Thursday, February 14, 2008

Finland (II)

I feel my first post about Finland may have been misleading and made me out to be a whiny Brit abroad who is an embarrassment abroad (paraphrasing Emma, in any event) to which I disagree.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to visit somewhere with an open mind and then on return and reflection to decide that one didn't much like it. I expected it to be cold and snowy, which it was (although I didn't somehow expect that all the snow would be piled in great huge dirty heaps next to the road). I had hoped I would like the food better (although as I had been told that Chirac thought the only thing worse than British food to be Finnish food, I wasn't that surprised) and I made an effort to try traditional foods, sampling meatballs, herrings, reindeer, rice cake things but having to draw the line at black-pudding sausage. I found negotiating a wedding in high-heels and a floor length formal gown tedious due to the snow and cold but I had a good time. I found the change in food and drink to make my stomach worse so that by the time we left I had barely eaten anything for a few days. I had read about the history of the country before we left, although I accept I mis-remembered some of the facts.

I went to an espionage museum and learnt about espionage and the Finnish role in spying, which given their geographical position is greater than I had ever imagined. I went to the Lenin museum (in the Workers Hall where Lenin met Stalin in Tampere) and learnt about the Soviet-Finnish relationship, about how Lenin had moved there in 1905 and remained there until 1907 and that he returned again in 1917. I learnt also that he had been instrumental in helping Finland achieve independence in 1917 and that his name was one of the first on the petition for independence. I found the museum to be insular and almost propaganda based (despite what the website says), that nothing was explained on a global level, but as it is run by the Finland-Russia Society this did not surprise me.

I was intrigued by the architecture of Tampere. It was rather like stepping into a Lowry painting and the place looked at once Russian and like (what I imagine) Manchester at the time of the industrial revolution. Tampere is full of textile factories, which to my mind are characterised by their distinctive red brickwork and long tall brick chimneys. It had me itching for a sketch-book but by the time I had a moment to contemplate any drawing the fog had come down and it was hard to make out much at all.

No comments: