Pispala – piece by piece

Article and photos by Mikko Reinikka, English translation Sini Kaukonen

Photo Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo

No matter where I am travelling, I believe the best way to get to know a city is by walking. I usually choose a destination that's 4-6 kilometers away and start walking towards it. Along the way, I encounter all kinds of interesting things: parks, views, architecture, museums, restaurants, and local people. At the destination, I usually enjoy a lunch or other refreshments, and then walk back a slightly different route, taking different side streets. In a couple of days, it is possible to scan any city to the bottom of your shoes if you choose a different direction every day. If you decide to take the subway, you see nothing along the way.

By foot to Pispala

Tampere is the perfect size to get around on foot. The city is located between two lakes, and on a walk towards Pispala you get a chance to admire the scenery of both Lake Pyhäjärvi and Lake Näsijärvi. It's a good idea to start the walk to Pispala from the southern end of Hämeenpuisto Park, walking via the parks and ridge of Pyynikki towards Pispala ridge, admiring the views of Lake Pyhäjärvi along the way.

The name ”Pispala” comes from the House of Pispa, completed in 1840. The house was obligated to offer lodgings to bishops who were travelling in the area. Pispala was part of Pirkkala for a long time, and was not joined to Tampere until 1937. There was no city plan in Pispala, so the houses were built on the hillside in a disorderly manner, which makes this part of town a unique sight to see. The actual city plan was approved in 1947.

Many of the houses in Pispala were built on the hillside in a disorderly manner without a city plan.

Café Pispala

A good destination for a day's walk in Pispala is Café Pispala or Pispalan Pulteri. Both are less than 4 kilometers away from Tampere city center. After cooking around the world for decades, Vesa Leppälä opened Café Pispala with his wife Yvonne in the summer of 2014. Leppälä has been cooking in, for example, Boston, Switzerland, Mexico, Maui and San Diego. The restaurant is located in an idyllic wooden house, and serves food influenced by foreign cuisines in a relaxed atmosphere. The brunch served on weekends is particularly popular. Pispankatu 30, www.ohanarestaurants.com

Pispalan Pulteri

A much older restaurant, Pispalan Pulteri, was opened on September 9th 1968, and was at first a neighbourhood restaurant owned by Alko. ”Pulteri” means paving stone, which were used in street fights in Pispala, thrown by hand or with slingshots. Pispalan Pulteri is a place where legends were born, where they lived, and where they were brought on their way to the graveyard. The funeral procession carrying the body of Matti Pellonpää from Vaasa to Helsinki stopped at Pispalan Pulteri when Aki and Mika Kaurismäki went in for a drink to commemorate the deceased in the July of 1995. Pispalan valtatie 23, www.pispalanpulteri.fi

Pispalan Pulteri is one of the oldest restaurants still operating in Tampere.

Rajaportti sauna

The sauna at Rajaportti is the oldest public sauna still operating in Finland. Today, the sauna is owned by the City of Tampere, and run by The Pispala Sauna Association. The border of Tampere and Pirkkala was located at Rajaportti, and people started to settle in the area at the end of the 19th century. A shopkeeper couple, Hermanni and Maria Lahtinen, founded a store at Rajaportti in 1900, and began to heat the wooden sauna in the corner of the property for their neighbours, and, gradually, for a wider audience. A stone sauna was built in 1906, at which point a water pipe had already been installed on the property. The sauna was called Lahtinen's sauna.

Siviä Reinikka, the father's mother of the reporter of this article, lived in Pispalanharju 10, and worked at Rajaportti sauna as a washer lady in the 1960s. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, the reporter spent his childhood summers in the care of his grandmother in Pispala, and became familiar with the sauna. There was a great view from the top of Pispala ridge to the worksite where  Näsinneula tower was being built. From his grandmother's window, the reporter could see how the flagpole that was supposed to be installed at the top of Näsinneula fell down from a helicopter. Rajaportti sauna, Pispalan valtatie 9, www.rajaportinsauna.fi.

The old boundary marker between Pirkkala and Tampere was left in its place as a memorial.

Pub Kujakolli

Continuing the walk from Pispala ridge towards Lake Pyhäjärvi, down the stairs of Pispala, you come to the part of town called Tahmela. On the lower part of the hillside, there is an idyllic neighbourhood pub called Kujakolli, which also hosts live music events. Even people from outside Tampere feel welcome among the talkative pub regulars. Tahmelan viertotie 2, www.kujakolli.fi.

Through Pispala log floating tunnel to Lake Näsijärvi

A great place to turn back towards the city centre after taking a walk in Pispala is Pispala's log floating tunnel. Through the tunnel, it is possible to walk under Pispala ridge from Hyhky straight to Lake Näsijärvi. You can take the footpath that goes along the lake, walk back to the city centre and stop by Näsinneula tower to admire the scenery from above.

The log floating tunnel was completed in 1968, and its purpose was to transport logs from Lake Näsijärvi to Lake Pyhäjärvi. However, the tunnel was never put to use, and was therefore called hukkaputki (”a wasted pipe”) for decades.

Through harbour master Matti Joki's initiative, the tunnel was finally brought into use in 2013, to tow small boats on a trailer from one lake to the other. At the same time, a new walking route leading underneath the ridge was opened. At the Lake Näsijärvi end of the tunnel is a café called Uittotunnelin Kahvila, where you can enjoy, for example, crêpes cooked on an iron griddle pan.

Getting from one lake to the other through the log floating tunnel. In the upper picture, the mouth of the tunnel in Hyhky. Photo Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo.

Other sights in the area

  • Lauri Viita Museum, Portaanpää 8, www.lauriviitamuseo.fi
  • Pyynikki Summer Theatre, Jalkasaarentie 3, www.pyynikinkesateatteri.fi
  • Pyynikki Observation Tower, Näkötornintie 20, www.munkkikahvila.net
  • Tahmela Villa, Uramonkatu 9, https://m.facebook.com/tahmelanhuvila/
  • Tahmela beach, Tahmelankatu 25, www.tampere.fi
  • Art Store and Gallery Art Pispala, Pispalan valtatie 13, www.artpispala.fi