Hares cross the road at the traffic light with other pedestrians, and a fox comes to the sandbox in your yard, in the very heart of the city, to play with toys kids left there. This is Tampere, a place which is comfortable for everyone. To the same extent, for city’s residents and visitors, as well as forest tenants comfort means, above all, safety. Having lived in this city for more than three years, I want to share just a few reasons why Tampere is another word for a safe environment.
While traveling, it is priceless to know that if you lose or leave your things somewhere, you are most likely to find them. In Tampere, a phone left on the table at McDonalds may be discovered in three hours, lying on the same place, after a dozen customers sat there. For sure, this does not mean you are free to turn off your common sense. Just be aware that, in case it fails, you are most likely to be taken care of here.
One day, I went to a laundry late at night. I failed to wait till the washing ends and went to bed, having decided to pick up my stuff in the morning — before anyone uses the laundry. Imagine my surprise when at 8 a.m. I found a stack of dried clothes. Someone of my neighbors, who came after me, not only dried and carefully folded my stuff, but also decorated the top of the pile with my €10 note, which was accidentally washed in the pocket, but still valid.
2. Support and Mutual Aid
Judging from their appearance, you may conclude that the Finns are too reserved, even slightly aloof, and protecting their space. Until anyone needs help. Just address them — and they are smiling at you, forgetting that they are in a hurry and giving you explicit instructions until they are sure you got everything right and will definitely gain your destination. Sometimes, their desire to help takes most marvelous forms.
On my very first morning in Tampere I decided to do some cross-country skiing. I went to the forest where I could rent the skies. Having enjoyed kilometers of magnificent lighted ski routes till the darkness, I realized I had no idea what bus to take to get home. Sunday evening, 20 degrees below zero, no people around. Naturally, I ended up taking a wrong one to the opposite direction. What is worse, the bus was doing the last ride of the day.
The driver was unsmiling and looked somehow strict, but after I told this was my first day in the country, he surprisingly offered me a lift home. On the bus. The bus park he was going to was in the same direction.
This is how I became the only passenger of an out-of-service bus, with the lights off. To top off the experience, the driver turned off the radio and started telling about the sights we were passing by: cathedrals, Market Hall, Central Square. It was, in fact, a small private bus tour for one lost foreigner. And also my first touch to the locals, which daily keep proving to be very warm-hearted people.
3. Bicycles and Road Courtesy
Cyclists on a city’s streets is always a good sign. First of all, it witnesses that traffic is designed for people. In Tampere, even in the winter you feel like there’s less cars in the streets than bicycles. The city’s traffic is calm and balanced, while a traffic jam at rush hours is already an event. For former metropolis dwellers like me, it may seem unusual, as a pedestrian, being so much taken care of.
Every day, at the crossroads, we and drivers tip hats to each other. It goes something like this: “You are kindly requested to follow.” “Oh, no. I beg you: please drive along.” “I still do insist that you should first cross the crosswalk.” It starts when I, obeying my old life instinct obtained during my Moscow years, stop near the crossings with no traffic lights letting an approaching car to follow. In 9 of 10 cases, a driver slows down as well, and we both find ourselves near an empty crossing. And the one who does not that stop reduces the speed and gives me a questioning look: “Are you sure? Well, I’m driving along your crossing. Mind your eye, I’m moving.”
Sometimes, I get tired of such predictability and, when a car is approaching, pretend I am not going to cross the road. I even turn aside a bit: let them go, I’ll go after. But there’s not much there. In Tampere, drivers read your mind and stop at the zebra stripes as if to ask: “What if you still want to go?” Well, in such case, you do. A little confused, as being persuaded to use your pedestrian right.
These are not the only things about Tampere that take a foreigner by surprise and provide an enjoyably comfortable experience of the city. Come here, for example, to discover that the forest is situated almost next to the city center! A few minutes of a bus ride -- and you find yourself surrounded by tall spruces, picking up berries or mushrooms, calmly walking along the lake side, skiing or witnessing the northern lights. The forest and the city do not exclude, but compliment each other in an amazingly harmonic way. This is what we call "urban nature". I guess, there is no need to mention the clean air, right?
According to the Global Travel and Tourism Report by the World Economic Forum, Finland is the safest country in the world. www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/safest-countries-in-the-world/