I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release and the exhibition at the Southbank Centre. What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being edgy with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life.
When I discovered that there was a theme park called Moomin World, I knew that I had to go, even if it was in some obscure town in Finland. Luckily enough I have an understanding and some would say long- suffering wife who understands (read: puts up with) my flights of fancy and so we decided to visit Finland, catch up with an old friend (as in a real friend, not some homily for something more untangible like 'time' or friendship') and travel to Moomin World.
When organising the trip I read the reviews and noticed that many had complained about the price and size of the park, so I had my reservations but I remained optimistic nonetheless and decided to visit with an open mind.
So how was it? Well, in a nutshell... I loved it. This was not a foregone conclusion as many would assumes due to my alleged sunny 'glass half full' disposition and my Moomin fanboy-ism, but rather a viewpoint reached on balance of my personal experience and that of my 2 year old daughter, the primary audience for this theme park.
To get to the park my wife, daughter and I walked around the coastal path from Naantali, a picturesque town with stunning views of the sea. To reach Moomin World you have to cross a long bridge over to Vaski island where the theme park is located. The bridge was beautiful and on either side elegant boats were moored, gently bobbing upon the wave in the glorious sunshine. As an introduction this sight certainly presented an air of wonder as many Moomin stories are centred around the sea and a love of nature.
Once over the bridge we followed an old gravel path through the woods for about 50 metres and came to the entrance, a small wired gate with the Moomin World banner. We waited a few minutes and entered, paying our 28 Euro fee each, children are charged at the same rate so for our party it cost 84 Euros in total, that's a lot!
Upon entering the park the thing to note were the quirky buildings and lots of shops, lots and lots of shops and stalls where you could win prizes, however at 4 Euros a pop I didn't play any of the games!
My family and I headed straight to the highlight of the park, the Moomin House. We were near the front of the line and and due to our brisk walking pace were the first to meet Moomin Papa, who waved at us and kindly took a picture. Also walking around were Moomin Mama, Moomintroll, Little My and the Fillijonk. We got pictures with all of them and my daughter, who was initially frightened started to enjoy herself.
A little while later the whole Moomin family, Little My and the Fillijonk performed a little play and danced. My daughter joined in with the clapping and boogieing, unaware that they were speaking in a different language, Finnish.
The characters then walked around and met people, taking pictures and also performing an interactive performance piece where Stinky, the resident Moomin Valley bad boy, stole the Fillijonk's bag. My daughter was really invested and we followed the story around the area. She found Stinky fascinating yet scary too, every time I went close to take a picture with him she started to cry but if we moved away to another part of the park she insisted on seeing Stinky. Kids!
We entered the Moomin house and saw the living room and bed rooms. The whole thing was wonderfully realised and as a fan of the comics, seemed quite accurate to the feel and look of the world.
We then left the house and went on a little trek to see the bathing hut and Edvard the Booble. My daughter loved that and was really excited, calling him a dinosaur. He bobbed on the waves and seemed quite happy moving with the current.
Moomin Papa's boat was nearby and it was a climbing frame with a circular water channel built in that contained boats you could race. My daughter and I spent about 30 minutes here just racing them around and she was ecstatic, pouring out the water from the boats as they filled up on their journey around the circuit and floating them again.
With the time approaching midday we went for lunch at Moomin Mama's Kitchen restaurant. At 3 Euros 50 the children's buffet was excellent value and included free drink refills. My daughter had mash potatoes, sauteed carrots, grilled chicken and meatballs and scoffed it all up. I'd read reviews which had slated the food but it was typical theme park fare, quick and easy food at a fair price.
After lunch we did the Fairy-tale Trail where we crept past the Witches and Alice's house, entered the labyrinth, adventured into the cave of the Hattifatteners, bravely went into the Groke's house and then climbed the mountain and walked across the suspension bridge. We met Thingummy and Bob and the people playing them were so cute and spoke a sweet nonsense language.
My daughter loved the whole experience and didn't want to leave but at over 3 hours my wife and I felt like or was time to go as it was nap time.
So was the money we paid for the 3 hours there worth it? Undoubtedly! If my daughter had her way we would have stayed all day. As an adult I can see why some people may not think it was worth while, people expecting a theme park with rides and fireworks will be disappointed but for those willing to engage with the performers and play in the different settings it is definitely worth your time. Some of the areas are looking a bit tired and could use a lick of paint but for somewhere that is susceptable to extremes in weather like Finland this is to be expected.
Do yourself a favour, if you have a chance to visit Moomin World, do but don't necessarily go out of your way to visit Finland especially for it as it's great but not THAT great!