Norway Artisans offer handmade mittens, socks, caps and scarves, as well as wreaths, lanterns and handdipped candles. At the Christmas Cottage, children line up to meet Mr and Mrs. Claus. Coffee By Candlelight Inside the Brinkkala House is a Christmas café adorned with crystal chandeliers, ornamented tilestoves and candles. Beyond the velvet curtains is the bustling Great Square, guarded by the illuminated Cathedral and a Christmas tree. Sitting on a sheepskin in the courtyard, passersby can enjoy a drink and dessert while watching performances on a small stage. Here, too, are booths selling handicrafts and gingerbread houses. Among the vendors is Hilma Koskimies, 14, who sells elf hats that she has made out of felt. CaStle legendS Turku's castle, built in the late 13th century at the mouth of the River Aura, is one of Finland's favourite tourist destinations. It's also the stage for traditional Christmas celebrations and home to an elf. During the early part of its history, the castle served as an administrative centre for Swedish rulers. In the 16th century, during the age of Duke Johan, it was renovated into a Renaissance-style castle that hosted a luxurious courtly lifestyle. Now, each Christmas, a series of festive tables is displayed in the castle's banquet hall, each representing a different era in its history. The showiest of all is Duke Johan's table. Duke Johan's wife, the Polish princess Catherine Jagellonica, arrived in Turku for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1562. The castle's halls were decked, tables decorated and birch burned by the cubic metre to warm up the stone walls. The duke and duchess were served peacock while the rest of the court had to make do with roast pheasant. An unprecedented novelty at the time was rice-apple porridge with strawberry jam. In addition to taking a look at these historical yuletide table settings, visitors can also enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch buffet in the castle (42 euros), served from December 1417 and 2122. For many, Turku Castle is indelibly linked with author Sakari Topelius's (18181898) fairytale about an old elf, The Tomten in Åbo Castle. The castle offers elfin-themed tours for children: book in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +358 (0)2 262-0322. You may even catch a glimpse of the old Tomten himself if he's in a good mood and you keep your eyes open. "The Tomten is more than 700 years old. He works to keep the castle repaired, but remains invisible, except the times when he turns his hat inside out," says guide Hilkka Kauppinen. aRtiSanal gReetingS At the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum (Vartiovuorenkatu 2, www.museumcentreturku.fi), you can see how cobblers, rope-makers and sailors lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. This densely built area miraculously survived the Great Fire, which levelled nearly the entire city in 1827. According to Luostarinmäki guides, an astronomer in a nearby observatory tower saw the fire approaching and was able to warn the residents so that they could fetch water to battle the blaze. The area was turned into a museum 70 years ago. It includes artisans' homes and workshops where craftspeople carry on age-old trades such as pottery, silversmithing and bookbinding. Candles burn in the windows at Höökarinpuoti. The shop's tables and shelves are lined with old collectibles and items such as anise and peppermint sweets in paper cones, ceramic dishes and whistles, candles and Luostarinmäki tea. Luostarinmäki's book press still operates using traditional technology. Its old machines print gorgeously ornamented text and pictures on cards and paper bags. Luostarinmäki's little boutiques and museum shop also offer handprinted Christmas cards and replica parchments bearing the words of the Declaration of Christmas Peace. Letters can be mailed from an oldfashioned post office and even sealed with wax. During the season, many houses at Luostarinmäki also put on displays of traditionally decorated Christmas tables. Adding to the atmosphere are candles, fragrant fir boughs and traditional straw mobiles known as himmeli. Finnair, a key corporate partner of Turku 2011, flies to the city several times daily. Finland Turku Russia St Peterburg Helsinki o Gulf f Sweden nd Finla Estonia Tallinn Where culture happens In 2011, Turku will hold the title of European Capital of Culture along with Tallinn. The city will host thousands of events, including exhibitions, performances and concerts. The celebration begins in January with a fire show organised by the British group Walk the Plank on the River Aura and its banks. Incorporating acrobatics and pyrotechnics, the show will involve some 2,000 city-dwellers. The Aura is also the site of the Colourscape programme next summer, during which performers will float down the river in gigantic air bubbles. In late August, the city hosts the Tall Ships Regatta, which was held last year in Istanbul, the 2010 Capital of Culture. The Alice in Wonderland show at Logomo, an old railway engineering shop transformed into a culture centre for 2011, will be Finland's largest-ever exhibition of contemporary photography. Exploring questions of reality and fantasy, the exhibit will open on January 15. Browse more events at www.turku2011.fi/en. Culture Capital's information hub and café, 2011 Kulma at Kristiinankatu 1, sells tickets to events, official merchandise and Finnish design items. THE SHARPEST CHOICE Marttiini knives from Finland. Since 1928. SUOMI-FINLAND PUUKKO PUISESSA LAHJALAATIKOSSA (548018W) SVH 120,90 * RUOSTUMATON TERÄ* PROSSIVALUHELAT Suomi-Finland Knife in a wooden gift box (548018W), retail price in Finland 120,90 * Stainless steel * Bronze cast ferrules Marttiini Factory Shops: Aleksanterinkatu 20, Helsinki Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi Vartiokatu 32, Rovaniemi Marttiini Web Shop: www.marttiini. Marttiini Oy PL 8044, 96101 Rovaniemi FINLAND tel. +358 (0)403 110600
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