction is on. A quick conversation with the nice people at the Tourist Information office gave us the information we needed, and we moved to car to the official Moominworld car park, which was much cheaper than parking in the town would have been, and caught the shuttle bus back in. Lynne had purchased the entry tickets from the Tourist Information office so we walked straight across to Kailo in the company of masses of hyper-excited small children. We were amused to note that we were not the only child-free visitors as there was a small coach party of Japanese tourists exclaiming over everything they saw.
It was quickly apparent that perhaps inevitably one of the aims of Moominworld was to part parents from their money in a relatively low-key but insistent way with things like games of chance, and a photo booth where the cost was around €20 for a child to have a photo taken with a Moomin.
That aside it was a rather lovely setting on the island and once we got past the shops and booths it became apparent that it wasn’t the sort of place where there were lots of rides (in fact there were none) Instead there are lots of activities for children including an outdoor theatre. From there on in it was a fun visit as we made our way round the Moomin’s house, and I got a wave from a Moomin!
The house was actually rather well done, though the staircase was very narrow and again the health and safety issues were pretty apparent and didn’t appear to worry anyone. They’re tough, these Finns (but I knew that anyway, sisu being a concept I’m only too familiar with).
We wandered to the lookout point, saw Moominpapa’s boat and managed to do Toffle’s Path (which tells a story if you go the correct way round) in completely the wrong order. We weren’t troubled too badly by the Groke or the Hattifatteners and I was ridiculously pleased to discover Moominpapa’s hat but after a couple of hours we decided it was time for a break.
Coffee was easy to come by but anything that wasn’t a lunch buffet (or food aimed squarely at the little ones) was impossible to come by so we walked back over to Naantali, which is a beautiful old town in a lovely location.
A slow meander past the splendid old church (though not in as we knew we’d need to move on straight after lunch) led us to the town centre and a terrace overlooking the lake, and looking towards the Finnish president’s summer residence Kultaranta proved an attraction and so we settled in for a lunch of crayfish risotto.
The restaurant, Uusi Kilta, which was recommended in our guidebook and is also now recommended by me!
I wish we could have done a more thorough wander around Naantali but we had places to be. After lunch we set a course for Hameenlinna, where we had an appointment at the Ahvenisto race circuit with someone who didn’t know it was us he was expecting! We made it around 3 in the afternoon, but only because our friend Pertti in Espoo had given us the street address. The SatNav was again refusing to admit to the existence of our destination! It’s a surprisingly compact but steep track with a disused ski-jump looming in the background, along with a TV tower that has also fallen into disuse.
The track itself in is excellent condition, though it was very quiet with just a lone motorcyclist blatting round when we arrived. He was joined later by a single car. Among the facilities available is a café where we grabbed a coffee and waited for our host (someone we knew back in the 1990s when he was racing in Europe), another Pertti, who is the circuit manager these days. He was slightly surprised to find that Espoo Pertti’s friends were people he already knew.
Anyway we were treated to a lap of the circuit in one of the circuit vehicles, and then driven round the exterior road. It was quickly apparent that it offers some brilliant views of the track and when Pertti said the circuit will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year he could probably hear the gears grinding in both our head (suffice it to say there will probably be a long weekend to Hameenlinna next summer). After another coffee and a long chat about the history of the place we left, loaded down with t-shirts and circuit stickers.
From there we headed to our next stopover, an Airbnb property on the periphery of Tampere. On the way we found another strange service station with a steam train parked outside… in the supermarket we stocked up on fruit and yogurt and bought some grill sausages (or makkara) for dinner.
We also ran into some very nasty weather in the form of a massive thunderstorm, It was still throwing it down when we reached the apartment so unpacking wasn’t fun. We had to drag our bags up to the 4th floor too, which was tough but not impossible and it was worth it for the very stylish accommodation we found ourselves in. And that was the adventure over for the day.