Monday, 23 January 2012

A small stroll at Oulu

Oulu, a rare destination for me. Leaving the major shopping area, I take Saaristonkatu street towards the market square by the shore. On a Friday afternoon at this time of the year there are hardly any stalls. Somehow I don't feel like buying ice cream from the trailer parked by the side of the market hall... Where to go next? Should I turn right, past the old, red ochre painted warehouses?
Or choose to go left where the route would take me past the modern houses by the canal? To buy some time, I go straight to Kiikeli island and check out the blue and white signs that stick out of the snow. Siisti ympäristö, mukava olla (free translation: Clean environment, a nice place to be). A friendly way to say "No littering"!

I check out the Oulu city map by the shore. The map suggests a nice walk round the frozen waters, the Oulujoki river delta - about 4,5 km. A great idea but today I prefer to saunter on my own, without a map or a planned route.
OK, let's go right, past the warehouses some of which date at least to the 19th century, perhaps even to 18th century. Restaurant Uleåborg 1881 is proud to operate in one of them and there's no forgetting which year the warehouse was built originally!

On my left, across the water and within easy reach via a footbridge, are the city theatre and main library - grey concrete buildings which are hopefully at least tolerable, if not pleasant, inside. Can't say I admire their architecture from this angle... Straight ahead there is yet another island, Linnansaari on top of which stands a lovely wooden villa. Much nicer! I cross a footbridge and and once at Linnansaari, notice a round sign. Leverkusen? Is this park dedicated to select football teams?
No, Leverkusen (probably best known by its football team) is simply one of Oulu's twin towns, and Linnansaari is a friendship park, dedicated to all of them: Boden (Sweden), Alta (Norway), Leverkusen (Germany), Halle (Germany), Siofok (Hungary), Odessa (Ukraine) and Bursa (Turkey).
The most striking thing about Linnansaari (linna = castle) is the pinkish wooden Tähtitorni house that was built as an observation tower in 1875. It was renovated as a café as early as 1912 and it still serves as one during the summer. And what is there beneath it? The observation tower was built on the ruins of Oulu castle that was destroyed in a fire, followed by the explosion of the gunpowder warehouse in the late 18th century.
I return from Linnansaari via the footbridge and turn right, following the shore to Pokkisenpuisto park. A narrow stream seems to appear from the snow, creating icicles as the water falls down the man-made steps. Plaanaoja, or Kaupunginoja is headed towards Oulujoki river delta.
Rantakatu street offers a lovely view of old wooden houses and I just can't resist them; back towards the market place it is. The brass plate on the wall of the corner of Ojakatu and Rantakatu streets tells me that the bishop's residence and cathedral chapter were moved from Kuopio to this building in 1900. The light blue wooden building (above) was home to editor and writer  Erkki Kivijärvi. There are many more brass plates on old houses in Oulu, but to read them you'd better learn some Finnish!
After examining the old houses I again cross the quiet market place and arrive at the red brick market hall, kauppahalli, which has stood there since 1901.
The interior is made of wood, with a lovely checquered floor. I admit, it's nicer to do your shopping indoors on a cold, windy day. There are lots of things on offer: fresh fish, meat, vegetables, cheese, spices, bread, handicrafts... If only I could buy some fresh whitefish to take home with me!
The fat bloke right in front of the market hall is no ordinary guardian of law and order, but Toripolliisi, or Market Policeman. (Note the spelling: not poliisi but polliisi). He is rather popular with us tourists! If you drop a postcard in a postbox inside the market hall, it will be stamped with his picture. Toripolliisi is also a name of a new restaurant (behind the statue on the left) - very cleverly out of sight of the sturdy policeman.

I leave the waterfront behind and take Kauppurinkatu street towards the city centre, but very soon find myself on the side streets, looking for a cosy café. There seems to be a suitable one at Pakkahuoneenkatu street...
The windows of café Kofeiinikomppania are decorated by cute stickers, nice, but a peek through the glass tells me there is much more inside. Once inside, the selection of teas and coffees is quite impressive.
Teatime! Actually, a bit early for that, but a pot of tea will do just fine. There are so many different kinds to choose from, and when I've narrowed down my choice to two, I get a sniff from the tins. Green tea with sour apple or green tea with vanilla?
The order is placed at the counter but after that you simply choose your seat and soon you are served a pot of freshly brewed tea, timed exactly right and in the right temperature. The white china cup does justice to the tea - you can see the colour so well. The walls of the café are painted in shades of gold and brown and right now there is an art exhibition by local artist Lauri Ahtinen. Soft jazz is playing in the background and an electric samovar is bubbling on the antique sideboard. The bathroom is well worth a visit; it is beautifully lit, including a small chandelier, and you can write or draw a message on the blackboard. Crayons provided. A great idea!
Above the window sill of Kofeiinikomppania, there is more artwork: a long and winding road (to my eye...), made of crocheted shapes in different colours by Irina Kylmänen (2011), but it is really called Kaikki kuut (All Moons).
Time to get off the plush sofa and step back onto the streets of Oulu. After a couple of turns I arrive back at the pedestrian zone and Rotuaari square (a local word for trottoir). The simple stage is surrounded by rusty, star-decorated metal walls but lies there deserted. Right next to it the square is crowded, thanks to the Finnish presidential election 2012: the 8 presidential candidates have their own stalls there, offering a chance for a cup of free coffee, a brochure and a chat with the candidates' volunteer supporters  - or with fellow voters. There's time to think about who to vote for when you're on a walk...


  1. Hi!
    I just discovered your blog, and what a nice surprise!!! You talking about your walk around Oulu!
    I am from Catalonia, and just last July I was doing an internship at Oulu's hospital, so everything you were describing I was able to see it on my mind and also I get to see Oulu snowed throw your pictures. Thank you. What nice memories it brings.

    You even have the house I was living pictures, yes you do. It was the house on the left behind Toripolliisi. I have a question, did you say that there's a new restaurant called Toripolliisi there? The mane of the restaurant is no Matala? Last July it was...

  2. Thanks Aiketa!
    Wow - you've lived in a very nice location.

    The restaurant has indeed changed; I saw the old name Matala on Kauppurinkatu wall but on the door & windows (Rantakatu) you see the current name Toripolliisi. Didn't go in. I heard Toripolliisi restaurant is fairly new.