Harbor & Churches

Helsinki Travel Blog

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Although only a few hour stop over on our way to China, we went into Helsinki for the time we had. A man sitting next to us on the airport shuttle informed my father and I that we had come on the wrong day to visit Helsinki. It was Johanus day and all the residents were out in the country celebrating the mid-summer festivals. From the air I saw a beautiful and lush taiga that captivated my stare and imagination. Helsinki has been a top destination for me since about a year and a half ago when I tried learning Finnish (unsuccefully L) and by the street fashion website I religiously check for all my style inspiration www.


As warned, the city was closed. From the bus windows I hardly saw anyone. Once dropped off in the center of town there were only some skate punks and a few Russian tourists. The bus left us in the center of town just a few blocks from the harbor. We walked around a couple of the main streets and eventually found our way to the Baltic Sea, lined with great Northern style architecture. Two churches could be seen from this point, both were standing on hills and lied prominently over the city. Already from far away one can tell that they are extremely different, one is a dark brick building with onion domes and the other a shiny white structure looking like it could be the town hall.

            The first church we walked to was the darker one which seemed closer to the sea.

It was a Russian Orthodox church with rich decoration of Byzantine style icons and gold leafing. Although we were not allowed to enter the church, we could stand just by the door and see the opposite wall with the most impressive icons. The atmosphere in the church was dark and heavy with poor lighting and a stale but inviting smell. Just outside was a violent breeze bringing temperatures close to my typical November day rather than the height of summer.

            We hurried back to the street where the buildings sheltered us from the sea breeze. The second church was built in front of a large square. On entering the church it was just as cold and white as it was outside. There was a statue of Martin Luther in one corner and three other important men in the others, each statue just as white as the entire structure.

The only break with the disturbing amount of white in the church was a small organ in the back and a few items for the service in the front.

            Our time in Helsinki was running out so we searched for a café to spend a relaxing final hour. To our great dismay there was not a single store open in the square outside the church nor to the large street on the side. We found a hotel and sat in the bar. I had a cocktail instead of a coffee. I knew the general way back to the bus station, as directions in strange cities is my forte. But once we got there all the signs were in Finnish and I had forgotten the word for airport. We asked two fellows if they could help point us to the right stop. But both were too drunk to remember any English.

One told us “back of here” while the other yelled “don’t listen to him” and pulled us to a bus stop with Espoo (a neighboring town) clearly written on it. We waited for a bus to stop at one of the terminals and asked the driver. It was in fact in back of the building as the first drunk had suggested, so we quickly found our bus after that and returned to the airport.

            The time was unfortunate as I was unable to see the life that this city usually has, but that is all the more reason for me to come back and see the real Helsinki, and what the people bring to the town and buildings.

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photo by: portia