October 23, 2008 / 2:41 PM / 10 years ago

Bank, chemist, lavatory: It's a Finnish pub crawl

TURKU, Finland (Reuters Life!) - What do a bank, an old public lavatory, a school and a pharmacy have in common? Well if you’re in the western Finnish town of Turku, they’ll be the top destinations for a night out.

A tram which has been converted into a rolling pub combines sightseeing with a night on the town in Helsinki October 8, 2008. REUTERS/Agnieszka Flak

More than 10 years ago, pub owners in Turku converted an old bank, a pharmacy and even a school to put some humor into a heavy night out.

But the jewel in the crown of Turku’s kooky pub craze has to be the “puutorin vessa” or toilet pub opened by radio producer Markku Heikkila.

“We first thought that we would just take the name and create a usual pub, but then we decided that it is the humor that sells, so we decided to incorporate the theme into everything — from the drinks to the tools used,” Heikkila said.

Housed in a round-shaped public toilet in one of the town’s main squares, the 75-year-old building has been refurbished and cleaned to welcome visitors into a small and cozy atmosphere.

Toilet seats hang from the ceiling and other restroom items are scattered around the pub.

“People from different cultures react to it so differently. Germans are loud, laugh about it, and talking about toilets is so normal for them, but for others, it’s such a taboo,” said Heikkila who gave up running the pub a few years ago.

“People who have not seen this, think the idea is disgusting, but once they come in, they realize that it’s clean and that the service is good ... and that they are really having a coffee or beer in a toilet,” he said.

“The last drop,” “Prostate” or the “Golden Shower” are some of the names the owners have come up with. Those who dare, can even have schnapps from a statue that appears to be urinating.

The other themed pubs say they help promote business and attract crowds, both locals and tourists.

“Everyday we have someone come in who says that 20 years ago he or she was a student here,” said Mika Lattu, the manager of the school pub.

The building dates back to the 1880s with various rooms to house weddings and birthday parties. In the bank, the pub’s most valid currency is the selection of its 150 brands of beer, securely tucked away in a vault behind iron gates.

At the pharmacy, customers can choose their medicine from the many on display along its wooden shelves.

The people who work in the pubs say they haven’t thought twice about their unusual themes.

“Weird? Maybe that’s how we Finns are,” Titus Virtanen, a waiter at the pharmacy pub said.

The idea has been so successful it has spread to the country’s capital of Helsinki where one pub is now run from aboard an old tram.

British tourist Amanda Fox said the pub-tram was the perfect way to combine sightseeing with having a night out.

“We have so little time here in the city and it’s good to be out to see the sights as well,” she said, while sipping on her drink and watching the parliament and cathedral passing in front of her eyes.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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