Some people are surprised (and even my friends think it’s “funny,” in the odd sense) that I can travel alone yet am often prevented from entering shops and other public places by my own shyness.
What can I say? It also happens on the road—which is partially the reason why there are sometimes more pictures than there really should be from a mere three-day trip. That is, my mind is whirring, and I’m too nervous, and I get too nervous about possible perspiration, so I just walk, walk, walk.
The next morning in Tampere, I surveyed the market crowd at Laukontori for a good while before finally giving myself a good mental slap and succumbing to my hunger. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.
Most of the afternoon was spent wandering around Pispala, a picturesque neighborhood overlooking both of the city’s lakes, the Näsijärvi and the Pyhäjärvi. Now, when I say “wandering,” I really do mean it. Although I caved and bought a Lonely Planet guide, the map only covered downtown Tampere; I hadn’t thought to pick up additional information at the tourist information office, either. This oversight, of course, led me to inadvertently graze the foot of the Pynnikki Ridge.
As I was so clearly not decked out for hiking and had an altogether different destination, I stuck to the main road. For the next half-hour, I saw no pedestrians—just a few cyclists and a handful of cars, zipping their way to and from the park. I felt a little silly with my bag’s handles digging into my shoulder, my heels aching (I had only packed one pair of flats—tsk!, tsk!), and my stomach churning, but between the trees and houses on the other side, I could catch snatches of the Pyhäjärvi.
Somehow I’d made it to the library at Hirvikatu, and up the street, a convenience store. I bought an apple, water, and a candy bar.
Later, I found out it was rum-flavored
Across the street from the library is Hirvitalo, “a non-profit cultural space” that hosts exhibits, talks, and other events fostering community dialogue. I think I may have found out about it by googling “Pispala + art” or something to that effect. In any case—and at the risk of romanticizing such initiatives which may harbor problematic aspects and despite the fact that I’m a quasi-anti-social hermit really only experiencing them from a “consumer’s” point of view—I really enjoy encountering places like Hirvitalo on my travels. I like to see how people interact with their environment and (most boring cliché no. 543) make their corner of the world a little brighter, outside/alongside larger institutions.
When I got to Hirvitalo, I spotted some people relaxing in the yard, which is why I headed to the convenience store first. Then slowly, I made way back, studying the community board with Finnish listings only, then shyly, very shyly, painfully, asking the people in the yard if I could go inside.
The scene was very familiar. It reminded me of the group house out of which Food Not Bombs in Denver used to operate: well-loved furniture, a disused chimney, zines and “alternative” literature galore. The current exhibit was a “rock exchange”; you could take one rock from Pispala by depositing one from somewhere else.
From there, I walked up some steps and was duly rewarded.
I’ve never in my life so slowly savored an apple
I should’ve brought something to read, but it was just as well. My mind, as well as my feet, deserved a break. I gazed into the clouds, wondered what Pispala was like in winter, how people coped during bad weather, and who liked to look out at the lake when they ate breakfast or had an afternoon snack, if they had it.
It must’ve been around 5 or so when I decided to try to find Rajaportti sauna, the oldest public one in the country. I’d brought my towel and was keen on checking it out. Again, I wandered around the immediate area of the small park before finally heading down the other side of Pispala and came across the shot tower, another local landmark.
As you may have guessed, it took me another hour or so of deliberation before chickening out of the sauna experience. All that walking … for naught. Of course, the quick bus ride back into downtown made me realize that I had gone the long away up to Pispala! A treat at Kahvila Runo helped me simmer down.