“Turku – an exotic holiday close to home”

What happens when a foreign couple (well… from eastern Finland at least) heads off for an exotic and exciting mini-vacation way out west? The story involves pillow talk, time travel and some ‘funky’ rides James Bond would be proud.

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Wait…Turku has a river, doesn’t it?

With no more background information than this, we booked a weekend getaway at the city's best riverfront hotel, the Radisson Blu Marina Palace. The choice was a foregone conclusion once we’d heard the hotel had also accommodated numerous heads of state including the Swedish royal couple.

Well, if it’s good enough for the House of Bernadotte, it’s good enough for us. In honour of the royal couple Carl and Silvia, the scenery from our hotel room could be described as magnificently regal - riverboats in the foreground, the observatory designed by C.L. Engel, the Turku City Theatre, the Samppalinna outdoor pool, the Wäinö Aaltonen Art Museum and the decorated bridges across the River Aura. Peering a bit further downstream, there are still some interesting sights, which Google reveals to be the Föri ferry and grand old ship the Suomen Joutsen. But why on earth am staring at them from the window when I could just go and see them? Time to get active.

Where's that Funicular hiding?

Our first mission was to hurry, under pressure from the boyfriend, for a ride aboard the Föri city ferry – honestly, men and anything mechanical!! The ferry, which began life in 1904, is probably the oldest commercial vehicle in the country and a charming little contraption. In all honesty though, it was just keeping me from a much more anticipated activity – a ride on the ‘funi’ Funicular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turku’s Funicular has gained notoriety around Finland for being a farcical money pit, but for me the distain evoked both intrigue and sympathy. I have to say that the lift up the slope of Kakolanmäki hill not only turns out to be stable and functional but also surprisingly stylish. Oh, and it’s also free! On top of all this, the ride evokes strong memories of an action scene from a James Bond movie. The only daring part was how many rides we could manage in one go.

Next stop: Paris

After our secret agent adventure, it's time to investigate Turku Castle. The exhibition A Few Words About Women confirmed one thing about life in 17th century: nothing was really better in the past. However, the history exuding from the castle’s inner courtyard is the most impressive I have seen at one time. I was amazed that we had all this in Finland. I feel my journey was not only in distance but many centuries in time.

No wonder my acquaintance remarked how Turku was "like a foreign country."

After teleporting ourselves back to modern times, we emerge into the twilight and discover we have landed in Paris. Well, at least that's the impression that Turku’s riverside and the romantic evening light conjured up. No wonder my acquaintance remarked how Turku was "like a foreign country." Remarkably accurate.

To remind myself that I am still on Finnish soil, I took us off to the Grill it! Restaurant of Marina Palace and ordered some reindeer. Our window table was almost at the very edge of the River Aura, our server was possibly the best in Southern Finland and the steak was sumptuously prepared on an authentic charcoal grill.

Someone a bit younger would give it a 5/5; I’ll just say it was perfect. And that's not all. For dessert, there was still something exciting to try in the bedroom.

Naughty minds are easily fooled

Before getting too excited, the bedtime adventures were, of course, related to Marina Palace's delightful selection of pillows and blankets, which the hotel makes available to all its guests. I get almost as much excitement from the sleeping menu as I do from the Funicular, and order everything to try out. And so, as the sun sets in the west, the east sleeps.

Just a few things to add

Before leaving home we still have time to admire many things. Like:

• Breakfast at the hotel with omelettes made to order

• The balcony for the declaration if the Christmas Peace (cute but looks bigger on telly)

• The freshly baked scents floating beside the river at Café Art

• The stunning marble staircase in the hotel lobby


Thank you, Turku.

You were wonderful to us - and definitely suitably exotic.

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Text by Sari Kelkka. Video Kim Allen-Mersh

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