Thursday, 24 November 2016

What to do in Tampere - tips for history buffs and foodies alike

Tampere is a cosy and quirky town with things to see whether you're a history buff or a foodie.

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Tampere - Finland's answer to Manchester (I kid you not - city's nickname is actually Manse. Even their football team's called United).

The cradle of industrial revolution in Finland. 

Working class town dominated by old red brick factory buildings.

The third largest city in Finland.

Gothenburger's job took us to Tampere again. Right on time to celebrate city council's historic vote to build a tram network. 

Trust me - they didn't take the decision to join capital Helsinki as the second city in the whole country to operate trams lightly. They wallowed over it for more than 10 hours and the passionate debate evoked some curious commentaries. 

One council woman expressed her concern over the deaf. Apparently tramsthese days are so quiet, they are a veritable death trap to hearing impaired. I wonder if it never genuinely occurred to her that higher decibel levels won't make them any less deaf. Or unable to use their vision, which by all accounts is usually intact. 

And I can't remember the last time I saw Helsinki newspapers report yet another gruesome fatality involving a murderous tram and an inconspicious deaf. 

Congratulations to Tampere in any case - though standing at the forefront of modern technonology is by no means new to you.

For instance the first ever electric light in Finland went on in Tampere in the Finlayson factory in 1882. Tampere was in rather a glowing commpany back then. Before that such fancy invention had only been seen in 4 European cities - none of which was Helsinki.

(Paris, Strasbourg, London and Milan, if you must know). 

The region around Tammerkoski rapids has been inhabited since 7th century and it was granted city rights in 1779. Back then the population didn't even reach 1000. 

The founding of Finlayson cotton factory in the early 19th century ushered in the era of industrialization which saw the population quadruple by the mid-1800's. By the beginning of 20th century Tampere boasted a population of staggering 36 000.

100 000 inhabitants were reached in 1950's and 200 000 was exceeded in 2003.

With being an industrial hub, came also significant role in economy and politics. Socialist and women's movements were active: hardly a surprise considering most of the population consisted of factory workers and women. 

For a glimpse of the lives of the common people of the time, check out workers' quarter museum at Amuri or museum Werstas. 

Museum Milavida on the other hand catalogues history of von Nottenbeck family, branch of the Finlayson family who owned the cotton factory - showing how the other, fancier half lived.

Tampere had the dubious privilege to act as the venue of a first ever meeting between two men that changed the course of the world: one Lenin and a guy called Stalin. The brain child of that secret meeting was a recolution that led to the creation of the Soviet. I bet all those millions of subjects that went either missing, ended up in labour camps or faced persecution and/or torture just can't thank them enough. 

Tampere is home to one of the most peculiar museums in Finland: Lenin museum. Espionage museum is another oddity and was, when it first opened, actually first of its kind in the whole world. 

During the Civil War that followed Finland's independence of 1917 Tampere was the reds' stronghold and eventually the scene for many of the crucial battles between the white and the red.

Vapriikki, a museum complex located next to Tammerkoski, hosts a permanent exhibition on the topic, well worth the visit!

Tampere cityscape is still very much defined by those iconic red brick factory buildings spreading around Tammerkoski, with their high chimneys piercing the skyline. As the production has increasingly moved to cheaper countries, most of the chimneys no longer push out the thick clouds they were once famous for. 

Instead the factory area has been restaured and converted into a lively quarter peppered with museums, cafés, small shops and restaurants. One of our favourite addresses is beer house and brewery Plevna, whose wide selection of beers they make themselves offers rather a jolly way to spend an afternoon. 

And if German beer house atmosphere is what you're after, you should make some time for Alsatian restaurant Wistub's specialty: Tarte Flambé/ Flammekueche.

If you're a foodie, your first stop is probably the local market. Tampere market hall is located right in the centre, but this gem lies somewhat hidden in a slightly deceptive newer facade.

More than 100 years old, the market is not very big, but it more than makes up for it in quality.

Based on readers' recommendations I discovered restaurant 4 Saisons, a French delight you can't beat for lunch. 

Day we went the menu featured wild grouse among other things. Divine! Great value for money and hey - while in the hoods, don't forget to check out their deli's delicious selection of home-made sausages. And patés. And other treats. Such as these British-style pasties that practically moved me to tears, being the closeted English that I am. 

Other joints worth making time for? Fish shop Nygren and Mediterranean deli Mama's Corner

The indigenous population didn't fail to impress me with their robust, folksy approach to life this time either. 

As I was enjoying my cigarette at the terrace of our hotel's rooftop bar I was approached by one of the natives who'd just returned to his beloved home town after decades abroad.

"Have you any idea just how pretty you are, lass?" he asked me, gazing at me admiringly. Taken aback with this unexpected praise I didn't know what to do. 

"But you'd better head inside, you know - you'll freeze your p***y out here in the cold!" 

By now I did know. 

I left. But Tampere - we'll be back!





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