Touko’s letter to Kaija, 17 June 1962

17 June ‘62

“Boa taar” they say here, which means the same as ‘buenas tardes’ in Spanish, or good afternoon.

I made a silly mistake when I was choosing which resort to go to. I kept telling myself that there are loads of Finnish people in Estoril, but it was a case of getting out of the frying pan and into the fire when I came here to Sesimbra. I’m actually staying at the same hotel as package holiday makers from Finland. The girl at the reception was delighted to inform me that there are bunches of my fellow countrymen, and she had very thoughtfully arranged for me to have a room next to them. Well, so far none of them have guessed that I’m from Finland and started to chat with me. I was glad to realise that I haven’t got any clothes made in Finland with me. I don’t mind all the Marimekkos wobbling along the beach, but then one of them runs over me, screaming at the top of his voice: “Goddamn it, the wind took the ball!” And seeing Finnish magazines in the lobby makes me sick.

The service is still exemplary and very quick in the finest restaurants here. But this time I had to sit and wait for a long time. I was patient and let the waiters serve other people. Then a sturdy man at the next table, apparently a local bigwig, called the manager to his table and told him that the gentleman at the next table had already been waiting for a “muito tiempo”, a very long time. Oh my god, things started to happen! I was served in Portuguese and French and English, and I just stayed “cool”, as Finnish people say. It was a nice situation. The food was absolutely wonderful again. After the dinner I had a cup of coffee on the patio. I could hear a Finnish song approaching from the village - ‘and the night was unforgettable’... Their flaxen hair and Marimekko dresses fluttering in the wind, and the gentlemen in their baggy trousers tottering along. I was disgusted and ashamed when I watched the expressions on the other people’s faces. The Finns didn’t notice anything, they are so relaxed and uninhibited. Well, enough of that. They will leave tomorrow, to be replaced by a new, fresh bunch on the same day. Oh, give me strength!

I’ve made trips to the surrounding areas. Sintra at the top of the mountains, north of Lisbon, was absolutely brilliant and authentic, Capo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, was impressive beside the tumultuous Atlantic while Cascais-Estoril-Lisbon is every bit as good as the Riviera. 

My former teacher at Berlitz, Cardoso, finally arrived the day before yesterday. He and his bride drove all the way on his Lambretta scooter.

The cliff rises black from the sea. The locals’ shiny white houses on the hillside are trying to sleep. The full moon reflects on the shoreless ocean, fishermen’s boats float in a big cluster in the bay and the night waves rumble on the sand, as if apologising for not following the beat of the tango coming from a record player. There’s a farewell party for the Finnish guests at the hotel. Every so often some locals perform Portuguese folk dances for the tourists.

Oh, the authenticity! I’ll be in Madrid next week, away from here where the mighty ocean rules. An ocean that makes people wear black… 

Best regards, Touko