Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Day Three - Tampere

Well, I thought I had my sleep system straightened out, but I awoke at 1am again last night and had to read until 4 to get sleepy. Result: by the afternoon session of the conference I had to stick toothpicks in my eyes to keep them open. Finally slipped out at 2, was going to go back and hit the hay. But crossing over the RR track gave me a fresh wind, and as I knew my blogging public was starving for more of this photoessay of Finland, I decided to hit the rails.

The ticket lady asked me where I wanted to go, and I said "North." She said, we can't go north from here, you have to go south about 2 hours before you can get another line north. So I settled for a lift south, and she gave me a ticket to a city called Tampere, about 100 km from Jyvaskyla, and I guess, about halfway to Helsinki.

The train was superb. Nice like a modern airliner, only a lot more legroom. Dining car, etc. Plus it zipped along at 160 km/hour as quiet as a mouse. We need these things in America!

I'm going to relate more observations about our Finnish friends, and the first is how quiet they really are. All the way down, about 90 minutes, I only heard a couple of whispers. No talking. No cell phone conversations. They just worked or read. I sat and looked out the window at the gorgeous countryside. The train was going too fast to take pictures, but if you've been to the north of Minnesota or Michigan's UP, it is pretty similar, although a little prettier because of the relative freedom from signs of humans. Only a couple of little train depots along the way that look like they came right out of Dr. Zhivago or Fiddler on the Roof. Finally, I arrived at Tampere, and got off with one hour to kill.

Coming out of the station, I saw this billboard for a play called...Beauty and the Beast! Interesting to read it in Finn...

I had to decide which way to go with my hour. Had three choices, and I wanted to find the city center, so I picked this street which looked like a main thoroughfare. Lots of shopping, very clean, as all of Finland is, I guess.

Kept walking up the hill until I found it...the city center! Now this place is more cosmopolitan than Jyvaskyla, and has saved more of its history. I don't know what this place is, but it looked like a city hall or courthouse, because of the clock.

I took this picture of it to remind me...it worked! I took a survey on the way back to the train station, counted 7 analog public clocks on the buildings, and everyone of then worked and had the precise time! That was quite useful to me, since I don't wear a watch, and had to be back at the station in less than an hour. I'll bet that less than 20% of the public analog clocks in America work and are kept on time. Why is that?

But the attraction of the Tampere city center is that it's divided by a deep, fast-flowing river. what its name is, I couldn't determine. But its awful nice to look at.

But what I was really impressed by was the fact that from the bridge over the river, I was looking at a huge power plant, a dam, a brewery, city hall, other nice historical buildings, and a beautiful church. All integrated, nothing about the mix of industrial, historical, and commercial that looked a bit out of place. I'm beginning to think these Finns really know how to do a city.

Here's a picture of the church; sorry, no details, but I'm pretty sure it was 19th century. The building across the street, flying double Finnish flags (at half mast, for some reason, said 1901 on it.

An ice cream place on the square...

Oh, and I almost forgot about the statues! There were four of them on the bridge over the river, three guys and one girl, no writing on them, so I guess everyone knew who they were. I had no clue; I think this guy was a local hero who fell in the river and emerged, carrying his undies around until they dried out.

I stopped in a pub on the corner across from the station, since I had ten minutes left, and 4 Euros burning a hole in my pocket. I held them out to the barkeep, and asked what I could get. He smiled (spoke English!) and gave me a Koff; he said it was the best lager. After a swallow, I wasn't sure if he meant the best lager in the world, in Finland, or in Tampere. It tasted something like a cross between Budweiser and Coors, neither of which I like. Nowhere near a Samuel Adams lager, or a cold Yeungling, but since he was nice enough to talk to me, I didn't want to say so. So I left him with his opinion of his "best lager." Here's what it looked like inside...

I took this last picture because I thought it explained perfectly why socialism works in Finland. See if you can guess what the people are doing...

That's right...they're standing at a stop light, waiting for it to let them cross! The Finns obey these things religiously...even when the road is clear in both directions, they stand there patiently (without talking), listening to the click, click, click, of the signal as it ticks away the seconds until they can cross. I only saw one guy saunter across against the light, and he swaggered defiantly and looked around as he did it, like he was really sticking it to the man. The others on the corner just glared at him, and probably imagined that he had just gotten back from America. Well, when you have people who obey the system so well, socialism works. I don't think it has a chance in America...what crosswalk signal?

Once last story, about the cost (in $$$) of socialism. Everything seems really expensive to me. I stopped at a Finnish version of McDonald's (Hesburger) and ordered what exactly equated to a regular cheeseburger, a small fries, and a medium Coke. Three bucks at McDonald's, right? Here, it was $4.60 E, about seven bucks! The young lady at the counter spoke English real well (this was the train station), and I asked her if prices seemed high to her. She said maybe, but they were used to them, so not really. I then asked her if she could give me an example of what someone's annual salary was in Euros, like a carpenter or a professor. She thought hard, and struggled with the concept, and finally said no, she really didn't know, because nobody in Finland would ever tell you what they earn for a living. So she had no idea. And didn't offer to tell me what she made serving up burgers. (I think she makes more that me, and didn't want to make me feel bad.) It must be a Finnish secret that requires full citizenship to know, because somehow their towns and trains run great, all their infrastructure looks new, nobody lives on the street, and they can pay whatever it takes to produce bioenergy (they are a world leader) without ever a concern about the cost. A lady I was speaking to at the conference desk about some bioenergy details, because she worked for a company that I was interested in, apologized to me for not knowing more about my questions because she had been on maternity leave for three years.

Want to bet that it was paid leave?

Sir Chuck, marveled and mystified by the Finns and their system...

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