Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seven Hours in Helsinki, Finland

Laurie in the upper bunk bed of our
Silja Lines luxury suite

Lots of tipsy people on the overnight ferry to Helsinki. They were loud but passed out fairly early given their torrid drinking pace and our early 5:00 p.m. departure time.

We decided to splurge and bought the 35 Euros/person smörgåsbord dinner. It featured lots of really good and varied foods, but even I, at this stage of my competitive eating days, can't eat 35 Euros worth of food.

All the beer and wine you could drink was included in the price so that helped in view of the fact that on the Royal Caribbean ship, two glasses of wine cost $29!!!

Does everybody have a submarine
in their backyard?

It was Friday as we entered Helsinki's waterways and saw this sight, I had to wonder.

I would have gone with yellow.

Speaking of colors, Blue Suede Shoes?

As we disembarked in Helsinki, I saw this guy's shoes and again had to wonder, do they make these in a size 13?

We opted to take Rick Steves' advice and start our whirlwind Finnish experience by taking the one hour and 45 minute orientation bus tour to get a lay of the land. It turned out to be a good idea.

The Sibelius Monument

Six hundred stainless-steel pipes honor Finland's greatest composer, Jean Sibelius.

Market Square

Helsinki's harborfront vegetable and arts and crafts marketplace.

A New Nordic Record
Eight Umlauts in ONE Word!!!

Move over Växjö . . .

These MAY not be PETA approved

As usual,
a Military Band greeted our arrival

Fire Up the Band!!!

Shameless self-promotion worthy
of Denmark's King Christian IV

Helsinki's 1854 Lutheran Cathedral

Finland has two official languages,
Finnish and Swedish

Thus every intersection has to have double sets of street signs. This makes sense if you know that Finland was part of Sweden until 1809 when Russia took over and ruled benignly for about 108 years. The 1917 Russian Revolution won Finland its independence.

Finland was able to successfully fight off the Soviet Union in the Winter War, 1939-1940, and again in the Continuation War, 1941-1944.

Laurie entering Esplanade Boulevard,
Helsinki's #1 shopping street

The Three Blacksmiths

Locals say, "If a virgin walks by, they'll strike the anvil."

No dice.


Helsinki's Powerful Train Station

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, 1867-1951

Nice hat. Carl was Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defense Forces from 1939 to 1944 in their two wars against Soviet Russia and was President of Finland from 1944 to 1946.

Great Mustache!
Kyösti Kallio, 1873-1940

Would the "Medieval Disco Mustache Helmet" in Stockholm's Royal Armory fit the man who from 1937 to 1940 was President of Finland?

Temppeliaukio Church
"Church in the Rock"

Rated the top sight seeing spot in Helsinki, it was built in 1969 after being blasted out of solid rock and capped with a copper and skylight dome. This church is at the top of a hill surrounded by apartment buildings.

The "Church in the Rock" ceiling

It is made up of a 13 mile long coil of copper!

Laurie lights another candle
as a sign of faith

It can't hurt even if it is another Lutheran Church.

Stockmann's Department Store

The biggest, best and oldest department store in Helsinki. We went in to check out their big summer sales and promptly got lost in this multi-storied maze of merchandise.

We were able to finally find the exit with our wallets and sales resistance 100% intact.

Maybe that is what that candle was all about.

I trust any clock on this
powerfully built edifice

The Argos Building

Nothing of note, I just liked it.

Esplanade Park

It was after 3:00 p.m. and our ferry shoved off for Stockholm at 5:00 p.m. so we decided to start heading back to the harbor along this people friendly path.

One order of Vitamin D coming right up!

On this gorgeous afternoon, the Finns were determined to soak up all the sunshine they possibly could.

My Little Pony

Café Kappeli

One café latte, one cappuccino and a slice of the caramel, cinnamon apple crumb cake, please.

We took a load off for a few minutes to enjoy some people watching in this old fashioned, gazebo like café. In the 19th century this was a hangout for local intellectuals and artists. Today it was an oasis for tourists and locals alike to relax in the shade on a warm July 1st afternoon.

Laurie and a Café Kappeli latte

The Havis Amanda Fountain

Helsinki is known in these parts as the "Daughter of the Baltic" and this statue has become the symbol of the city. Designed by Ville Vallgren and modeled after the artist's Parisian mistress, it was unveiled in 1908.

At that time it was considered too racy for the very conservative Finns and Vallgren had trouble getting paid. The artist had the last laugh as for more than 100 years the city budget office in the building in the background has seen only her rear end.

Uspenski Cathedral

This Finnish Orthodox Cathedral is my #1 sight in Helsinki. It was built in 1868 when Finland belonged to Czarist Russia. The uppermost onion dome represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus while the smaller ones stand for the hearts of the 12 apostles.

I am so fascinated with onion domes that I am thinking about switching to an Orthodox religion.

Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Finnish Orthodox, it makes no difference to me, I'll go where the best onion domes are to be found!

The inside of this Cathedral was equally breathtaking but you are not allowed to take pictures, sorry.


What Would David Lassen Do?

Gamble his soul to eternal damnation and take the pictures anyway!

When I entered the Cathedral, several people were ignoring the very visible signs saying "NO PHOTOS!" and the curators were not upset about it so I joined in the rule breaking.

The inside of the main onion dome was impressive as well.

Gorgeous Altar

When this lady set up her five foot tall tripod 15 feet from the altar, all bets were off!

David, these last two pictures are for you and your passion for illegal tourism photography!

Market Square as seen from
Uspenski Cathedral

Market Square's Obelisk

The double headed eagle of Imperial Russia sits atop the Czarina Stone obelisk. It was erected in 1835 to celebrate the visit by Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra and was Helsinki's first public monument.

It's been a long time, but we finally found something worthy of . . .

The Ian Murphy-Ben Todd
Tattoo-of-the-Day Award

"Crown of Thorns"

This is Hall-of-Fame material in my book. This woman was selling wooden crafts at the harborside Market Square near the Czarina Stone Obelisk.

I hope this is not part of any Orthodox initiation ritual.

Market Hall

One last chance to spend money before returning to the ferry.

I was very tempted by the bread!

But I was strong, very strong.

OK, the truth is I was out of Euros and only had Swedish Krona left which they did not accept.

Even Santa rides the Silja Lines

Tall Lady Indeed

Back on board the ferry, our week long torrid tour of the Baltic Sea was coming to a close.

One final look at Helsinki's Harbor

I was worried originally about only having a maximum of seven hours in port. Would it be enough time to really see anything before sailing back to Stockholm?

The answer was easily, yes. Helsinki is clean, efficient and compact with by far the fewest tourist sights of any of the cities we visited this week. We enjoyed our time in the "Daughter of the Baltic" but one day is really all you need to allot to this city if you are visiting Scandanavia any time soon.

Now it was time to return to Stockholm for our third visit in a week!


David said...

Oh, yeah, blame me for your criminal photographic activities. Great photos, though.

Perhaps the train breakdown was your punishment.

And, while you explained the dual-language signs, you left a greater mystery unaddressed: Why are there camels depicted above the street signs?

George said...

The train was probably karma as you pointed out.

As to the camels . . . BEATS ME!