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An Hour-Long Tour of Rauma, Finland

September 18, 2005












Dear Families and Friends,


I still like the international business world. You know: fine hotels, visits to exotic locations with world-class art, etc. The Cary Grant movie scenes.

Sometimes, reality lags behind.

Our company has a very large project being built on the west coast of Finland and, from time to time, I get to visit for my international business. For the latest trip, that meant leaving the house at Sommersmuehle at about 4:30 in the morning to catch a seven-something flight from Frankfurt to Helsinki. Because I still didn't know how long it takes to reach the airport, I ended up being there with a couple hours to spare. I managed to spend the time in the airline lounge, another overrated fringe-benefit of being a frequent flyer. Of course, I discovered that going into and out of the lounge meant I needed to cross security twice, once when no one was there and I was thinking I was very lucky to be early and then again, when there was a crowd, and I was thinking something else.

The flight itself was fine. My exit row was roomy enough, front-to-back, but side-to-side I shared my row with someone as wide as me, not what I like to do but how can I complain? In Helsinki, a pleasant enough airport, I had another two or three hours to wait for my "Golden Wings" flight to Pori on the west coast. While the airport was pleasant enough, it was way too boring to spend hours in. Oh well, it's all part of international business travel.

Even in Pori, my airport time wasn't finished. The plan was for me to meet my American colleagues who were on the NEXT Golden Wings flight, meaning another two-hour wait. After a couple hours in busy Frankfurt and a couple hours in pleasant-but-boring Helsinki, Pori's airport make them look fascinating. In my two hours, I bought one beer and a dessert at the cafe. I was the only person to buy anything. In fact, I may have been the only person at the airport who wasn't paid to be there. (Actually, I guess even I was paid to be there, otherwise..) Eventually, my buddies arrived, properly jet-lagged, and we grabbed the Hertz car and headed to Rauma, about an hour down the road.

Rauma's not big, maybe 40,000 people, but it manages to confuse tourists enough that we saw half of downtown before we stumbled upon the Best Western Hotel Kalliohovi. The BWHK isn't a five star place. The highlight may have been the bomb-shelter view from my room. In its defense, the BWHK was clean, offered internet connections in each room, provided a generous breakfast, and was operated by friendly folks. But, was it worth $138 per night?

The next day, we had a chance to walk off our breakfast because our morning meeting had been delayed a bit. We used the time to walk through Old Rauma, "one of six medieval towns in Finland", according to the hotel lobby brochure. (How many towns does Finland have of any vintage, I wondered.) The brochure went on to claim Rauma was the "largest area of wooden houses in the Nordic countries". Pretty amazing.

Although this was still September, it was cool and gray and moms were already bundling their kids. The old wooden buildings reminded me of growing up in Seattle and Portland, or maybe it was the gray day and the jackets.

The local dance hall promised "Tangoa" and something called "Humppaa". This must have been a local activity for the cold winters.

On the town square, the small farmer's market was just setting up, in front of the "Brankkori House", originally a volunteer firehouse and now City Hall. I'll bet the firehouse was pretty important in the largest area of wooden houses in the Nordic countries.

Old Rauma borders the Raumanjoki River and is laced with a wandering canal. I'm sure this canal was not always as scenic as it is today, but it did add a certain amount of charm. These three beauties seemed to be enjoying a fresh canal dip, but what were they looking at?

Was the person in the bow throwing them a line?(This scene, by Kerttu Horila, is in fact called "Three Beauties" and, I suppose, there's a message here, about cold water, scary women, or lost boaters.


From here, it was off to work, filled with a new appreciation of international business travel.

John T.


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