Bryan is third from the left in the front row.Each year there is a gathering at a university in Turku called the American Voices Seminar. It is attended by university students, especially those doing North American Studies, and the presenters are American Fulbright recipients in Finland. This year's seminar took place in October, 2010.
The presenters are given a lot of freedom on the topic of their presentation, and our family did a presentation about what we like about Halloween - mainly costumes, trick-or-treating, being with friends or family and eating candy (Thank you to friends who sent us Halloween photos). The girls put on costumes; Brooke was a ghost, Analeise was a bunny. They had a good public speaking experience, and they handed out candy we brought from the states (Starbursts, Jolly Ranchers and Skittles)at the end of the presentation.
Bryan attended the full slate of presentations over a day and a half, but the girls and I took some time to go to site seeing. We walked along the beautiful Aura River, which runs through Turku, providing a connection between the center of town and the ocean.
We came upon a museum, Aboa Vetus/Ars Nova. Combining the archeological dig of a medieval section of town and a diverse collection of modern art, the museum's fascinating and full of contrast. If you're in Turku, I'd recommend the museum.
Analeise at the museum's cafe, which served some of the best cake (chocolate and a raspberry torte) we've bought in Finland.
One of the main architectural attractions in the city is Finland's National Shrine, the Turku Cathedral. The foundation was laid in the 1200's, and the church was dedicated as the main cathedral of Finland in 1300. We did not go inside but were able to appreciate the building on a beautiful fall day.
While there is religious diversity in Finland, the country's over 80% Lutheran, with Christmas and Easter being very important holidays. In Turku, the start of Christmas is announced on Christmas Eve on the balcony of this city building:
My understanding is that a city official reads an old, official declaration that the "Christmas Peace" has begun, and this is a quiet, almost solemn affair. The declaration warns citizens that disturbing the peace during Christmas will be punished. I guess Finns like their Christmas Peace to be peaceful! If you'd like to read more about this tradition, click here for a 2005 article by the Finnish embassy in Washington. The article includes an English translation of the declaration.
There is a medieval castle in Turku can be found by following the Aura River to the ocean.
It is over 700 years old, was heavily damaged both by attacks and fire and then finally in a bombing during WWII. The castle went through a huge restoration which was finalized in the 1980's and 90's.
While a lot of the castle has been relatively newly recreated, you can still see murals and walk in tight spiral staircases that are centuries old and imagine what life must have been like long ago. The castle is now one of Finland's most visited museums, and if you go, take some time to sit on one of the numerous windows' benches. Also, if you are going to, or coming from Sweden on a ferry, the dock is within walking distance of the castle.
Bonus photos and a video:
I took this video of Analeise right by the Turku Cathedral. By the way, she dropped her phone somewhere around the church, and a nice woman who works there found it and mailed it back to us.
Bryan and the girls on the way to a bus stop. They're walking towards a mall in Turku. Many malls in Finland display their stores' signs, as you see here.
A half hour bus ride outside of Turku is this relaxing spa called Naantali. We went here to swim and relax, and while it was very enjoyable, it was not a place I'd recommend if you have children who want slides and wave pools. This is more of a luxurious and laid back place. The attached hotel is expensive, but it also looked very nice.
Here are some photos of the Aura River: