Turku - 2011 Capital of Culture

Turku has another claim to fame and interest apart from the food. Located on the west coast of Finland, this is an old and gracious city. Little wonder it was selected in 2011 as one of Europe's two Capitals of Culture. The other was Tallinn, capital of Estonia, just across the Baltic Sea.



Turku's castle dates back to 1280. Our guide dressed in a costume from some other era led us through the halls and rooms of the now empty building.


He told us that in the old times a woman's legs needed to look sturdy enough to work hard. Slim girls would layer on extra thick stockings to appear more attractive. They liked them with an ample tummy too, so some would slip a pillow under their skirt.


We could imagine some robust young woman looking out through the castle windows wondering when her prince would come. In the 16th century people said "romantic love only lasted for a thousand days".


It was bitterly cold in the huge stone rooms and the second wife of King Gustav (who ruled in the 17th century) brought underwear of squirrel fur in her trousseau.


Away from the castle, Turku is a fun and bustling town. The river Aura has boats that can be used for tours or functions, or just as a café. Either way it gets people out into the sun which in summer is welcome after the long cold winters.




Turku's cathedral was begun the same year as the castle and finished in 1300. In those days it was Catholic, but in the 1500s after the Reformation, Finland became Lutheran.

Turku had the first university in Finland too and is still a student town with three universities and 365,000 students. The population of the city is 175,000 and is Finland's fifth-largest.


Little wonder then that this is a fun place to be. With a world-famous rock festival, Ruisrock, held on the island of Ruissalo, that has been part of the music scene for forty years, cafes and shops that cater more for the young than old.


Finns are fun-loving people anyway. After all they're the nation that has an annual wife-carrying festival. They invented Accordion Wrestling too.


The awarding of 2011 Capital of Culture to Turku was the biggest thing since the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. There were many activities for children (including 'ant-spotting'!), produce in the market square, a battle in the stadium, as well as art and music and sport - the entire cultural calendar to fit with the magnitude of this prestigious event.

Being the fun place it is, you can bet Naantali and those Moomintrolls will be in there somewhere too!


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