My summer in the lake riddled lands of Sweden, Finland and nearby Eastern Europe brought me through five different cities each of which left an inordinately distinct and lasting impression.
I've spent enough time in the countries of Europe to know well to expect such differences country to country, but was almost taken aback and the vastly differing nature of the three Finish cities that I visited. In everything from look to vibe of the places, each was extremely distinct, and had something different to offer.
I did not spend enough time in the port city of Turku on the south west coast of Finland to form a serious and lasting impression of the place. I am sure - as is usually the case with all cities - that beneath its somewhat hard and dark exterior lay all sorts of hidden adventures and things to do. If rooting out such adventures is something you enjoy - then Turku might be just the place for you.
As for me, it was my first stop in the country of Finland - and left me suddenly feeling that - even being still in Europe - I was a long way from Edinburgh.
We took a day long cruise on the Viking Line out of Stockholm to arrive in Turku - leaving behind a golden, gleaming city with a very lively and European feel to land in what first struck me as seeming very Russian.
It is totally possible that the cold and dreary summer day we arrived on had more effect on this city than it should have - but for the briefest of moments I felt as if I was in a very foreign place.
We walked with our bags through a town made of concrete, virtually with out pedestrians towards the bus which would take us north to Tampere. For the first cold and quiet 10 minutes I wanted nothing more than to get out of this city and on to what I had been told was beautiful countryside and nice towns.
We were exhausted after being up all night with the Swedish sun not quite setting through our window and then a long day aboard a ship filled with drinking Swedes and wanted nothing more than a hot meal and to set our bags down. The bus would not be along for a couple of hours, and so in this strange place we looked for a bit of repose. And that was when we found the unlikely and wonderful spot that turned my opinion of the appearance of Turku. A little Irish bar/restaurant sat at a cross roads - looking a little out of place but very welcoming. Inside it was warm and very friendly. (I think it was called The Shamrock.) The waitresses spoke good English and the menu was not only good, but authentic. We each had a pot of Irish stew and listened to local Fin's try to sing Irish folk music live. A really nice farewell.