Travel Destinations

For a Finnish short break with a difference, the city of Tampere provides a great mix of wintry culture and nature with its fascinating museums and scenic lakeside location, writes Anna Maria Espsater

Tampere, Finland’s third largest city, is friendly, laidback and surprisingly nice to visit in winter. Santa Claus might be living further north, but there are plenty of reasons to travel to other parts of Finland during the snowy months – a scorching sauna session followed by a bracing ice-hole dip, to mention one. What’s more, there are year-round direct flights to the city from the UK.

Tampere was founded back in 1779 by Swedish king Gustav III, at a time when Finland formed part of Sweden. It grew rapidly during the 19th century, mostly due to the many industries, particularly textile, situated here, giving rise to the city’s nickname ‘Manchester of the North’. Just like many other former industrial cities in Europe, Tampere has had to reinvent itself in recent decades and these days the city’s longstanding industrial history can be viewed in fascinating museums.

Many of the museums are found in the so-called Finlayson factory quarters. A lot of Tampere’s industrial prosperity can be traced back to one man: James Finlayson was a Scottish Quaker and engineer who first visited Finland, by this time part of tsarist Russia, in 1819 and decided to settle here. In 1820 he began using the water power from nearby Tammerkoski River to build a factory in the city and at one point the Finlayson textile factory and cotton mill was Tampere’s largest employer. A whole factory quarter was set up, rather like a mini-city within the city, and the Finlayson family even had their own chapel built here. The Finlayson legacy has been long-lasting and Finlayson textiles are made in Finland to this day, albeit on a smaller scale. The vast factory quarters now house the Textile Industry museum, the Finnish Labour museum and, perhaps more surprisingly, also the Spy Museum.

A museum entirely dedicated to espionage is a world first for Tampere. Washington D.C. may since have overshadowed their efforts somewhat by creating a larger one, but there’s no doubt that the Finns got in there before the Americans. The museum, although on the small side, has plenty of authentic gadgets, informative displays, and information on some of the greatest spies in history. It’s also great fun for kids, with interactive exhibits and spy tests to be taken, not to mention a pitch black ‘spy tunnel’ to negotiate. A lie detector, bugging devices, and poisonous umbrellas are also among the interesting features found here. For those looking to explore even more museums, Tampere has one of the few in the world dedicated to Vladimir Lenin.

Tampere is a nice place to enjoy the great outdoors, even in winter. The city has a lovely location between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi, with Tammerkoski river rapids running through it. Covered in a thick blanket of snow, the location looks even more picturesque. In winter the river rapids often make for a spectacular sight when frozen solid and it’s possible to walk all along the riverfront on the gritted pathways. The rapids run through the heart of town and the streets running east and west from here are where you’d find a lot of the city’s bars, cafes, restaurants, and main shopping area, as well as the Central Square and theatre.

In the run-up to Christmas, Keskustori Central Square is home to a wonderful market, complete with dancing Moomin troll, Finnish handicrafts, and gourmet products. They also do ice-sculpting in the square to add to the scenic wintry atmosphere. Nearby shopping street Hämeenkatu has some of the best shops in town – try Sokos and Stockmann for a wide variety of Finnish design such as Moomin troll mugs from Arabia pottery or Iittala glass.

If staying a few days, there are several places near Tampere worth a visit, e.g. the Pispala district, to the west of the center – a quaint, old-fashioned neighborhood replete with 19th-century wooden houses, overlooking the lakes. Also in the western part, on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Näsijärvi, lies Näsinneula Tower, the tallest observation tower in the Nordic countries. The revolving restaurant at the top serves excellent Finnish food and offers spectacular views of the area.

No visit in winter is complete without a sauna session and when in Finland one must be brave and do as the Finns do – sweat, sweat, and sweat, only to rapidly cool down with an icy dip. Villa Amanda, near the village of Pakkala, some 35km (21 miles) from Tampere is an exceptionally inviting place to go through this Finnish rite of passage. The well-appointed villa is a winter-dream come true, complete with open fire, big sauna, and cozy loft bedrooms. It’s not far from cross-country and downhill skiing options if you really want to work up a sweat before sweating some more.

Villa Amanda sits right on a lake and after some 15 minutes in the sauna, nipping outside is starting to sound better and better, even if it happens to be -10 outside. Of course with such temperatures, the lake does freeze solid, but the kind owners of the villa simply open up a hole in the ice for hardy sauna-goers to cool down in. Make sure you wear some footgear walking along the snowy path to the ice hole, where a small ladder leads into the lake. No point taking too long about it, you’ll only get too cold and change your mind. Just briskly climb down the steps and enjoy the rather strange sensation of going pleasantly numb in the icy waters, before heading back to the sauna, feeling ever so slightly brave and tough. Warm up again in the sauna and take the plunge twice if you fancy, then return to the open fire for glöggi (mulled wine) and Finnish nibbles – elk or reindeer salami perhaps?
Tampere is a great place for uniquely Finnish experiences, perhaps especially so in winter.

Need to know

Getting there
Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) flies direct from London Stansted to Tampere. No other airline flies direct, but Finnair (www.finnair.com) has flights via Helsinki and SAS (www.flysas.com) via Stockholm.

Further information
www.visitfinland.com
www.visittampere.fi
www.vakoilumuseo.fi (Spy Museum)
www.villa-amanda.fi

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Travel Destinations

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned traveler, France will steal your heart. Each month, Frederic – our French correspondent – gives us the low-down on what to see and do across the channel

February 2012: A Selection of Exhibitions and New Cultural Events

Ending soon:

Until Feb 12: Pompeii, an art de vivre
A walk through the rooms of a typical private home of Pompeii, filled with furniture and artefacts from the houses buried under the ashes of Vesuvius in 79 AD, to discover the art-de-vivre of the Roman times.
Musée Maillol, Paris

http://en.museemaillol.com

Until Feb 17: La France en Relief: from Louis XIV to Napoleon III
A military purpose leading to the creation of this tremendous collection of relief maps, models of fortified towns and fortresses, of an incredible quality and size.
Musée du Grand Palais, Paris

http://www.grandpalais.fr/en

Until Feb 26: Cezanne and Paris
An exhibition of about 80 Cezanne’s works, all linked to Paris and its environs where the painter although more famous for his Provence works, stayed and worked quite all of his artist’s life.
Musée du Luxembourg, Paris
www.museeduluxembourg.fr/en/expositions

Until March 5: Erre, variations labyrinthiques
A collective exhibition around the labyrinth’s theme, in architecture, in time, in the man’s spirit, in modern town, as well as in the Minautore’s maze and finally in works of art breaking the traditional laws of perspective.
Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz-57, Moselle

http://www.centrepompidou-metz.fr/en

Until March 5: Napoleon III and Eugenie at the Fontainebleau Castle, a Second Empire French Art-de-Vivre
An evocation of the Second Empire art-de-vivre, with the presentation of numerous objects belonging to the private apartments of the last French emperor Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie, a loan by the Fontainebleau castle. Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Bordeaux, 33, Gironde

http://www.bordeaux.fr

Running now:

From Feb 17 to March 4: the Carnival of Nice
During more than two weeks the town of Nice shelters the biggest French Carnival attracting tourists from over the world to the Cote d’Azur to attend the unique Carnival and Flower Parades. This year the theme is King of Sport, a tribute to the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Nice 06, Alpes Maritimes
www.nicecarnaval.com/en

From Feb 21 until April 29: Ai Weiwei – Interlacing
The first major exhibition of the Chinese conceptual artist, showing photographies and videos that offer a critical overview of the everyday social realities in a urban setting mainly in China, that works sending him to prison during 80 days in April, 2011, the artist being still on bail in Bejing.
Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris

http://www.jeudepaume.org

From Feb 21 until April 29: Berenice Abbott
A retrospective of the works of the successful photographer Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), presenting 140 vintage prints including portraits of famous artists in Paris in the 1920s, images of Changing New York, her project in the 1930s, and a selection of experimental abstract photos produced for the M.I.T. in the 1950s.
Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris

http://www.jeudepaume.org

Until March 31: La Fabrique Sonore, Pommery Experiment
A presentation inside the spectacular ancient chalk pits now used as champagne cellars, of the works of thirty international artists working on various sound nuances, from noise to music.
Domaine Pommery, Reims-51, Marne

http://escapade-champenoise.fr

Until April 1: Rodin, 300 Drawings, Capturing the Model
An exhibition of a few series of drawings of women’s bodies, quite unknown works of the worldwide known sculptor, Auguste Rodin.
Paris, Musée Rodin

http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en

Until April 2: Danser sa Vie
An exhibition of around 450 art works, paintings, drawings, choreographies, from the1900s until today dedicated to discover how visual arts and dance share the same passion for bodies in movement. The title of this exhibition is a tribute to Isadora Duncan, the famous dancer, who said that her art was only “to dance her life”.
Centre Pompidou, Paris

http://www.centrepompidou.fr

Until May 12: Napoleon’sWars, by Louis Francois Lejeune, general and painter
A precious eyewitness account of the main Napoleon’s battles through the works of an extremely accurate painter who was also a general who fought all over Europe and who later on wrote for posterity his Souvenirs.
Chateau de Versailles, Versailles 78, Les Yvelines

http://en.chateauversailles.fr

Until June 10: The Mayan Jade Masks
Seven tombs of Mayan dignitaries and almost all incredible jade masks already found and many others pieces like amazing carved stones and various potteries, are exposed for the first time out of Mexico, highlighting the main last Mexican archaeological discoveries.
Paris, Pinacotheque de Paris

http://www.pinacotheque.com/en

Until July 30: Histoire de l’Atelier Brancusi
A reconstitution of the Paris workshop where Brancusi, a famous modern sculptor lived and worked.
Centre Pompidou, Paris

http://www.centrepompidou.fr

Until July 30: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Bivouac
An illustration of the current state of the work of the two designers, who last September for the London Design Festival, exposed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz-57, Moselle

http://www.centrepompidou-metz.fr/en

Permanent:

Jean Cocteau-Collection Severin Wunderman
The widest in the world and a must-to-see collection of the works of Jean Cocteau, given to the town of Menton, by the private collector Severin Wunderman.
Musée Jean Cocteau, Menton-06, Alpes Maritimes

http://www.tourisme-menton.fr

Up coming:

From March 6 to May 13: The Rain
Expectation, desire, fear, hate, protection, need… are part of the emotions and feelings released from symbolic or ordinary objects coming from Asia, Africa, Americas and Oceania.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

http://www.quaibranly.fr/en

From March 6 to May 13: Patagonia, Images from World End
A parallel between fiction and reality through various documents, pictures, maps of Patagonia from 16th century to nowadays.
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

http://www.quaibranly.fr/en

From March 7 to June 18: Matisse
The Centre Pompidou presents around 60 Matisse’s works displayed in pairs or short series, to investigate a very special aspect of the artist works who tried all his life long to produce simultaneously the same motif by different techniques.
Centre Pompidou, Paris

http://www.centrepompidou.fr

From March 7 to July 8: La berline de Napoleon, the mystery of Waterloo loot
The result of an incredible treasure hunt to bring together all the personal belongings of Emperor Napoleon, that have been looted on the night of Waterloo defeat, and then scattered through Europe where they disappeared until recently. That includes all the personal medals of the Emperor, hidden in the cellars of the Moscow Historic Museum until 2000.
Paris, Musée de la Légion d’honneur
www.musee-legiondhonneur.fr

From March 23 to July 23: The Twilight of the Pharaons, Masterpieces of the last Egyptian Dynasties
The best masterpieces from Pharaonic Egypt during ten centuries until the last dynasty, the Ptolemaic’s one, the display inside the fabulous setting of the townhouse sheltering the Jacquemart-André Museum.
Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris
www.musee-jacquemart-andre.getaticket.com

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Travel Destinations

Only a four hour and a half hour flight away, Beirut will seduce travelers in search of a city break with a difference.

Sure Dubai is exciting, Abu Dhabi offers an abundance of art and Muscat has a certain picturesque charm but when all is said and done, they are Middle East-lite. If you’re after somewhere that matches the Middle East of your imagination, you want Beirut – traditionally known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’.

Lebanon and its capital have been in the international headlines for all the wrong reasons and the perception still lingers that Lebanon is a closed society, off-limits to outsiders. Happily, the years of fear and loathing are (for now at least) over and the Middle East’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan country is once again embracing tourism.

Beirut isn’t a pretty city (the scars of its recent battles are still visible from the pockmarked shell damaged buildings to the checkpoints patrolled by soldiers) and there are few ‘can"t-miss, won’t miss’ sights, but make no mistake: it is an exciting, intriguing destination unlike any Middle Eastern one you’ve been to before. The city’s skyline is dominated by domes and minarets of mosques but also by Greek Orthodox churches, cathedrals and Turkish hammams (because of Beirut’s location at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa, Lebanon has been shaped by many civilizations).

There are many museums to explore but the best is the National Museum of Beirut (www.beirutnationalmuseum.com), packed as it is with ancient treasures. Every hour, the museum screens Revival – a fascinating short documentary on how staff saved the collection from the destruction of the Civil War and subsequently restored the museum to its former glory. Other sights to tick off include the Corniche promenade (from where you can watch the sunset over Pigeon Rocks – two natural arches jutting from the Mediterranean – or ride on the giant Ferris wheel at Luna Park), the spectacular Al-Amin mosque where Rafik Hariri (Lebanon’s former Prime Minister who was assassinated in 2005), is buried and the magnificently restored Roman baths.

Once you’ve got the sightseeing out the way, return to your hotel for a power nap and then to primp and preen: Beirut’s nightlife is legendary and never starts before 10 pm. The choice of where to stay is wide and handsome but the Movenpick is without a doubt of one of the best in the region and the only five-star city center hotel with resort facilities – expect four pools, a private beach, onsite shopping arcade, tennis courts, health club, spa and so on.

When night falls, entertainment options abound – Beirut personifies la dolce vita – and it’s simply a matter of choosing your pleasure among the slew of trendy bars and live music venues (try underground bunker bar B018, Behind the Green Door, the rooftop bar at the Albergo Hotel and, in the summer, Sky Bar – regularly voted the world’s best bar) in fashionable areas such as Ashrafieh and Gemmayzeh. All are open until the wee hours of the morning: this is a city so fast and invigorating that boredom is not an option and sleep is a mere afterthought.

There’s also a thriving local gastronomic scene: food has always been a reason to head for Beirut and visiting gourmands are awed by the amazing array of restaurants, bars, and cafes competing for their mealtime affections along with vendors peddling falafel and circular bread through which locals thread their arms in order to ‘wear’ them home like giant bangles. Take advantage of Beirut’s pleasant year-round temperatures and linger at side street tables or on rooftops over mouth-watering mezze (think fattoush, kebbeh, kofta, olives and vine leaves) with the sweet smell of shisha puffed from water pipes hanging in the air.

Shopping is another popular pastime for Beirutis – it’s striking how stylish the Lebanese are especially when compared to their western counterparts – and it’s fun to window shop arm in arm around the vibrant pedestrianised downtown district known as ‘Solidere’ where boutiques are unique and independently owned. Saifi Village is another essential shopping stop. Once the site of the so-called ‘green line’ that divided Muslim west Beirut from the Christian east side during the 15-year civil war, this beautifully restored quarter is now home to chic stores stocking clothes and carpets as well as stalls selling spices, flatbreads, labneh and organic veg.

Yet Beirut isn’t everything and tempting though it might be to stay within the city, it’s worth venturing outside to see the contrast between the glitzy capital and the rest of this tiny – you can drive from the north to the south in just over three hours – but mountainous country. Taxis are readily available and an affordable way to travel – providing you agree on a price prior to beginning your journey.

Log onto the CD-Traveller website tomorrow to read more about Lebanon

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Travel Destinations

Starting today is Museums at Night, the once a year activity when museums across the countries stay open late so that you can see their collections in a different light. In fact it is not just in our countries that this happens. All over Europe, museums take part, sometimes staying open all night so that you can see things completely differently from daytime. Be quick though because it only lasts from the 14-16 May.

Here is just a quick rundown of what is available around some of the museums. For the rest go to www.culture24.org.uk/museumsatnight.

There are tales of witches at Denny Abbey near Cambridge and torchlight trails around the tombs at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London. For an even creepier time you can creep through the cloisters of Norwich cathedral or hunt the ghost at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard. In Western-super-Mare 50 flight simulators at the helicopter museum will recreate a battle over London.

The biggest event is probably in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where visitors will carry glow sticks as they undertake a culture crawl on a fleet of buses through the city by way of the Discovery Museum, the Baltic and even the ground of Newcastle United.

Perhaps adults might prefer the beer sampling at the London Transport Museum or the night tour through the Geevor Tin Mine or the Eden Project in Cornwall. There are cocktails in the Courtauld Gallery in London and Tate Modern will have a night of music mixed with the film.

My choice might be the illuminated Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol although the thought of tasting gruel as per a nineteenth-century recipe at the Hat Works in Stockport might run it close. Or maybe not.

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Travel Destinations

The figures for what we visited last year have been released by ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Among their 42 members, they are responsible for nearly 1,600 different attractions. But not every attraction is a member and not every member provides figures so there could be more popular places around.

Last year more of us visited their attractions than ever before. The figures were up by nearly 11% over 2009 which may not be that surprising given that 2009 was a year when more of us holiday at home.

Rather obviously, those that didn’t make an entry charge filled the top 5 positions with the British Museum being the leading attraction in the country with over 5.5 million visits. This was down on 2009 but figures go up and down depending on the appeal of new exhibitions and improvements. The other four were the National Gallery, Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum all of which are in London. The first attraction which charges was the Tower of London with 2,389,000 visitors, less than half that of the British Museum.

Outside London, the leading attraction was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow (again, free entry). It was followed by Chester Zoo, (because of all the TV exposure?) Edinburgh Castle, the Baths and Pump Room in Bath and the Eden Project in Cornwall. Apart from Kelvingrove the others all charge for entry. The first Welsh entry is St Fagans just outside Cardiff.( also free)
One place that did show a decline in visitors is Liverpool. After being one of the two European Cities of Culture in 2008, it had a large increase in visitors in 2008. Having seen it then, many decided to stay away in 2009. So the Mersey Maritime Museum saw numbers drop by 7%, the World Museum by 23%, the Walker Art gallery by 46% and the Tate by 50%. Just to confuse my logic, the Lady Lever Art Gallery increased numbers by almost a quarter!

Overall, 21 attractions each had more than 1 million visitors and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire managed to attract an extra 40%. Still, if it attracted 10 times as many visitors it would still only match those of the British Museum and that would really please its owner, the Duke of Marlborough.

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Travel Destinations

The Staffordshire Horde

Back in September (CD-Traveller 30/9/09) we wrote about the Staffordshire Hoard of over 1500 finds that had been found in a field by a metal detector. When they went on display in Birmingham, the queues to see it went to the museum and tickets were rationed. (www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk.)
Such a magnificent find (for once the word isn’t an exaggeration) deserves to stay in the Midlands rather than London and so Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum is trying to raise £3.3 million in just 13 weeks to buy the hoard. They will then need another £1.7 million to display it. So far £500,000 has been raised in the first week.

If you feel you can contribute, please go to www.artfund.org/staffordshire_hoard/

Bill Wyman, Michael Palin, Tony Robinson and Dr. David Starkey have all let their names to try and raise the money needed and there are fundraising meetings as well. Some of the items will be on display from 13 February to the 7th March at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.

This could well be the most significant find about our past in the last 60 odd years. Keeping this hoard in the Midlands will give a boost to the view that our national treasures should be spread throughout our countries rather than placed in just our capital cities. It will encourage visitors to see museums and galleries that are less frequently visited and give revenue to the local economy. It is believed that this hoard will vastly extend our knowledge about the Kingdom of Mercia. And in the old Kingdom of Mercia, the hoard should stay.

I’ve sent my donation. May I urge you once again that if you can donate please do so.

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