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Taking It Easy in Turku, Finland

Our last stop in this summer’s extended travels was Turku, Finland’s oldest city and original capital, a two-hour drive west of Helsinki, and the gateway to the Finnish Archipelago with over 40,000 islands and islets dotted throughout this edge of the Baltic Sea. At this point in the trip we accurately predicted we’d be feeling pretty exhausted and tired of touring (and eager to get back to a regular school/childcare routine), so we planned to spend a few days in Turku to slow down, be in nature, and recalibrate before heading back to Valencia.

We purposefully selected an Airbnb which provided comfortable outdoor lounge space as well as family bikes with a child carrier in order to explore the small city of Turku by cycle. The Aura River flows along the center of the city so on a day with decent weather it’s quite picturesque to bike along the paths lining the entire river canal on both sides. Unfortunately we only had one such sunny day (it rained the other two days) so we took full advantage of being on the bikes when we could.

That same solo day of good weather, we took an afternoon boat ride to Vepsa in order to view more of the archipelago islands. Being at the tail end of the tourist season in Finland, we had the boat to ourselves on the way there. It was a really pretty ride, reminding us of the landscape and features of coastal Maine in some respects (though not as rocky or hilly on the coasts).

Similar to the Airbnb experience in Sigulda, Latvia, we had an opportunity to get to know our hosts, Janna and Matti, because they resided in the adjacent property, their family home. We laughed about the coincidence that we were all attorneys, including their brother and sister-in-law who happened to be visiting to pick the last of the wild berries growing on bushes in their backyard. Our hosts had kindly offered to babysit Jacob for an evening so that we could go out to dinner, so we decided to try Georgian food (the country, not the state!) for the first time at Restaurant Rioni @ravintolarioni. We had a very tasty meal there, trying the staple cheese bread, spicy beef dumplings, eggplant and walnut paste rolls, and a chicken, vegetable, and walnut paste stew. Until we make it to Georgia to visit, this was a great substitute.

We’ve only had a small taste of the natural beauty in Finland and look forward to return on another trip to explore more of the country. We didn’t have enough time to make the long journey to the northernmost region of Lapland for the Northern Lights … maybe next year.

Finally, a few overall reflections from this two-month extended summer travel:
β€’ It was fun and exciting but at the same time, more exhausting from a parenting perspective. Longer days, less routine, and no regular childcare took a toll on all of us after eight weeks.
β€’ The minimal socialization with children who speak a common language, despite visiting playgrounds and kid-friendly attractions on a daily basis, was tough on Jacob and we underestimated some of the impacts.
β€’ It’s invigorating to introduce Jacob to new places, cultures, experiences, and flavors, nurture a passion for travel and adventure from an early age, and hopefully foster a sense of curiosity, independence, and adaptability.
β€’ There were some days where we wondered why we didn’t just go back to an all-inclusive resort with a kids club πŸ˜†. But as much as we do love those spots, we’ll always be drawn to sightseeing in cities and destinations with a mix of history, nature, and cultural attractions as we did on this memorable family trip through Poland, the three Baltic States, and Finland.