Culture Walk 5: The Hills of Samppalinna and Vartiovuori
Culture Walk 5
1. The Paavo Nurmi Statue
Paavo Nurmi, the all time greatest Finnish Olympian, is a subject of great pride for the people of Turku. Due to his success, Nurmi is rightly described as the most famous person from Turku. During his long running career (1920-1934) Nurmi won nine Olympic gold medals across the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympics. Every year the sporting events of the Paavo Nurmi Marathon and the Paavo Nurmi Games are arranged in Turku. The athletics stadium in the Turku sports park is also named after the legendary runner.
The statue of the bounding Nurmi is one of the best-known works of Finnish sculptor Wäinö Aaltonen. The original, completed in 1925, is housed in the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, with its copy, unveiled in 1955, located close to the river in Turku. The statue played a dual role both as ambassador for the image of Finnish sport, as well as the symbol for an independent Finland.
- Top Tip: Pose with Paavo and imitate his posture. Paavo’s movement was always initiated at the pelvis!
2. Vartiovuori Hill
The park of Vartiovuori (‘Guard Hill’) is one of the oldest and most scenically admired parks in Finland. It was developed as a park in the mid-19th century. For over a hundred years it has had an important role during student Vappu celebrations, with students gathering on the hill to have picnic on Vappu day. The park is a popular place for picnics and games, and it’s especially popular amongst young families with children. In addition, situated on the hill is a traditional summer theatre.
The hill was one of the first islands rising from the sea in the Turku area. Historically, its name originated from its role as a guard post. Along the passageways of Vartiokuja and Teinikuja, which lead up to the top of the hill, you can see metallic information boards that explain prehistoric changes from the sea level.
- Top Tip: Walk to the top of the hill to observe the beautiful views over Turku!
3. Samppalinna Hill
Nowadays the park of Samppalinna is renowned for its vantage point, its romantic restaurant and for its outdoor swimming pool. The area also has a deep historical significance, revealed in some of the place names. For example, next to Kaskenkatu is a stairs leading up to the Samppalinna Park. The stairs are called Mustainveljesten portaat (‘Stairs of the Dark Brothers’), so named after the dark clothing worn by the Dominican Monks. The Dominicans came to Turku in the 13th Century, founding the Monastery of St Olaf in 1249. The monastic order influenced Turku for nearly 300 years and still today a nearby park is named Olavi’s Park.
Stairs connect the park oasis of Samppalinna to the traditional pub culture found along Kaskenkatu Street. From the top of the stairs you can admire the beautiful view toward the city centre of Turku.
- Top Tip: Have a drink in one of the most traditional pubs in Turku, located on the hillside of Kaskenmäki.