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Graffiti in Tampere, Finnland

I only visited Tampere because so many people told me that I couldn't miss it. My touristic curiosity had already been exhausted in other places, and I didn't expect to discover too many unknown aspects of Finnish life. I felt that I had seen most of it before, and I was more interested in the landscape of the north than in a large(ish) city in the south-west of Finland. However, as I had learned to believe my Finns when they recommended something, I drove to the city that is also called the Manchester of Finland.

City map of Tampere, Finnland

I came by train and had an afternoon to stroll around the city. Like so many cities, it doesn't look like much from the train station. The centre spreads along the main promenade following a chessboard design by Carl Ludwig Engel, an important German-Finnish architect. Engel has shaped several Finnish towns, including Porvoo and Turku. In Helsinki, he designed the neo-classical university building, the Senate and the cathedral at a time when Finland was still part of Russia. Once you've seen his style and realised how his buildings look, recognising his traces in many places is easy.

Pretty car onthe main street, Tampere, Finnland

Don't follow the masses from the station, but turn right and discover the Tuomiokirkko, the Cathedral of Tampere. It's a relatively large building made of blue-gray granite, perched on a small hill in the style of Finnish romantic nationalism. This church looks like a hybrid between a Disney castle and a Nordic fortress. It has an almost unadorned, northern granite facade with towers of different heights and all the details and beauties of a turn of the century building.

The western facade of the cathedral, Tampere, Finland

The interior is just as impressive. Decorated with large scenes (and paintings), floral decorative elements and discreetly coloured glass windows. The symbolism inside the church and, in particular, the painted serpent from paradise, positioned at the highest point of the ceiling, occurred to me immediately. According to Wikipedia, this figure still holds some conflict, since it's considered inappropriate. I found the cheeky deviation from the doctrine refreshing. Besides, the ensemble is simple and beautiful. The light falls sparsely and creates beautiful light reflections in the room and on the walls. It's a place that combines both the recognisable features of Art Nouveau (as I know it from my home country), as well as the Nordic, which is only slowly becoming familiar to me.

If you continue from there, you pass a fire station, built at around the same time. I particularly liked the adjoining garage doors, which lead out of a half-bent wall into a small forecourt. Later, I read about Wivi Lönn, the architect of this building. She was the first female Finnish architect to open her architectural office, and the fifth woman in Finland, who graduated with an architectural diploma. Her biography would interest me, but as far as I can see, there are hardly any translations.

Turn of the century fire brigade building, Tampere, Finland

After that, one reaches the Tammerkoski stream. It's immediately apparent why this city is called the Manchester of Finland. The industrial buildings and their brickwork glimmer in the winter sun. The water fell in corkscrews a few meters into the depth and then flowed into the lake on the other side of the city, the Pyhäjärvi. At this point, I had to decide, right or left? I chose to cross the bridge of the main street, lined with tall figures, and then walked to the right, past beautiful, large, old industrial halls, which form a few small backyards, straight to the lake on the other side of town, the Näsijärvi.

Empty amusement parc, Tampere, Finland
The lake, Tampere, Finland

A (hopefully) thick layer of ice covered the water. As the locals ran around fearlessly on the ice, I gave myself a push and went out onto the lake. From there, all the buildings looked small. The steam from the industrial chimneys seemed like a distant memory, and the amusement park Särkänniemi, which was empty at this time of year, was a ghostly reminder of summer. Then, it probably would be wonderful to go out on the lake by boat or go swimming. In the cold, I couldn't ignore the melting ice any longer. My feet sank into the ice a little bit each step. I saved myself and went to get soup and a cappuccino in one of the small historic wooden houses.

Fairy lights infront of my chosen Cafe, Tampere, Finland

Next, I walked around the streets, until I arrived at my personal highlight: the Tampereen Kauppahalli. Like old shopping malls in Riga or France and England, it unfolds historic charm and remains contemporary. The many small sale stands offer cheap(ish) goods. Bakeries, cafes, grocers, butchers and bistros share this historic place and keep it alive. Once more, I dreamed of a 30mm lens, to capture this place in all its glory. It's simple. It doesn't fit in my frame.

Meanwhile, the sun had gone down, the street lanterns and winter lights switched on and from the chimneys rose steam. It wavered in the golden evening sun, and the reflection on the thin layer of ice echoed all its pink tones. And just the way I came, I left. I stepped on the regional train with a coffee in one hand and my bakery products from the Kauppahalli in the other. I was quite exhausted.

The evening sky reflected on a thin layer of ice, Tampere, Finland

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