We have arrived and have been here for six months already. I can’t believe how time has just flown by! So much has happened and there is so much to write about I’m just going to have to start somewhere, so I might as well start out by telling you about the city we landed in.
We are in the city of Tampere. Tampere is the third largest city in Finland, the first two being Helsinki and Espoo (a suburb of Helsinki). According to Wikipedia it had a population of 223,292 in 2011. For comparison, it’s about the size of Reno, Nevada– so not such a large city, but for a tiny country like Finland it is a major city. It is located about 2 hours by car north of Helsinki. The city is located between two large lakes so water and shoreline are quite important to the city, although it is inland. Many of the local people tell me that Tampere is the perfect Finnish city. it is just the right size. It is large enough to have interesting things to do and see and yet it is small enough to get around easily. Some say it is like a very large village. By way of introduction I’m including a link here for a video introduction to the city.
One of the first things I noticed– and loved– about this city is the charm of all the old brick factory buildings that have been repurposed to create a lovely backdrop to a vibrant little city. It has an industrial heritage much like many of the cities of the American Northeast. On some level it reminds me of Lowell, MA– but without the grime. The factory buildings today are museums, office buildings, shops, and restaurants.The Tammerkoski rapids divide the centre of the city. Where once they powered the factories, they now give charm to the city with the beautiful Koskipuisto Park lining the banks.
Tampere is was once a manufacturing centre but now is looking more towards technology for its future. The town of Nokia, famous for cellphones and tires, is only a few kilometres away. The Tampere University of Technology is a research centre that drives several startups. Tampere actually has two universities. The University of Tampere also supports a great deal of research.
In the summer we spent a lot of our free time exploring our new city. One of my favorite things about Tampere (which is also true for other Finnish cities) is all the outdoor markets.
They are available every day, unlike American farmers’ markets that operate on very limited schedules. It’s possible to buy berries, wild mushrooms, flowers, veggies, and other products in season. There are several of these stands in Tampere. with their offering changing along with the changing season. Strawberries, while in season were offered by the flat as well as in smaller quantities. These were delicious, juicy, sweet strawberries– they didn’t keep well but there was no need to worry about it. They were all eaten!
What is the absolute best thing about Tampere? it is that it has everything necessary for living a good life. For me, that means access to services and opportunities for learning new things and being active. When we first arrived we spent a couple of weeks searching for language schools for both of us. There were several choices once we started looking. My husband started out in a private language school called Didaskalos where he spent the summer immersed in an intensive course that met 5 days a week. I found a course at the Summer University or Kesäyliopisto which met my needs nicely. I already spoke some Finnish when we arrived and didn’t think I needed to start at the very beginning with the language course. Both courses kept us pretty busy and working hard for the entire summer. We are continuing now in the fall in slower courses, at a more relaxed pace. We are in no big hurry to be fluent in Finnish (although it would be nice!).
We found the health centre that serves our part of the city and made appointments to see doctors and fill our prescriptions. The appointments were made over the phone with hardly any wait time at all. The day we arrived at the health center we had minimal paperwork to complete (none!). We showed our id’s (hadn’t yet received our Kela cards) and were seated in the waiting area. We were called in to see the doctor within a couple of minutes of our appointed times. We both received scripts for our maintenance meds and follow up appointments as necessary. It was all incredibly easy. The health service uses computerised records so our prescriptions were easily picked up at a nearby apteeki and we were on our way! We now seem to be in the “system” as we have both received letters with appointment times and locations for regular screening appointments. It’s nice that the “system” now schedules us and we no longer have to keep track of these things ourselves.
One of my dreams in retirement was to finally find time to really learn to play the cello. I brought mine with me with that in mind. It turns out that even this is going to be possible here. I discovered that Tampere has two wonderful adult education programs with hundreds of courses and seminars in all sorts things that people may want to learn. The programs are Ahjola and Tampereen Seudun Työväenopisto and (It probably has something to do with long, dark winters.) For example, there are courses in foreign languages, arts and crafts, music, nature, sciences, writing, among other things. I found a course called “Sellot soimaan rhymässä” or Playing Cellos in a Group– in the comments it said it was OK if one was a beginner, but nothing more. I decided to take a chance on it. All I can say is Wow! I’m so glad I did! There is something magical about sitting in a circle with cellos playing musical parts, like in a choir. The music is not challenging, but it is fun! Besides the group, I have found a private teacher for lessons once a week. I’ll have to keep you posted on my progress.
One more great thing about living here is the transportation network. We made a conscious decision when moving to Finland to live without a car. In Tampere it is entirely possible without any loss to quality of life. The busses run pretty frequently and are pretty good about staying on time according to their schedules. The city is investing in a new tram system that is now under construction which I plan to write more about in a future post. Not having a car also forces us to walk a lot more than we have for years. Even without dieting I have been losing weight and feeling better just because I’m getting more exercise.
This is just a little about our new home. I have many things I would love to write about in these pages. I’d also like to know what you are curious about. Leave a comment. Please.