Dec 5, 2015

A Christmas Carol at Tampere


Hubby and I took the train to Tampere yesterday to see Tampere Theater's production of A Christmas Carol. The weather was awful, but the Christmas lights still managed to look pretty. 


Before the show we had a bowl of soup at Teatteriravintola Kivi, a pub/restaurant with a lot of character. I liked the mismatched chairs and the old dictionaries that decorated the windowsills. 


 We stayed at the Grand Hotel Tammer, a beautiful old hotel built in 1929, designed by architect Bertel Stömmer in the classical style.

The rooms had a small book about the history of the hotel. It was originally built by the Tampereen teknillinen seura (Tampere Technical Society, a society for engineers, I think), because they needed rooms to hold their meetings. In the end a clubhouse of one story turned into a seven floor hotel. There wasn't anything wrong with the hotel, but it was built at an unfortunate time. The Great Depression had the hotel in applying for bankruptcy soon after its opening, but the economy improved in the late 1930s. They were doing quite well until World War II broke out. But the hotel survived that too.

Some of the most interesting stories happened during the war. The shortages made it difficult to run a four star restaurant, and one thing they were short of were potatoes. Despite the shortages, they had a few potatoes stashed for the really important clients, but they couldn't serve them openly, or the other clients would get angry. So they smuggled the potatoes to the client inside a napkin, and then the client just had to eat them without drawing too much attention to himself. The hotel also used the black market. Sometimes an entire pig would be delivered to the hotel by one shady character or another, and if the police happened to be about, the employees would stash the pig inside an unused furnace for the search, and then they'd just pull the carcass out and dust off the soot after the police left.

We had the prohibition here in Finland, too. It was bad for the hotel business, understandably. But people got around the restrictions. You could buy "lemonade" from the Tammer kitchens, and apparently some hustlers made a living writing prescriptions for "medicinal" cognac and selling them to hotels.

The first hotelier, Alexander Adlivankin, was also en interesting character. Russian by birth, he ran luxury hotels in France, from where some of his Finnish clients enticed him to come run the Tammer. Tampere was a centre of industry at the time, and there was a number of businessmen travelling there regularly, so it must have sounded like a good deal. That's how the Tammer got a good deal of its furnishings and silverware. There were swanky parties, elegant lunches, fashion shows, and concerts held at the Tammer during his reign.

Here are a few more pictures:


As you can see, Tammer has a lot of old world charm: crystal chandeliers, the monogram on the carpets, and the wrought iron and glass doors with an art deco feel. Staying here feels like being transported to another age. 


This isn't a very good picture, but you can see the glasswork a bit better in this one. 


A lot of dignitaries have stayed at Tammer along the years. Our room had Sillanpää written on the door, and the one next to ours said Gagarin. Carl Gustav Mannerheim also visited the hotel many times. I wonder if we can get the room he stayed in next time?


                                                       These armchairs were gorgeous. 


                                                                    The dining room. 


                                      There was a gingerbread version of the hotel in the lobby!


                                    Then we headed to Tampereen Teatteri to see A Christmas Carol.

The show was very good, but we had an unfortunate mix-up with the tickets. It turned out ok, but I won't go into it now. it's one of those things that will make a great funny story for cocktail parties (the really embarrassing stuff always does), but I think it'll take a few weeks for it to seem more funny than embarrassing. 


     But all's well that ends with parmesan fries and truffle mayo, right? (And several gin and tonics...)


                                               The cheese plate wasn't bad, either.

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