The public library: a living room of Turku

As I had mentioned in my post about Zucchini, one of my best Friends was visiting me a couple of weeks ago. Together we took the train to Turku and there we were joined by our Swedish friend (Quite the international group!). We spent 3 days in Turku in total, Saturday morning until Monday evening. This was actually more than enough. I’ve started to become more and more aware of the fact that most of Finland really is, just made for summer visits; a lot of the interesting and fun things are closed down or finished before the end of August. Our stay in Turku, wasn’t unpleasant however. When in a good company, you don’t need a lot to keep away boredom. We spent a lot of our time walking around town, but the cold made us seek refuge wherever we could find it. One of the locations we stumbled up on, was the Turku Library, a place I had been wishing to visit anyway.

The new building in the front and the old library building in the back

You see, I have this obsession with books and anything that has even the smallest thing to do with books. Whenever I get to a new city I try to pay a visit to the library. I’ve visited quite some libraries on my travels because of this. some beautiful, others quite dull. But the one thing that I have seen in almost every library so far, is that unless it’s a super famous library (such as the Trinity College Library in Dublin, which has exhibitions of the Book of Kells and a very old library part called the long room which makes it a huge tourist attraction) the normal libraries in general are usually very quiet.

But not in Turku. Oh no, the Turku library was completely crowded! This was true when we visited on Sunday afternoon, as well as on Monday afternoon (A work day!). Never in my life have I seen a library so full of life and people, it was quite refreshing to see!

Because we entered the building from the café, the first thing we stumbled upon was the new paper hall. Filled with newspapers and tables were people were reading a newspaper, or typing away on their laptop. Quite the surprise! Especially when we found out that it was this crowded everywhere in the library. The Turku library consists of several different rooms and sections. On one side was the old building, with the general/normal library a floor above this was filled by the music and DVD collection(quite extensive!) and literature on music.

On the other side of the newspaper hall were the children’s and young adult books. Which was a lot bigger than any children’s section I’ve ever seen! Most of the books were obviously in Finnish or Swedish, but there was a huge section of books in other languages too, even in Dutch!

Despite usually preferring old looking libraries, the children’s part of the library was definitely my favourite. The library had put a lot of effort into the design and facilities of the children’s area. A Zeppelin hovering above steam-punk styled check-out machinery, a weird Lego like blob in the middle of the area, big windows, a reading pit, big blown up tires that you could sit in, and even small details, like glass tiles on the floor, showing a dolls house, fairy tales or the underground book sorting system where you could see carts with books passing underground. I could really see how this would speak to the imagination of children. Heck, even as an adult I loved walking around and exploring the place!

One of the things that melted my heart was this little girl sitting in one of the blown up tires reading a book out loud to herself. We sat down for a while, not too far away from her and at one point she ran off (on her socks) to get her parents to listen to the story she had been practising on her own.

The little girl reading her book

What I liked so much about this library is that it felt so incredibly welcoming. It was like all the locals had made this library into their living room, Turku’s living room, where anyone could come to work or read, or just relax for a bit. It’s quite an interesting concept, especially since so many people believe books and especially libraries, to be a thing of the past. Turku’s library showed me a way how a library could really become more than just books, it could become a community meeting place. We too, got to experience this feeling and ended up spending a lot more time in the library than originally expected!

My friend and I, reading in the window (A special thanks to Jessie for making this photo =) )

So yeah. This library completely changed my view on libraries and I hope to find more libraries like this across the world. What do you think? Have you ever been to the Turku library or any other library that you found particularly amazing? =)

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Helsinki’s hidden vegetarian restaurant: Zucchini

Photo taken from http://libraloves.blogspot.fi/

Hidden on the Fabianinkatu 4 is Zucchini, a small local vegetarian lunchroom, where there is only 1 meal for everyone, served in an old-school lunchroom style and where strangers eat at shared tables. This was also my first restaurant when coming to Finland, the first, and so far the best. Even though the lunch menu doesn’t offer a lot (either you take the main course with or without the daily soup, or just the soup alone, the menu changes daily) it definitely has a certain charm, eating the very same meal as everyone else around you. On top of that, the restaurant is quite small and popular too, so this means that around noon it gets quite crowded and literally every chair will be taken. Sharing a table with strangers is definitely not something out of the ordinary here. Which amazed me even further; I never visited a restaurant where you shared a table. Picnic tables in the park, sure, but in a restaurant? Nope. To many Finnish people this might sound quite normal, after starting University here I found out that this is also how the lunch at the campus works (but then with 4 different choices instead of just 1). I never experienced anything like this back in the Netherlands, where all we eat during lunch is some slices of bread with something in between (like a slice of cheese or some peanut butter).

Before going to Zucchini I never expected it to be like this, so upon entering the small room, which at that point was quite crowded, we were in for a real surprise(and a bit doubtful too!) But the people behind the counter were incredibly helpful and explained everything clearly. 1 meal: 10 euros: water, bread and butter to your hearts contents, included.

my first meal there(the bread is amazing too)

my first meal there(the bread is amazing too)

After settling at a table, shared with a young couple, we finally got the taste. And what a taste it was! The main meal included 3 different dishes and a salad of some sort, all perfectly attuned to each other. Now I’m not a food expert, nor am I claiming to be one, but the food was delicious and definitely a good price for a restaurant meal in Helsinki!

The two rooms are tiny but very cosy and add even more to the atmosphere of the place. We loved it so much that we actually returned the next day for lunch again. The only downside of the restaurant would be their opening hours; it closes at 3. But it adds to the Finnish culture of eating warm during noon(something I’ve become accustomed to now as well).

Aside from meals they also have some salads, delicious looking pies and cakes that I have yet to try out. Next week, when I’ll be back in Helsinki again with my friend is who visiting from Belgium, I will definitely take her to Zucchini for lunch!

When going there, take a good look at the map, we were walking around for a bit before finally finding it!