Friday, July 22, 2016

Children's City Museum Reopening and the New Helsinki City Museum

As I mentioned earlier I was keen to go back the the Sederholm House Children's Town which closed a few years ago after being open a very short time. It's now called Children's City/ Lasten Kaupunki to match to the new Helsinki City Museum / Helsingin Kaupunkimuseo that has opened in the buildings around it. Though the name change may have been due to my poor Finnish skills earlier on. 

To be honest, not much has changed with the first part of the museum. Here's my previous review done in 2012. The theater / dressing up area and the shop on the ground floor were lots of fun. They have however made the classrooms more interactive now which is a big improvement. Foo loved playing teacher for over an hour while the other kids played with the dollhouse. They could sit at the desks and practice writing and there were lesson books to hand out and lecture from. The books were very old and pretty well abused already, I hope they have a big supply of them. 

The kids also liked the grandma's house which was an homage to the 70s and reminded me of my own grandmother's house. There was lots of food items and dishes to play with in the kitchen and I liked the recipe box and may have snapped a photo or two for inspiration. 

After much goading I finally got the kids to move onto the new Helsinki City Museum. We skipped the Museum of Broken Relationships as the advertisement includes a photo of a jar of contraception; I wanted something a bit happier to talk about. 

A section of the museum was still closed due to water damage when we went in early July but I can't see from the website if it's still closed. The City Museum looks at the city from the 1800s to modern day much like the children's area does. There were some interesting interactive features like the panorama that allowed you to zoom around the city as it used to look, naming the different buildings. We had a bit of fighting over that piece of equipment as it had lots of levers and knobs to twist so I hope it's sturdily built as it will definitely see some hard use. 

The kids also liked the old rotary telephone that you could use to 'call' various people from around the city (nice mix of ages and ethnicities) and hear them tell about the city. I think; it was in Finnish. They struggled sometimes to dial the right number which gave them a taste of the nightmares I still suffer from rotary phones. 

On its own I don't think the City Museum would warrant a return trip from my family, so I'm glad they finally reopened the Children's City as it's a nice change from the Natural History Museum my kids like to frequent. Being right in the city centre and having free entry makes it an attractive diversion while in town. The cafe didn't really have much choice for kids, but there were enough alternatives in the area that we could pop out and come back afterwards. And there's Senatintori for ice cream afterwards, but watch out for the swooping seagulls. 

Hope you're enjoying these last weeks of summer. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Uniquely Technical - The Museum of Technology

We found Tekniikan Museo / The Museum of Technology by default when the Helsinki City Museum was temporarily damaged by 3 days of torrential rain shortly after reopening. I'm eager to go see the City Museum as it contains the Children's Town which our kids loved before, so will hopefully have a review of that soon.

The rain also made our visit to the Technology Museum a bit more exciting as it is built on an island used to house a hydro-electric plant, so there are big waterfalls to watch which were a highlight for the kids because of the flooding.

Part of the museum, which stretches over several buildings on the island, is based around the former power station, so you can see filtration vats, and kids (of all ages) can turn knobs and push levers. There are paper guides for these sections and in some buildings staff who are very helpful. You climb a bridge over the waterfalls and see the water flow below the building.

The main building is totally dedicated to more modern Finnish technology and packs in a lot of information in its permanent exhibitions from coal mining and forestry to more laboratory-based technologies. There was a temporary exhibit on the Finnish elevator manufacturing company Kone which had an old elevator the kids could go up and down in.

My only complaint with the museum is that the permanent exhibits explanations were only in Finnish which meant we could talk briefly to the kids about the various subject but couldn't give them enough detail or info about what was going on. There are guided tours in English available and the temporary exhibits are in English, Swedish and Finnish.

The museum won points with our family as it is currently free of charge due to it being revamped and parts are inaccessible. I hope updating the information boards to include English is part of the revamp, otherwise I could see us coming to the island again only to see the waterfalls, the old power plant buildings and to go to the great Koskenranta restaurant. It had a filling buffet and tons of pannukaku which are like Dutch babies. Foo must have had six servings.

The Museum of Technology was a nice surprise. It's not mentioned much in Helsinki tourist information, so we only found it because I dug a bit to find something new for us to do. Helsinki is full of museums, some small and obscure (the Museum of Hotels and Restaurants for example), others much bigger and totally worth taking the family to. The Tekniikan Museo falls in between. It has an idyllic and interesting setting, some cool machinery and technology to learn about and play with but it is focussed toward the Finnish tourist and tries to fit in almost too many subjects without a real focus. The kids found the main modern technology building a bit overwhelming and didn't really spend much time on the exhibits, not helped by the fact that we couldn't explain so much to them. Thank goodness for the Angry Birds pit.

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