As a small, TV-obsessed boy growing up in 80’s Britain I had a strong recollection of a children’s cartoon about these weird and wonderful creatures living in a magical land, where adventure was always just around the corner. There was a spark of deep appeal about the Moomin stories and I can only speculate about what, as a child, really held my fascination in these shows. Looking back I can see that they were calm and gentle – in stark contrast to the more frenetic action cartoons that were my regular diet. I also recall a sense of longing for an environment where forests, mountains, islands and lakes were not only on my doorstep but also an extension of my home. That desire to be somewhere safe to explore being a child and where nature was simply the best playground.
Fast-forward 30 years and that magical world is now where I live. I even married a Moomin (so to speak)! Many local young people in Turku and Naantali have the opportunity to work as the characters of Moominworld during the summer and my wife was no exception. Actually, it is the people who play the roles of the wonderful characters of Moomin Valley who are the real stars of Moominworld. It’s important to understand that it is not a conventional theme park in the sense that it seeks to thrill visitors with impressive structures, exciting rides or acrobatic performances. Moominworld is about giving colour to our imaginations but not blocking the engine of creativity!
Moominworld is, and always should be about the stories of Moomin Valley– the wonderful books written by Tove Jansson, the lasting appeal of which enthrall as many grown ups as they do children. I rejoice in the fact that my children are still of an age where Moominworld’s attraction is at its peak. At 3 and 5 years they are old enough to engage with all the characters and activities without being intimidated, but young enough that their imagination really feeds off what they see.
This summer we were able to spend a beautiful day at the park where we really sucked the marrow from our experience. My daughter, who is three, spent most of the time trying to get the attention of the costumed characters, hugging Moomin Mamma and then pulling on Sniff’s tail (sorry Sniff). At the age of five, my son was exploring everywhere, down to the bathing hut and the beach, along the Hattifatteners trail to where the Witch was brewing up a potion and then around the other side of the island to listen to a story at Snufkin’s camp. The characters regularly gather outside of the tall, blue Moomin house to have a good sing-along and the detail that has been put into the interior is superb!
The aspect I enjoyed the most about the park was the live theatre performances. Outdoor summer theatre is a popular pastime in Finland and a key attraction of the park is the partnership that exists with Theatre Emma. Within the park is a large covered auditorium that means several live plays are performed during each day. What was fantastic to see was that my children were just as impressed as I was, asking as soon as the show was finished when we needed to come back for the next one. The young performers are all budding actors so there is real quality and energy in the presentations. Because each performance is not too long they also leave plenty of opportunity for parents to still fill in the blanks by reading the stories when they get home.
Outside of Moomin Valley there are many other attractions worth mentioning that help make this an essential day trip for any visitor. For slightly older children there is Väski Island, a real outdoor adventure experience with archery, climbing, zip lines, rope bridges and campfires. Then for adults you are right on the doorstep of one of the most beautiful spots in Finland – the town of Naantali. There is so much I can say about Naantali that I will definitely be writing a dedicated blog about it next summer, but for now just go to the website and check it out!
Moominworld brings to life the stories of Moomin Valley in the spirit in which they are meant to be experienced. The special place they occupy in the hearts of every Finn, young and old, give visitors the chance to understand the culture and personality of this country in an unparalleled way.