Helsinki and the Suomenlinna fortress

Helsinki Travel Blog

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May 4, 2009
Hotel: [url=]Holiday Inn City West[/url], Helsinki, Finland Points Stay
I was finally able to get in touch with my friend today and we arranged to meet for dinner this evening.  I also was able to arrange with American Express to get $500 emergency travel cash wired to me; I could pick this up at the forex bureau in the train station.  This plus what was left of the $300 was all I would have to last me for the next 6 days.  I had a big breakfast at the buffet; this had been my SOP for the past few days since I had been low on $$.. eat a huge breakfast and have that last for most of the rest of the day, just snacking for other meals.
Ferry to Suomenlinna fort
  The buffet at the HI wasn't included though so had to pay extra for that.

I didn't have too much planned for today, visiting the rock church at Temppeliaukio and then the fortress of Suomenlinna.  I bought a 24-hr transit pass at one of the machines in the metro station; it is good on all bus/tram/metro routes and even some ferries.  Today was the first meh weather day I'd had, starting off cloudy.  It also felt a lot colder than St. Petersburg.  Helsinki is a small city and you can walk almost everywhere; the core of the city is on a peninsula only 2 miles wide.  The rock church was built out of a hollowed rocky outcrop and has become a tourist attraction.
Helsinki Train Station
  From there I wandered through some parks over to the Töölönlahti bay and the opera house.  Most signs here are in both Swedish/Finnish, both are official languages here.  Finland itself has only been independent since the early 1900s.. before then it was either part of Sweden or Russia.  I had visited the Aland Islands the previous year, an autonomous Swedish-speaking province of Finland, but this is the first time I had been to the Finland mainland.

From the bay, I caught a tram down the  to the Helsinki Cathedral, a huge white building fronting a large square.  The skies had cleared up by now to a gorgeous blue and it started warming up.  I wandered down to the ferry dock and caught the 20 minute ferry over to Suomenlinna, or Sveaborg (Swedish Fort).
  This UNESCO World Heritage site was built by the Swedes in the late 1700s to protect against the Russians; however it was the British and French that caused the most damage when shelling the (then-Russian) fort during the Crimean war.  The fortress is spread over several islands just outside the Helsinki harbor and is a mix of Russian and Swedish buildings.  Not too many people here today, and many of the restaurants and shops still weren't open for the summer season yet.  Spent several hours wandering around, finding an old Finnish U-boat  (DAS BOOT) and old Russian gun emplacements facing out to sea.

I headed back into town and into the old fish market, which now is full of delis and restaurants selling fish, reindeer, donor kebab, etc.  I had a reindeer baguette, cheesecake and a soda for a few Euro.  Reindeer meat is supposedly pretty good for you; it's a bright red color.  From there it was back to the hotel then soon it was time to meet my friend for dinner.  We spent a good while talking about travel over a beer, she was heading to Central America in a few weeks for an overland trip from Cancun to Panama.  I had just done a portion of that trip this past December so had some good tips to share.
hauteboy says:
It was a good trip.. I'd still like to spend some more time in Finland if I get a chance and head up further north from Helsinki.
Posted on: Jan 24, 2011
travelingJacq says:
Didn't have enough time while there to see all this when I was in Helsinki. Will have to spend more time up in that area in the future. Great blog :-]
Posted on: Jan 24, 2011
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Ferry to Suomenlinna fort
Ferry to Suomenlinna fort
Helsinki Train Station
Helsinki Train Station
Helsinki Hotels & Accommodations review
Good hotel in west Helsinki
Spent two nights at the Holiday Inn City West on points. The hotel is located in the western part of Helsinki, about 2km from the center in a busines… read entire review
photo by: portia