Before my trip in June 2013 to Finland, I had read that Finland was a very expensive country to visit. A high standard of living and great social care might be amazing for the Finnish people, but it’s paid for by taxes… Taxes that are high compared to what I’m used to in Canada.
With that in mind, I mentally tried to prepare for extremely high prices for dining out. I needn’t have worried. While certainly there are a number if very high-end specialty restaurants, I was also grateful to find a wide variety of affordable positions offering very high value.
One of those options in the beautiful medieval city of Turku is Tintå located along the Aura River.
After a morning of walking with already sore legs (from our previous day’s travel!) we opted for one of the indoor tables, though on a nearly cloudless day only a few days before midsummer, most patrons seemed keener to take a place outside. The restaurant offers cozy seating along the building for people-watching along with ample seating right along the river side to watch boats, birds, and even more people while the water flows past below out into the Turku harbor.
Located not far from the tourist information center (tucked in behind a little park with a sculpture that reminded me of a sauna) Tintå advertised a buffet lunch for only 9.50 Euro at the time of our visit. We added a carafe of water and a glass of Diet Coke to round out the meal. Clearly my non-alcoholic drink choice was in the minority, because almost every patron I saw was enjoying a glass of wine from the very extensive menu.
Although the buffet was compact, there was a lot of selection and variety to choose from, and although I had enough in my first round, it appeared to be acceptable to go back up for seconds. I stuck to a few familiar tastes like fresh produce (tomatoes and cucumbers) and cubed cheddar cheese, while also trying slightly unusual takes on familiar dishes like curry chicken (curry isn’t part if my household… My father was allergic so I never developed a taste for it) and pasta with peppers, red onions, salami, and beef. Rounding off my plate was French bread, cottage cheese, French beans with a peppery kick, marinated mushrooms with zucchini and spinach, along with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. For an extra Euro we could have added soup to our meal, but we couldn’t read the sign (in Finnish) and weren’t enough in the mood for soup to inquire.
Ordering in a foreign tongue
While a lot of the signage in downtown Turku (I didn’t spend much time outside of the central area) is in Finnish, there are also signs in Finnish, Swedish, and English. Most of the people I encountered spoke at least some English; certainly enough that I never felt lost or confused. I’d wager that the average Finn I met speaks better English than I speak French! Where language failed, hand gestures, pictures, and a smile seemed to fill in the blanks.
One interesting thing about the language is that navigating isn’t just in Finnish, but also in Swedish! Since Swedish is Finland’s official second language, most signs are posted in both languages, and even the streets are in both languages – the same street might end in “katu” and “gaten” – the Finish street and the Swedish street. For the most part the prefix is the same or at least similar, so it doesn’t often require a double-check… but sometimes it does! It also means that addresses are often written as “Turku” and sometimes as “Åbo”, the Swedish name for the city.
Not far away…
Is the tourist information office that I mentioned before. This is the place where we picked up a few brochures, a tourist booklet (with rocker Michael Monroe on the cover!) that I used a great deal in planning the day-to-day activities, and where we bought a Turku Card – a discount card that gave entrance to a few different sights, as well as a guided bus tour.
Stay tuned, in a future post, I’ll have some photos of the beautiful Aura River too!
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