By Yvette Caster, Freelance journalist and podcaster
Tuesday 8 Jan 2019 8:00 am
Moomins will be big news again in 2019 thanks to a TV series starring the voices of Taron Egerton, Rosamund Pike, Kate Winslet, Warwick Davis and Richard Ayoade.
Animated series Moominvalley, set to air in spring, will introduce Tove Jansson to a new generation, although grown up fans like me will be watching too.
For a refresher course in Moomintroll, Snorkmaiden, Moominmamma and Moominpappa, I headed to the Moomin Museum in Tampere, Finland.
Its a lovely place, attracting readers of all ages from across the globe – the Japanese are particular fans.
Moomins have had a place in my heart since childhood – I even named my hamster Little My – and it was fascinating revisiting the characters and books as an adult.
During my museum tour, I discovered that their creator, writer, illustrator and artist Tove Jansson (pronounced Two-vay Yon-son), was groundbreaking in her personal life as well as in her creative capacities.
Although she was briefly engaged to a man in her youth, in 1956, she met a female graphic designer called Tuulikki Pietila – the woman who became her life partner, creative collaborator and muse.
In Finland, homosexuality was a crime until 1971, and considered a sickness until 1981.
The couple lived and travelled together, defying convention even in their later years, when Jansson brought Pietila to the Presidents annual Independence Day reception in 1992, making her the first person to officially attend with a gay partner.
Also fascinating is the way Janssons loved ones inspired her characters – Tuulikki Pietila becomes Too-Ticky in the Moomin books, for example, and her parents, who she was close to, inspired Moominmamma and Moominpappa.
Her books were translated into 250 languages and inspired TV series (including a British version I watched in the 80s and a Japanese one, which may in part explain her popularity there).
Jansson also answered letters from fans herself by hand – no mean feat considering the fact she received about 2,000 a year – writing them personalised answers all her life.
Of course you dont need to be interested in any of this to appreciate the museum – just a love of the Moomins themselves.
You cant miss the pale blue building – its got Moomintroll on it – and highlights include the intricate models of scenes from the books created by Pietila, seeing the evolution of Janssons illustrations and the cute Moomintroll statue outside.
A model of the characters home, The Moominhouse, built by Jansson, Pietila and Pentti Eistola in the late 1970s, draws crowds, while I was a big fan of the Moomin-themed menu in the museum cafe, which included courses inspired by the books – salmon soup, pork with spruce tip sauce and quark pancakes with jam and cream.
And for every Moomin fan, its somewhere not to be missed.
Other fun stuff to see and do while you're in Tampere:
Visit Tampere Cathedral
Opened in 1907, the artwork inside this still raises eyebrows. Hugo Simbergs fresco features 12 naked boys, symbolising the apostles.
You can also see a version of his best-known piece, The Wounded Angel, as well as The Garden Of Death.
The art in the chancel is also striking – Magnus Enckells Resurrection – with more nudity, although, funnily enough, the ladies are completely covered.
Its free entry, open from 11am-3pm in winter.
Live the sauna life
One highlight of my trip was completing the circuit at Kaupinoja Sauna – jumping in a freezing cold lake, sweating in the sauna, then jumping in the lake again.
A guide from Adventure Apes showed me round and lent me a sauna hat (the hotter you get the better).
Their Guided Sauna And Swimming Tour, which lasts two and a half hours and includes transport, costs from £43.
Take in the views
Pyynikki Observation Tower And Cafe is a must for its forest views at the top and delicious cardamom donuts below.
It costs £2 to go up and is open from 9am to 8pm.
Dine in style
Serious Moomin stans can eat at Tiiliholvi, the Tampere restaurant in which Jansson once celebrated.
Owner Saara Sinivuori described her as independent and attractive to all people.
The cellar restaurant serves fine foods including Finnish delicacies such as pea soup, perch and pork belly.
Where to stay in Tampere and how to get there:
I stayed at Lapland Hotels Tampere, about 10 minutes walk from the train station and a few minutes from the Moomin Museum.
The rooms are compact but comfortable and the buffet breakfast had a huge range of options, from a familiar cooked breakfast to Finnish porridge and berries.
The foyer, which is also the lounge and dining area, was dark and hip, with antlers aplenty.
Rooms cost from £100 per night.
I flew from London Heathrow to Helsinki with Finnair – flights take about three hours and cost from £91.
To then get to Tampere I travelled by train via Tikkurila with VR trains.
Tickets cost from about £9. The journey was straight forward and included my first trip on a double decker train.
Tickets to The Moomin Museum cost about £11, and the Moomin Menu lunch costs £35.
Its open from 9am to 7pm, Tuesdays to Fridays, and from 11am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. There are free guided tours in English every 3pm on weekends.
Where to stay in London before you fly:
I stayed at De Vere Selsdon Estate in Croydon the night before, which dates back to 861AD and sits in 200 acres of parkland.
Its grand aesthetic makes it a popular wedding venue, and its also a hit with dog-lovers – mutts are given luxury dog beds, bowls and treats while their owners dine in the 1042 restaurant.
The hotels recent refurbishment meant everything was shiny and new in my room, but it still had a cosy atmosphere.
Best of all were the staff, who were extremely welcoming and accommodating.
A night at De Vere Selsdon Estate costs from £72.09 when you join De Veres free membership scheme, Applause, which offers members 10% off stays, late check out and £5 off food and drink across their properties.
The quickest way to Heathrow is by car, which takes about 45 minutes.
(Top image: Laura Vanzo / Visit Tampere)