Helsinki, Suomi.........Natural and Cultural
Helsinki Travel Blog› entry 6 of 7 › view all entries
We left on an EARLY morning ferry from Tallinn to go to Helsinki. The capital of Finland, it was founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden-Finland. The original city was not well situated at the mouth of the Vantaa and was later moved to the southwest where it stands today.
Our first couple of hours were spent trying to sort out our train tickets to Russia. They should have been waiting at the hotel, but guess what? We made the calls and dealt with the company and then had to go buy new tickets.
From there we headed out to walk the city. We started in front of the Tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral). The flight of stairs up to the cathedral is very steep and rough. It is sparkling white in the sun. The interior is very stark and plain except for the gilded alter piece and organ. The square in front of it is a statue of Tsar Alexander of Russia. Russia held held for over 90 years as a self governing territory.
After the cathedral we moved on to Market Square. It is a great open air market down on the docks. We saw some of the most amazing fresh fruit, vegetables, and especially berries there. In addition to the normal souvenirs we saw reindeer pelts. We actually bought pendants for necklaces made of their horn with spectralite inlaid. After exploring more we found a wonderful artist named Viivi Kemppainen and bought two original watercolors paintings.
We dodged some rain and then headed to the Uspenskin Katedraall (Uspensky Cathedral). From the outside the brick exterior is very deceptive. Even though it is in classic Orthodox style, it is very unexpected inside. The detailed ornamentation and icons were incredible.
Back out in the rain we took a quick walk down Aleksanterinaktu (better known as Aleksi) to the statue of the The Three Smiths. This is a bronze statue of three naked men working on an anvil. It seemed way to dangerous for us. Then to once again retreat from the rain we headed to the Ateneum, Finland’s National Gallery of Art. Their collection of Finish art is impressive. For dinner, Rob was able to try reindeer. It was very good.
The next morning we headed out early to get in the rest of the souvenir shopping done and see some more of the city. After a nice lunch we went for a nature hike in Nuuksio . It is about 40 km northeast of Helsinki. Nuuksio is a nature preserve established in 1994.
Our guide was very amusing. She was disappointed to learn there was no bathroom on the bus as she had to rush from her last tour. Being a true Finnish woman she simply headed to the woods when we got to our destination. The walk was so beautiful. We saw wild berries and flowers. Some of our fellow walkers ate the berries, but we were a little wary. The lake we came to was fantastic. We learned that swans are not a popular bird in Finland, because they take people to death in Finnish folklore. At the end of the walk we went to a traditional lodge and had tea and Finnish coffee cake.
Once we got back to the city we grabbed dinner at a fine restaurant with a new Catalan menu. Brian had Sangria sorbet for dessert. Then we headed out on a two hour boat tour. One of the best sites was Suomenlinna. It was built in 1748 as a Naval defense and still houses Finland’s Naval Militery Academy. In addition to being a UNESCO world heritage site, it has a thriving local arts community which uses restored bastions as studios and showrooms. The boat was full of drunk Russians on a company dinner cruise. The trip was enjoyable, even when it started to rain, but not until close the end.
Once we got back we called it a night since we had another early morning start to catch the train to St. Petersburg, Russia.