Questor Insurance Travel Features

Autumn and Winter Travel - Introducing Turku

Date Created: 02 December 2012

Turku is defined by the River Aura. Straddled by handsome bridges and fringed with leafy walkways, the river is the main artery running through the heart of this cosmopolitan city. During long summer days, locals gather and perambulate beside the Aura and not surprisingly many of Turku’s major attractions are located on the riverside. From the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova Museum of archaeology, history and cotemporary art and the museum at Turku’s thirteenth century Castle to the Pharmacy museum, housed in Turku’s oldest surviving bourgeois home and the Sibelius Museum, a river runs through it all.

Fire, as well as water, has been central to Turku’s development. In l827 the Great Fire of Turku systematically destroyed most of the city. One area, Luostarinmaki was spared. Now this perfectly preserved timber district is a Handicraft Museum featuring traditionally dressed artisans plying their respective trades in workshops.

If all this sounds terribly serious; it’s not. Finns are fun loving people who heartily embraced their role as a capital of culture. Visitors are experiencing a plethora of unique and creative entertainments from an Accordion Wrestling display to Fluxations, a vast environmental art exhibition.

Strolling down the River Aura to the old market square, I come across an installation which forms part of this exhibition. The‘celluar-phone tree’ by Sebastian Zieglar is exactly that; a tree strung with mobiles connected to pictures of endangered birds. I press a button beside the Ortolan Bunting and bird song twitters down from one of the suspended telephones. A must for bird watchers, art lovers and environmentalists, this is but one art work in a town where art galleries abound.

Art and music are meat and drink to Finns and I conclude my visit to Turku with a cruise. My destination is Ruissalo, an island in the ravishing archipelago where the second oldest rock festival in Europe is taking place. The sun shines on the polite, youthful crowd who despite piercings and tattoos behave impeccably. The music may be loud and Finnish, but I can’t help but be bowled over by the benign and friendly atmosphere. It just proves that like the River Aura, in Turku it pays to go with the flow.

Written by Beverley Byrne.