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InterRail -72

I have been following with great interest the debate about traveling by land (instead of by air) due to increasing climate consciousness. At the moment, traveling by land seems to be increasing but is still far from mass movement—and the global air transport, for instance, seems still to be growing. The forecast by IATA predicts that there will be 8,2 air travelers by 2037. Of course, things can change: for example, the director of the Multidimensional Tourism Institute, Antti Honkanen, notes in an article in the Finnish newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus that every trend begins with a small group of people. In any case, it is probable that “traveling by land phenomenon” is not at least slowing down. The Finnish Facebook group concentrating in easing the traveling by land has been growing rapidly and railway companies have begun offering several different Interrail tickets: now it is even possible to buy rail passes that are valid for three months. Interrail in the 1970s and 1980s is also the theme of my PhD research, so I will describe a little the first years of Interrail in this article.

An Anniversary Product Becomes Hit for Decades

InterRail -72 was originally intended for the year 1972 only as the name indicates, too. The International Union of Railways UIC (Union Internationale des Chemins de fer) wanted to celebrate its 50th anniversary by creating a product for young Europeans under 21 years of age. With the Interrail pass, one could travel as much as one wanted in one months time. Besides the anniversary as a reason for creation of Interrail, UIC was worried for the future of rail transport. The idea was that by giving young people the opportunity to cheap train travel they would become active train users in their adulthood as well. This aspect was perhaps a bit utopian, but the Interrail pass itself began to sell very well in the market. Especially in the Nordic countries the Interrail pass became very popular, if one compares the number of sold passes per capita.

In Finland, for instance, the number of passes sold in 1973 represented over 5 per cent of all youth aged 17–20!

Source: InterRail statistics, in possession of the author.

Partly the huge number of sold Interrail passes in Finland was due to the fact, that the innovative Swedish youth found out that they could buy their own pass in Finland. The Interrail pass allowed free travel elsewhere but with 50 percent discount in the country of purchase. Buying the pass in Finland allowed the Swedish to start their Interrail journey from Sweden totally free. This loophole was fixed quite shortly, though, and the Finnish youth was very eager to buy these passes as well.

The Golden Era of Interrail: 1980s

The railway companies agreed that it was worthwhile to continue selling Interrail passes even after 1972. They had also received some complaints about the age limit and about the validity of the ticket. For example, in 1973 Interrail was valid only on summer, from May to October. Already in 1974 the validity of passes was changed to include all the year. The age limits were lifted twice: first to 23 in 1976 and to 26 in 1979.

Part of the memo by Finnish National Railways (VR) answering to UIC about the success of Interrail. The National Archives of Finland, Valtionrautatiet, Rautatiehallitus, Talousosasto,Yleisten asiain kirjeistö.

Interrail for all people without any age limit became available in 1989. It was first sold only in the Nordic countries—also a symbolic proof of the popularity of Interrail in these countries. Interrail passes for senior citizens (over 65) were sold already in 1979 which allowed pensioners to tour around Europe, too. But even with these expansions to new age groups, the main target segment of Interrail was youth, and the popularity of Interrail was highest among this segment as well.

The golden era of Interrail was the end of 1980s and first two years of 1990s. The highest number of total sales of IR passes (youth+other products) was reached in 1991 with over 400 000 sold passes in Europe. In 1993, the number of sold passes crashed, partly due to the Yugoslav wars. Also the innovation of dividing Europe to several zones of travel—one could buy ticket to only one zone or to all of them—didn’t help: the sales number of passes stayed in approximately one third of the record years. The European airline deregulation process and the arrival of low cost carriers did their share as well: the sales number of IR passes never recovered.

Interrail in Oral History Accounts

In my PhD research, I examine how Nordic Interrail travellers construct their IR travel experiences in oral history account. What kind of experiences are remembered? Besides the oral history accounts, I have examined a lot of travel photographs and travel diaries. One interesting aspect in the research is the sense of belonging that was felt on the journeys: what was the group the youth felt belonging to? Also the issues of internationalization of youth and relationship to the concept of Europe have to be dealt in the research as they are very much present in the source material. In Finland, people are still talking about traveling to ‘Europe’ when they are traveling to the continental Europe.

At the moment, I have interviewed 19 Finnish Interrailers and visited relevant archives in Finland and in Norway. It is sad that so much of the material of Interrail has been thrown away: there is not much archival material about the phenomenon. That is also one more reason to use oral history approach. Interviews combined with other sources, such as photographs and diaries, provide a very rich source material collection. Besides the self-collected material, we collected Finnish Interrail memories together with Finnish Literature Society las year which I analyse at the moment.

Someone might ask, what is the point of studying things like this. And that is always a valid question. At least my research will provide new information about memorable experiences in travel which is useful information outside the academic world as well. Besides, the research will shed more light on the sense of belonging in youth travel: how significant were being young or being part of Nordic countries compared to the own nationality, for example. And more aspects are all the time opening up while analyzing the interviews.

My next task will be interviewing the Swedish and Norwegian travellers. Besides these, I am writing a nonfiction book about the theme so I am quite sure that I will write more about Interrail here as well.

Nordic Skating along the Poet’s Way

Eilen pääsin pitkästä aikaa mukaan Suomen retkiluistelijoiden retkelle. Lokakuussa leikattu olkapää on pitänyt pois jäiltä pitkän aikaa. Olen saanut vain kateellisena katsella komeita kuvia, joita seuran jäsenet retkistä laittavat sosiaaliseen mediaan tai seuran retkiraportteihin. Onneksi siis vihdoin sain tilaisuuden hypätä mukaan retkelle. (Ja lisättäköön tähän, että seuran retkille siis pääsevät mukaan jäsenet, jotka ovat käyneet tulokaskurssin ja -retken. Suosittelen noita kaikille luistelijoille.)

Starting Point: Virrat

This skating trip was arranged with a charter bus. We started at 7:00 from Tampere and arrived to Virrat (about 120 km north of Tampere) just a little bit before 9:00. We were about 45 skaters and the idea was to split in three groups depending on one’s physical condition and skating speed. One group would head to the next municipality of Ruovesi (53 km), the middle group would proceed to Murole Canal (76 km) and the bravest of the brave would skate all the way to Tampere (120 km). I was pondering between the options of skating to Ruovesi or Murole, but I chose the former and shorter. This was a wise decision after a long period of not-skating.

When we jumped out of the bus at Virrat, the -10 degrees celsius felt quite cold in thin windproof clothing I had. But after we started skating, I soon felt like I had too much clothes on. Partly this was due to ice conditions: it had snowed the day before and part of the snow had melted on the ice making the ice a bit hard to skate. The first kilometres were quite hard and watching my Polar heart rate sensor made me think that it is going to be a very long day. But luckily it turned out that there was also better ice conditions along the route.

Ice Conditions in Virrat. Quite good, but a bit sticky.

On the Road (or Lake?)

It was almost certain that this route had some sounds and other narrow places where we would have to take our skates off. The first one was after 2,5 km of skating as the sound of Toltaa was open (as was the next one as well). But in total, due to hot summer of 2018 and very few rain periods, I have to say that there were fewer places without ice than I thought. The water level in the lake Iso Tarjannevesi is almost at all time low, so the current (taking the water to Tampere and from there to Baltic Sea through Pori) this year proved to be really weak, and thus, many places which are normally with open water were now covered with ice.

A Break at Romppaansalmi Sound. The depth here is about 60 meters and there is an old legend claiming that a treasure has been hidden here. According to this story, one has to be totally silent when lifting up the treasure or it will fall back to the bottom. As far as I know, no-one has ever succeeded in this treasure hunt. So the silent nature of the Finnish people must be a myth…

As our group was the ‘slowest one’, we had plenty of time looking around and having breaks for drinking water and tea and eating our sandwiches. So in this sense, skating was really enjoyable and as the sun was visible all day, I felt like I had got tanned after all day on ice. (Which reflects the sun quite well, too)

Red Face of the Author on One of the Breaks. At this point the reason for red face cannot be the sun but bad physical condition…

After the first three walks around open water areas, we had a nice 10 km skating until Pusunvuolle sound at Visuvesi. Visuvesi is one of the many Finnish villages built around the forest industry—a sawmill and a plywood factory in this case—but which has suffered after the industry has closed the factories. Luckily for Visuvesi, there have been many active persons around and nowadays there’s also new activity in the old factory premises.

The Open Water at Pusunvuolle Sound. A 100 meters of walking and skating continues.

After Visuvesi there was only one sound before we would reach the large ridges of Tarjannevesi. As we knew that the main sound of Kilvensalmi which the steamboat traffic takes in the summer would be open, we decided to use the small sound of Syväsalmi instead. (The Finnish name of the sound is quite ironic and reveals something about the Finnish sense of humour. The name of the sound, Syväsalmi, means literally Deep Sound, and there’s only about 80 cm of water even in the summer. But this sound was a good choice as we could skate all the sound without walking a meter.

Through Syväsalmi Sound to Tarjannevesi.

When we reached Tarjannevesi, we found out that here the ice was the best on this trip. Also the tailwind made the skating easy and the 8 km of skating to the island that we had decided to be our lunch break point took only 35 minutes.

Lunch Break at Mustasaari Island.

“After the lunch and break, even the ice feels smoother” is a saying among skaters and it prooved to be correct once again. Having enjoyed tea, sandwich, bananas and sun we started skating again. Our group decided to avoid Syvinkisalmi sound (as it is normally free of ice and the cliffs are not nice to climb with equipment) and go around Salonsaari island from the eastern side. It was a good choice as we didn’t have to walk at all, but we heard from other two groups afterwards, that even at Syvinkisalmi the distance of walking was really small.

Koukkaus idemmäksi teki kuitenkin sen, että kohti Korpulanvuolletta mennessä länteen kääntynyt tuuli teki etenemisestä melko vaivalloista. Onneksi maali alkoi olla jo aika lähellä. Korpulanvuollekin oli poikkeuksellisesti jäätynyt, yhtä perinteistä sulakohtaa lukuun ottamatta. Vuolteessa tuli myös todettua, että kalliomaalaukset, joita laivalta aina selostin matkustajille, alkavat olla todella vaisut: mielikuvitusta saa käyttää, jos aikoo vanhan naisen, kahvipannun ja kissan nähdä… Restauroinnin paikka olisi siis Korpulassa kuten Kirnusalmessakin. Kunhan ihan Espanjan malliin ei restauroida. Kalliomaalaukset ovat kuitenkin mielenkiintoinen nähtävä juttu esimerkiksi laivaliikenteen matkustajille, joten “tarttis tehrä jotain”.

Loppupätkä Ruovedelle olikin sitten kohtuullisen helppoa luisteltavaa muuten, mutta maalin lähestyessä jalka alkoi painaa. Mielellä on voimakas vaikutus. Sen verran oli pakko kuitenkin poiketa reitiltä, että oli käytävä katsastamassa, missä kunnossa höyrylaiva Näsijärvi II:n ‘bensa-asema’ eli halkotankkauslaituri Kivistöllä oli. Oikein hyvässä oli, mutta veden vähyys vähän huolestuttaa tulevaa kesää ajatellen.

Fillling Station of Steamboats Waiting for Summer.

Arriving to Ruovesi by ice was the first time for me: I have seen the scenery hundreds of times aboard a steamboat, but never has the sight of this village been such a welcomed one as on this trip. 52 km of skating had some effect without previous practice… Our bus was waiting at the harbour, so I changed some dry clothes on, ate rest of my provisions and stepped in to the bus. With bus we then drove to Murole canal to pick up the other group. There we encountered also the group that was heading to Tampere. I have to say that a standing ovation would have been a proper way of greeting these skaters: such hard was their task as the wind direction (which was supposed to be tailwind all the way) had changed to headwind and the ice was even rougher on the lake Näsijärvi side of the canal. I heard later that this group had reached its goal Tampere at about 9pm after 120 km of skating!

Reaching Ruovesi Harbour.

Conclusion and some thoughts about media reporting about ice conditions

Kaiken kaikkiaan olin retkestä oikein iloinen: pitkän tauon jälkeen oli hienoa olla taas mukana porukoissa. Retkiluistelijat ovat mukavaa jengiä: juttu luistaa ja samalla oppii koko ajan lisää lajista, jäästä ja paikallistuntemusta. Tämä reissu oli itselleni myös erityinen, kun tuota Virrat-Tampere -väliä on tullut sahattua satoja kertoja laivalla, mutta ei ikinä luistimilla. Nimi Runoilijan tie on muuten ollut käytössä laivakaudesta 1934 lähtien, kun perinteistä laivareittiä alettiin markkinoida myös matkailijoille (ks. lisää täältä, sivu 165–>).

Yksi sellainen seikka, johon olen kiinnittänyt huomiota retki- ja rataluisteluun liittyen, on jäästä kertominen mediassa. On toki ymmärrettävää, että varoitetaan ihmisiä käyttämään järkeään jäihin liittyen ja kerrotaan riskeistä – kaikilla jäätuntemusta (ja sekin on paikkakohtaista) ei ole ja on syytäkin kunnioittaa jäätä. Enemmän saisi kuitenkin olla ohjeistusta yleiskieltojen sijaan. Esimerkiksi tästä Aamulehden artikkelista* (12.2.2019) päätellen jäille ei olisi ollut mitään asiaa enää ja samalla esimerkiksi Tyllilöiden luistinrata on ollut koko ajan toiminnassa ja on edelleen (2.3.2019) – täysin turvallisesti. Harmittaa yrittäjän puolesta, kun suuren yleisön mielikuvaan noilla uutisoinneilla on varsin iso vaikutus. Itseltänikin on kysytty jopa merkatulla radalla luisteltaessa, onko jää turvallista. Yleispätevää vastausta siihen ei tietenkään voi antaa, mutta esimerkiksi rata kyllä suljetaan, mikäli se ei ole turvallinen – niin paljon radalla suoritetaan mittauksia.

Of course, I have to admit, that it is difficult to tell which place is safe and which not, but overgeneralization is not the key to good ice reporting on news. One cannot say that all the ice cover on all the lakes is weak even if it really is on some of them. And I have to add that by this I am not encouraging anyone to do stupid things: the ice has to be respected, it has to be measured all time when on ice and one should always have the basic safety equipment on. And the most important of all, one should never skate alone. (Even if you are a LFC fan). I would only like to see more news based on reason than on creating fear and more advice instead of forbiddance when reporting about ice conditions on lakes. But even after this, I have to say that if you are interested in Nordic skating, Tampere is the place to be as there are many options and rental equipment and teaching available for a beginner in the Nordic skater.

The Route on Google Maps

Check also my other posts and videos of Nordic skating:
Skating along the Poet’s Way – part II
Nordic Skating in Hell
Nordic skating season opened – finally!
Starting a day by skating

A Preview on the Finnish Steamboat Summer 2019

Steamboats arriving to Savonlinna

Edit. New post of the steamboat summer 2022 now available!

When the snow seems to be melting away my thoughts are more and more occupied by the forthcoming summer. When the Finnish steamboats are still mainly surrounded by ice, it is actually a good time to write a brief preview what is going on in the Finnish steamboat scene next summer. A couple of years ago (2015) I wrote an article on Sail in Finland site. Now this current article you are reading is a bit more fresh and covers next summer only.

Lake Saimaa

The steamboat regatta

The main event for the lake Saimaa steamboats and crews, the Saimaa regatta (in Finnish, Saimaan regatta), will be held at Joensuu on July 6th. Perhaps it is necessary to point out that this event is not a steamship race (as you could expect from a regatta) but an annual gathering. In my estimate, there will be over 15, perhaps even 20–25 steamboats participating in this regatta, so this is a good place to see many steamers at one place and time. And main part of these steamers are owned by private people and families and they are not always open to public, so that is another reason to travel to Joensuu.

The event normally starts with ‘a convoy sailing’: the steamboats are gathering outside the port, steaming on a line (more or less…) and then arriving to the port one by one. On one occasion there was even a live commentary ashore (by Antti Aho) when ship began to arrive. Every ship was presented to public and some short history tale was told. Let’s hope that something like that would be coming also this year. When all the steamers have moored to the port, there is a moment of joint steam whistling by all the ships. After that all the city of Joensuu will know that the steamboats have arrived. So if you are interested in steamers on lake Saimaa, save the date! Try at least these at Joensuu:

  1. Visit s/s Saimaa. The beautiful Saimaa (1893) is the only state-owned steamboat in Finland. Everything is polished and shining.
  2. Visit all the other steamers as well. Ask crews about history, technique or anything that comes into your mind. Most are willing to share their knowledge and stories.
  3. Hold your ears during the joint whistling!
  4. (Bubbling under) The mooring of old steamboats is always a show. Anything can happen so don’t miss this.
  5. (Bubbling under 2). I will be—if nothing strange happens—aboard s/s Hurma so come to say hello and have a chat!
The state-owned s/s Saimaa at Nuijamaa in the summer 2018.

Steamboat cruises on lake Saimaa

The best opportunities to have a steamboat cruise on lake Saimaa are at Savonlinna, where the local steamboat company owned by Janne Leinonen has three different steamers for cruises. Punkaharju (1905), Paul Wahl (1919) and Savonlinna (1904) start their daily ‘scenic cruises‘ (departure from Savonlinna harbour) in the beginning of June (and lasting until the end of August). The first cruise departs at 11 am and the last at 7 pm. The one and half hour cruises cost 20 € per person, children 10 € each and family package is sold for 50 €. The cruises head for the archipelago of Savonlinna and in the best case you might see a rare Saimaa ringed seal. I was working on those vessels a couple of years ago and saw 13 seals during the summer, so I confirm that is possible, though not probable. The best weather for seal spotting is a windless day, when the head of seal is best spotted while they are swimming around.

The core thing on scenic cruises is—not-so-surprisingly—to look around and enjoy the Finnish lake scene. Of course there’s also bar aboard with a possibility to buy drinks and small snacks. On sunny weather the steamboats might get quite full, especially during the Opera Festival.

s/s Punkaharju

Besides the scenic cruises, some of the three steamers is sailing scheduled route traffic to Punkaharju which is famous for its beautiful scenery. The route traffic is not daily so it is best to check the dates from the shipping company website. The route takes 2,5 hours on one direction and if you have had enough of steam travel after that (I doubt), it is quite convenient to take a train or bus to come back from Punkaharju (ask more from the crew or beforehand from the company website). One tip if you are staying at Punkaharju and want to visit the Opera festival at Savonlinna (and if there is route traffic on the very day): take a steamboat from Punkaharju to Olavinlinna castle (the venue of the Opera festival). It is quite an experience to arrive to the castle from back door and with such a stylish means of transportation.

Outside Savonlinna the possibilities to have a steamboat cruise are quite limited. s/s Wenno has cruises in Puumala on Mondays during the July and that is all that there is to be told. Of course, there are also other steamers that offer charter cruises, check the site of the Finnish Steam Yacht Association.

Lake Päijänne

The steamboat regatta

The regatta of lake Päijänne will be held at Sysmä on July 20. I have never myself been on the regatta events in Päijänne, but I presume that these events are quite similar to those at lake Saimaa or lake Näsijärvi. So if you’re somewhere around Päijänne on that time, save the date. More information can be asked through the Facebook event (linked above).

Steamboat cruises on lake Päijänne

The steamboat cruises open for public on Lake Päijänne are provided by s/s Suomi at Jyväskylä. The season begins at the end of June and goes on until the end of August. There are two possible cruises for a steamship enthusiasts: lunch cruises (2pm–5pm) and evening cruises (6pm–9pm) but it is good to check from the company which cruises are run with the steamer (and not a motorboat).

s/s Suomi at Jyväskylä

I am not familiar with the steamboats offering charter cruises at lake Päijänne so none are mentioned here…

Lake Näsijärvi and lake Pyhäjärvi (Tampere)

The steamboat regatta

The main event of the steamboat summer of the lake Näsijärvi in 2019 will be held at Mustalahti harbour, Tampere, on Saturday 31st of August. Steamboat Näsijärvi II will celebrate its 90th birthday (I’m part of the crew). At the same weekend there is also a bigger “Lake Festival” on the same harbour and Särkänniemi Amusement Park area, so probably there will be quite a lot of events and things going on at the same time. The details of the Lake Festival are yet to be decided.

In any case, I hope that the regatta at Näsijärvi will host all the steamboats and steam launches of the lake: Näsijärvi II, Visuvesi, Häme, Suntti, Kotvio II and one small steamboat. It is also possible that Alina will be carried to lake Näsijärvi from the lake Pyhäjärvi. We shall see. At least there will be short steamboat cruises available for public for a small price, music and food.

Steamboat cruises around Tampere

Näsijärvi II will continue to do charter cruises in order to keep the ship going. During the regatta (as described above) there will also be cruises open to public, so follow the Facebook page of the ship for further updates. On lake Pyhäjärvi, Alina will do charter cruises and probably some public cruises as well. Besides that, Wellamo (normal home port in Valkeakoski) has some plans for cruises that start from Tampere.

s/s Näsijärvi II in Ruovesi. Picture: Teemu Puumalainen

On lake Näsijärvi, Tarjanne will continue its route traffic.

Lake Oulujärvi

The northernmost steamboat in Finland (and in Europe), s/s Kouta and its crew have been working hard to make the ship known to public: it seems that the work is paying off. The website and videos are wonderful and so is the steamer itself, too. Check these out.

Kouta has scenic cruises open for public from the beginning of July to the beginning of August (3.7.–2.8.). If you are visiting Kajaani during that period, I recommend you to spend a couple of hours on lake Oulujärvi with Kouta.


The steamboat regatta

The official Finnish steamboat event of the sea will be held at Turku on July 25.–27. At this point, the details of the event are still unknown but it is most probable that you can spot many steamers of Helsinki and Turku at the event.

Steamboat cruises on sea

s/s Ukko-Pekka has scheduled steamboat traffic between Turku and Naantali and besides that makes evening cruise from Turku. In Helsinki area, there is no scheduled steamboat traffic (at least that I’m aware of), but at least Norrkulla, Lokki and Turso are available for charter cruises.

All Quiet on the Western Front

The offering of the steamboat cruises in Finland is pretty much the same that it has been for a couple of years now. The steamers, routes and schedules remain the same (the crews as well…).

During my 20 years in ‘steamboat business’, I have seen mainly slow decay of the commercial steamboat cruise offering. There are exceptions, but the overall picture is still a bit troubling.

Perhaps there is a need for new concepts and experiments around the steamers. But don’t get me wrong, traditions are something to be appreciated on this scene—there are unique steamers on unique routes (but of which the marketing is sometimes obsolete or almost non-existent). Luckily there are some new ideas and ways of doing things as the case of Kouta, for instance, shows.

The ‘steamboat culture’ is quite unfamiliar to public, so at least there is a need to more public events and marketing. At the moment the marketing efforts are quite modest. And of course: it is quite understandable that the private steamboat owners have enough to do with the maintenance and running of these old ladies, but I would expect more from the commercial steamers. And as I have already said, this doesn’t apply to every commercial steamer.

Even though I am a bit worried about the state of the (commercial) steamboat culture in Finland, I hope that there will be a lot of guests and passengers aboard these old ladies this summer. Besides, sailing with a wood-heaten steamboat can be considered as ecological travel these days.

Somer remarks: The timetables and route information described above are taken from the steamboat companies’ websites 24.2.2019 and I don’t responsibility about any changes in those, so please check the companies’ websites yourself before planning a journey. Edit 27.2. Changed the steamship to steamboat as it is perhaps more accurate term referring to Finnish steamers (of which none are ocean going). The main picture of the article: Tapio Kilpinen.

Food and Drinks at Tampere – part 3

Tampere Market Hall Ceiling
Picture Laura Vanzo.

In many tourism and travel research surveys, culture is one of the most important reasons to visit a certain destination. The problem is—if there is any real one—that what actually makes “culture”. Of course, there are numerous definitions fur cultural tourism or culture as a motivational factor for travelling. The broad concept of culture includes almost all human interaction. I started to ponder this as I thought of my own perceptions of city culture. The food and beverage culture is one of the main things, at least for me.

Market Hall

Tampere Market Hall can be considered as one of the “must-visit” places at Tampere. It is the biggest market hall in the Nordic countries consisting a large variety of different shops, cafes and restaurants. Tampere Market Hall has preserved a very good grocery shop—restaurant/cafe ratio which is a really good thing for a visitor: there is a lot of things to do for everyone, depending on your needs. The atmosphere at the Market Hall is unique—here you can still see something from an age that doesn’t exist anymore.

Restaurant 4 Vuodenaikaa

My favourite restaurant at Tampere is—surprise surprise—located in the Market Hall. The French restaurant 4 Vuodenaikaa (Four Seasons) by Yoni Ichtertz is an excellent place for lunch and also something to consider if you are in a need of private restaurant space (the venue is available for private events after the Market Hall has closed). One of my birthdays was celebrated there and I have to say that it is quite an extraordinary feeling being in the Market Hall with no other people.

During lunch hours (11–15:45 (15:30 on Saturdays), the place might get crowded as there can be even a small queue waiting a table. My favourite lunch dish is bouillabaisse: the fresh ingredients come from across the aisle, Kalaherkut Nygren, which is selling all kind of fresh fish products. But there are a lot of other dishes to choose from, so it definitely is not all about fish.

Lunch cafe Vesta

Another place in the Market Hall that I visit regularly is the lunch café Vesta. This place serves very good homemade-like dishes and portions are big enough to satisfy even a bigger appetite. Especially chicken salad and salmon soup are dishes that I eat time after time. Bonus points for good customer service and homemade cakes!


Besides the Market Hall, one ‘speciality’ that I like in Tampere is the gastropub scene. I have to admit that I had to check, what gastropub means by definition (even if I know what it is in reality): Merriam-Webster: “a pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality” orr Oxford Living Dictionaries: “A pub that specializes in serving high-quality food.” So good food and drinks in a pub should be a fine translation?


Gastropub Soho has been my favourite pub in Tampere since it was founded in 2004. The reason it became my pub was that the othes pub nearby, O’Connell’s (a really good pub, too), was always very crowded when we went there to watch some Premier League football with my friends. So when Soho was opened 50 meters away, we changed the place and there we have stayed since then.

The food (hamburgers, fish’n’chips, English breakfast etc) is really good in the pub food scene and beers by local Nordic Brewery are very decent as well. The bar staff are friendly and professional, too. For me Soho really is a public house: it is possible to meet friends almost every time I go there. One of the reason for this might be that Soho has its own football teams that I have played in (and two ice hockey and a Finnish baseball team, too).

There are also many dj nights in Soho, a pub quiz (in Finnish) on Thursdays and Premier League (+other major football leagues) is shown on screens. During match days the venue might get really crowded, so if you plan to watch a game in Soho, you should go there in advance, not when the game starts. And it has to be said, that if there is a ManC game, it has always a priority if there are several TV matches at the same time.

Other gastropubs

Besides Soho, there are other gastropubs owned by same owner. Two of them, Tuulensuu and Nordic, are my alternative favourites, if I want to have some variation in pub visits. The former is a Belgian style pub, while the latter is—as the name indicates—more of a Nordic style pub. Gastropub Tuulensuu has been awarded many times for its beer selection. The only ‘problem’ for me is that it is situated in the western part of the city center. Gastropub Nordic, by contrast, is located very close to Soho (which makes it a bit problematic place to visit for me). But in any case, these two are really good choices for a pub night at Tampere.

And in the summer you should pay a visit to Rillinki, which is located in the Hämeenpuisto Park on the western end of Hämeenkatu (the main street). It this only place that I know in Finland that serves Kapsalon, a traditional street food from Rotterdam!

The Sauna Capital of the World – Tampere activities part 2

Sunset at Rauhaniemi in 2018

In the previous text about activities in Tampere I dealt with activities in and around nature. As Tampere is—at least in the Finnish scale—a city, I think it is a correct thing to write something about more urban, but really Finnish, experiences. In this article, I will tell you something about public saunas in Tampere.

Tampere has quite an extensive network of public saunas. Even on such a scale that the city declared itself as the Sauna Capital of the World. I am not sure, how many international recognitions this unilateral declaration has received, but that doesn’t make it any less of a brave declaration.

Rauhaniemen kansankylpylä

This public sauna is one of my favourites and Rauhaniemi area serves as an excellent swimming place during summer. Before, I used to visit Rauhaniemi mainly in the winter, as I was a dedicated winter swimming enthusiast (which is something very nice to try, by the way). Nowadays summer has become my favourite time to visit Rauhaniemi. The swimming place is build on a rocky surroundings and I have never been very fond of beaches, so Rauhaniemi feels like home for me.

These days Rauhaniemi is sometimes so popular (a lot of Erasmus students, too) that the saunas have are working on a limit of their capacity. Luckily there are two saunas to choose from and the peak hours don’t last long.

Tullin Sauna (edit. 2019: no longer active)

Other sauna that I would take my visitors to, is a newcomer in the scene. Tullin Sauna is situated at Tulli area, very close to the University and Tampere Hall. The venue has also an excellent restaurant and you can take the drinks from the bar to sauna as well. Sauna fee includes everything you need: a towel, a seat cover and a mug for drinking (tap water). And if you don’t have your swimming suit with you, you can borrow one here.

The manager of this sauna, Ville Virkki, has also an accommodation business just across the street: Dream Hotel & Hostel has been awarded numerous prizes so it could also provide you with place to sleep. But back to sauna: the design of the venue is a combination of urban industrial style and Nordic minimalism. It takes into account the industrial history of the building it is situated in. And even grey concrete can be quite stylish!

Tullin Sauna after it had been opened in April 2018.

Other saunas

Quite close to Rauhaniemen kansankylpylä, there is also other public sauna: Kaupinoja. This one is heated in the traditional way, by wood. In the sauna culture of Tampere there are those that tell you that Kaupinoja is the only proper sauna to visit while others are great fans of Rauhaniemi (Could there be a correlation on which of the two main ice hockey teams people are supporting…). I like them both, so I would advice to choose either of these saunas or then visit both and develop your own opinion.

Last time I visited Kaupinoja (January 2019) I made an observation that the winter swimming has become popular with young people, too. Of course, this could have something to do with Friday night, but even the Finnish news have been telling that new generations have found the joys of winter swimming. And for traditional public saunas, this is a great thing to hear!

If I am writing about public saunas in Tampere, there’s one that I cannot pass in this article. Rajaportin sauna is the oldest public sauna in Finland that is still in business. The sauna is also different from the others described above as it has separate sections for men and women. The history of the sauna explains this as being a result of new rules in the 1920s and 1930s that forbade men and women bathing at the same saunas. Therefore, they first built a curtain and then, after a while, a wall between the sauna departments. Rajaportti is really a sight, so don’t miss this on your sauna tour.

One of the more special saunas—a bit outside the city—is Peronsaari sauna. It is a city owned sauna situated in the island of Peronsaari in the middle of lake Näsijärvi. So to visit this sauna you will either need a boat or a steamboat lift (we have done a couple of charter cruises here with steamboat Näsijärvi II).

Visit Tampere has done a great work in drafting an extensive list of public and rented saunas in the region, so if you’re fond of Finnish sauna, be sure to check their list.

Wonderful tourism services at Tampere, part 1

Life-buoys of s/s Näsijärvi II

When I started this blog, one of my aims was to present some tourism service providers which I use myself or that I am interested in. So this listing is the first one in the series of presenting excellent service providers at Tampere.

Steamboat Näsijärvi II aka ‘Nässy’

I have spent quite a few hours with this old lady, built in 1929. The steamboat is operated by a voluntary crew (of which I am part, too) and the purpose of this work is to preserve a fine piece of industrial and transport history for the following generations as well. Nässy is owned by an association founded in 2017 and it arranges charter cruises for anyone interested in renting an old steamer. So why would anyone want to charter a steamboat like ‘Nässy’? Well, it is always nice and relaxing to spend time on lake but sailing with a steamboat is even more so. First of all, steam engine makes almost no sound at all (it is abot 120 rounds per minute, compared with diesel engines of over 1000 rounds and in the steam engine steam pressure does the work so there’s no burning (‘explosion’) in the engine). Second, the feeling you get when you are burning birch wood as your fuel (in the furnaces under the boiler) is a bit different from burning oil: and you get the daily exercise when loading that fuel aboard! Third, history is always interesting and with a steamboat like Nässy you can really feel being part of a chain of past generations: it is a living museum. Last, the tourist season is not very short: we made the last voyage of 2018 in the end of October with snow everywhere! It is a totally different experience steaming in cold weather if you happen to be in Finland that time. www.nasijarvi2.fi

s/s Näsijärvi at Ruovesi in October 2018. (Picture: Sampo Rajala)

Experience and Activity Services Villipihlaja

Villipihlaja offers different activities that are more or less connected to the Finnish nature (and to me due to family and web design reasons). The company is new, founded in 2019, but I got the chance to test one of the activities, “Sense Trail” (direct translation, sorry folks), in its pilot phase. In this activity, you could sense the nature with all of your five senses. What I found most interesting, was tasting different nature tastes eyes blindfolded. The other great thing was walking barefoot on top of a soft ‘moss carpet’. Let’s see how these activity packages are going to sell! Of course, I have to advertise that Villipihlaja also sells steamboat Näsijärvi II as a part of one of its packages for companies!

Author listening to sounds of the nature. (Picture: Karoliina Laitinen)

Nordic skating

A couple of years ago I got really charmed by Nordic skating or tour skating. The first taste was given by the local activity company Hiking Travel, Hit which has rental equipment available for Nordic skating (and other activities as well) next to the skating lane on lake Näsijärvi. Hit also arranges skating tours for people with not that much skating experience. But I have to say that the skating lane—as wonderful as it is—was just the beginning in my journey to the world of skating. The ‘big world’ really opened up when I joined the Finnish Nordic Skating association. After that I have been on many wonderful skating tours on lakes at and around Tampere. The Finnish winter provides excellent possibilities for Nordic skating (if it isn’t snowing too much). Other skating lanes besides the one on lake Näsijärvi (at/near Tampere): – TohloppiSaarikylät

Nordic Skating at Lake Näsijärvi
Nordic Skating at Lake Näsijärvi

Kauppi Forest

The forests at Kauppi park are a place where I can really let got and get relaxed. It is wonderful that 10 minutes walk from home you can find yourself in a place which reminds you of national park. I especially like the trails next to the lake Näsijärvi. With a lot of tree roots on trail, beautiful scenery and few people one can feel being part of the surrounding nature.

Tree roots at Kauppi trails.

But I think now the first part of my Tampere articles is at its end. I’ll continue next with slightly different activities, saunas!

Thoughts about tourism and research

I got the idea about starting this blog when I was building a website for Villipihlaja experience and activity service provider—website design is something I also do now and then. I started wondering, if I would like to write something more creative about travel and tourism as I am working with tourism research every day at TAK Research. But I guess that the research background will always be visible on my texts: but at least I can imagine of writing creative texts.

On this blog, I will examine different tourism services at my home town, in Finland and perhaps outside Finland as well. Only time will show what kind of texts there will be, but I will begin with activities and thing that I like myself. I guess there will also be articles about my PhD research as well.

My background

I got interested about tourism and travel when I began to work aboard s/s Tarjanne as a first mate in 2001. Tarjanne is a steamer sailing the same route it has sailed since 1908 between Tampere and Virrat. After working there I found myself studying tourism in the University of Joensuu (now UEF). My major subject at the University of Tampere was history and the tourism studies were really useful in understanding the phenomenon of tourism more profoundly. At the same time I began to get interested in tourism sector as a potential place for finding a “real job”. (Even though I always say that my real job is the one as a steamboat captain and chief engineer and I just do something else for living in the wintertime…)

I wrote my Master’s thesis (in Finnish only) about steamboat traffic on lake Näsijärvi 1918–1939. In that piece, I managed to combine the two very important issues to me: steamboats and tourism. After graduation, I found myself working at the Research and Education Centre Synergos with several tourism research projects. One short project led to another and so on. This period lasted for eight years (2008–16) after which I started to work with my PhD project about InterRail in the 1970s and 1980s. I worked as a full-time PhD researcher for one year and I got recruited to TAK research at the same time (2016). At the moment (2019) I am still working at TAK and my research work there consists mainly about tourism economic impacts, foreign tourists in Finland and tourism stats. I am also trying to write my PhD thesis at the same time and in the summertime you can find me aboard different Finnish steamboats.

So I am familiar with tourism as a (applied) research but this blogging thing is totally new for me. Let’s see what happens!