Members of the public will now have increased access to the train car in which Carl Gustav Mannerheim – the larger-than-life war leader and Finnish president – used to dine.
The saloon car has previously only been accessible one day a year, on June 4, Mannerheim's birthday. Now the historic compartment in Mikkeli is opening up, with guided tours and a restaurant service included in its new lease of life.
Mannerheim used the car from 1939 to 1946. It was on Mannerheim's birthday in 1942 that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler famously visited the Finnish premier in his own train car.
The car has been kept at the Mikkeli train station since 1992, and each year the historical car receives more than a thousand visitors, with requests coming in for visits on days other than the anniversary. The call has been answered, says Mikkeli museum director Matti Karttunen.
"Using this historical artefact in this way brings in revenue for the museum's operations and allows our audiences to see more," he says.
For the princely sum of 1,000 euros, a group of up to four people may order a Mannerheim feast to be eaten in the man's own travelling quarters. For actor Timo Närhisalo to join in and play the historical figure, it's close to double that.
"About ten groups will likely come in for the dinner package this year, priced as it is. I can't say how many tours we'll be operating," Karttunen says.
The private restaurant will be operated by the Suur-Savo Cooperative Society. Its menu is based on Mannerheim's own appetites, specifically on what the commander preferred to eat during the war at Mikkeli's military headquarters.
"Mannerheim liked home-cooked food, and we want to bring this aspect out with class," says tourism chief Kai Nurmi from the cooperative. "The menu will include his favourite dishes, but no pike – he didn't like pike one bit."
The Mikkeli museums will conduct the tours. The car will remain a museum piece and its use is strictly monitored.
"Whenever a group reserves the car, a museum representative is always present. This is so that this historic structure remains unharmed," Karttunen says.