Shopping Therapy in Tuuri, Finland
By Hans Egefalk
In central Finland, just east of the town of Alavus, in between Vasa at the coast and Jyväskylä inland, sits the tiny village of Tuuri where a giant department store, Kyläkauppa Veljekset Keskinen, is carved out of the Finnish spruce forest. As I approached it from the west on a blisteringly hot summer day—the poor pines were sweltering in record-setting 90° F (32° C) heat—that mall seemed a desert mirage, unexpected and a bit Las Vegas-y.
The mall’s long yellow wall is crowned by oversize towers and countless small windows. An occasional human face looks out over the parking lot from the windows since a hotel is built into this western façade.
If you enter Finland’s largest shopping mall from the other end, the east, it might be mistaken for just another one of this country’s traditional outdoor heritage museums. It’s bigger, but the same style. Dotting the Finnish countryside are traditional red log cabins or wooden houses with the wood vertically, nailed on top of often old horizontal log cabins. This entrance to the mall looks like one of these farmhouses. It’s over-sized yet compared to the other side this mall entrance is subdued, quiet, with a few wooden sculptures between the doors. A giant carved wooden bear watches over you.
The newest entrance is on the northeast side. This gilded and blue façade seems to have arrived on a flying carpet; the Arabian Nights theme feels misplaced in the spruce forest, yet this is how I entered the shopping Mecca. Step through the doors and the theme continues with a painted cloud-dotted sky on the vaulted ceiling and a unicorn watching over the Lucky Shoe, Onnen Kenkä, a golden unicorn shoe. (“Tuuri” means “luck.”)
Yes, gilded columns under floating clouds painted on the sky: This mall feels like a theme park.
By the red farmhouse entrance there’s an old stone house, a low stone barn sitting next to the farmhouse. Inside is a restaurant that serves a big buffet for hungry shoppers. The Onnen Kiri €9.80 ($12) buffet is served in what looks like a subdued stone house like a cellar somewhere in the labyrinths of Finnish history. It’s a nice architectural design trick to make you relax, slow down, eat a lot, stock up on energy, and then be able to attack the enormous department store again. Or some of the other shopping areas that have sprung up like gold mining camps around the main shopping mall. There’s even an amusement park attached to the mall with a giant Ferris wheel that towers over the forest.
Shopping is a necessity when there’s something you need, but it can also be a hobby, an interest, a source of happiness (however fleeting). Here, the philosophy seems to be that the stranger and more eye-catching the building exterior and interior is, the more you’ll be tempted to spend your time and money. Here you can forget that the outside sweltering heat close to the Arctic Circle might be the result of a world gone shopping mad, maybe even changing the climate in the process. For now, though, we can expect that come winter the shopping mall Kyläkauppa Veljekset Keskinen, which in English is called VillageShop, will be covered in several feet of cold Finnish snow.
This VillageShop is quite a place, Finland’s largest shopping mall in a village of just 500 people!
I walked, gawked and didn’t buy anything other than food. I recommend the ice cream.
Kyläkauppa Veljekset Keskinen (Finnish)
The VillageShop (English)
Visit Finland (English)
– Photos by Hans Egefalk
To reach the department store, Hans drove north from his home in Sweden, took the ferry from Umeå in Sweden across the Baltic Sea at a narrow spot, to Vasa (or Vaasa) in Finland and then continued his drive to Tuuri. He journeyed at his own expense, discovered the mall on his own, and chose to share his discovery with readers of Getaways for Grownups.
Editor’s Note: Finland does have some great shopping! When in Helsinki don’t miss Stockmann department store.