No time can go to waste during our three-week programme, so it was no surprise that on the way to Turku we were given a presentation by representatives of VR, Finland’s major railway company. Sitting in the “extra concept” – an equivalent of first class – it was easy to enjoy and get an idea of how Finnish railways work and what options are available to passengers. To me the most interesting service VR provides is car transportation, although I don’t even want to try to imagine how much it costs.
After two hours we arrived in the old city of Turku. With less than 190,000 inhabitants Turku somehow manages to make you feel that you really are visiting a former capital and an important Finnish city. “Old town but pretty funky”, Mika Akkanen, Manager of International Affairs in Turku said in his welcoming presentation and it seemed right. The first place we visited in Finland’s oldest city was an impressive and extremely modern event and business venue Logomo. Opened in 2011, it provides a perfectly hip concert hall, a cinema, an event venue and office space, conveniently built in a former industrial building – in this case a railway workshop.
Then on to the harbour – or almost. A pleasant lunch was followed by presentations on Turku’s maritime industry. When you walk around this relaxed, historic town it might be difficult to imagine that its shipyards build massive cruise vessels for clients all around the world taking care of the whole process from design to production. Seeing luxury cruise liners being built in a time lapse video – according to Sami Kouvonen from Meyer Turku the process takes about two to three years – was mesmerizing, and kept me thinking about how such a small city can host such a massive industry. Meridiem Innovation Hub’s Mervi Pitkänen shared some impressive numbers: the maritime industry employs around 5,000 people in the Turku area and 17,850 in the whole country.
After hearing about maritime innovations we took another short bus trip (Turku is in fact very small) back in time. We toured the Turku Castle, built in the 1280s. With a long and varied history in its walls, it has recently served as the location for “The Girl King”, a movie painting a portrait of Kristina of Sweden. And what do you know – the film’s director Mika Kaurismäki was there to answer our endless questions. Teija Raninen from the West Finland Film Commission was also present to give us some interesting details – for instance, the costumes for the movie were made by Turku citizens who had been unemployed.
The day ended on Jakke, a small ferry that cruises the river Aura, serving drinks and food, with a slightly eccentric captain welcoming passengers on board – because why not? We’re in Turku, let’s relax. We didn’t hurry to get back on shore.
Photos: Mohammed Alfaraj, Oriol Salvador Vilella, Martyna Trykozko