We left Tampere this morning and are on a train to Savonlinna, a beautiful town in eastern Finland. There is a famous castle there, built on a massive rock on an island. We are staying at a B&B on a farm, complete with animals and gardens and orchards and a sauna house on the edge of the lake. Meals come mostly from what is produced on the farm (and surrounding farms) and I look forward to cooking a bit in the public kitchen located in a Laplandish hut not far from the main house. Cooking and saunas and swims in the lake between trips to town to play tourist.
This contrasts sharply with our visit in Tampere, a vibrant city in western Finland where we met our cousins, had a whirlwind tour of the city by the most accomplished tour guide ever and a meal with many of our Finnish relatives. It was heart warming and bittersweet to meet these relatives for a few hours and then say good bye knowing full well we might never see them again. This was especially true of the grandmothers, Laura and Laila, at almost 80 and 86. I saw a familial resemblance and felt it in my heart. I'm sure they thought we were silly Americans when Doreen and I teared up with the wish our mother could have been there to meet them. Mom-these pictures will have to suffice, but know we were thinking of you!
With Laura (Juha's mother) and Laila (Jyri's grandmother)
Doreen with Arja (Jyri's mother and Laila's daughter)
From left: Laura Niemi, Arja Siimes, Laila Nieminen, Jukka Nieminen, Jukka's daughter tucked behind him, Pekka Nieminen and Eija "Tiina" Aho (Juha's sister)
This was the amazing meal we had! Reindeer quiche (one with a gluten free crust!), rhubarb bars with a vanilla cream sauce, a quark cheesecake (quark is a milk product that falls somewhere between cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt) and, in the pitcher on the right hand side, red currant juice made from red currants in Tiina's yard! What a feast!
Our cousins and tour guides extraordinaire, Juha and Jyri!