Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Helsinki in (Less Than) a Day

Arriving in Helsinki harbor

The (Protestant) Dom; the interior very sparse, except for statues of Luther, Melancthon, et al.

The Senate Square statue of Czar Alexander II, who was nice to Finland (no statue of Stalin)

In the harbor produce market, the monument to the Czarina; she was nice to vegetables

The blue building in all the travel guides...city hall

National art museum

National theater

Details from the 1931 Helsinki train station, said, by Michelin, to be of "National Romantic" style

Just about everything was closed for Midsummer Eve, but, thank god, Kapelli's was open

In Kapelli's, Rodin's very famous "Young Girl Dribbling an Imaginary Basketball"

National history museum


Finlandia Hall, part of the national music complex

Interior of Church in the Rock; it would make a great Unitarian church

Ceiling of Church in the Rock; 14 miles (or was it light-years?) of copper tubing

Sibelius monument; he did play the organ, right?

The Russian Orthodox Dom


We arrived in Helsinki about 10AM Friday, in more rain. We decided to forego the bus tours, etc., and just did it ourselves, buying a day-pass on the local public transportation, about 14 euros for the two of us. Helsinki's major sites are pretty close together; and, given a few more hours, we could have done it all on foot. By noon it had cleared, and we visited the harbor, the harbor produce market, the Senate area, all the neo-classical buildings, the Protestant Dom, lunch at Kapelli's, then the Parliament buildings, the music center Finlandia, the Church in the Rock, the Oopera (stet), the Sibelius monument, and then the Orthodox church, hopping on buses and trams when needed. The tram drivers spoke superb English and gave us helpful advice. In view of the holiday (see below), most everything commercial, except the market, was closed...a good thing for us.

It was an interesting place, almost exotically different, Russian, sort of, and we are pleased we made the trip. (We are not going to St. Petersburg, since the Ruskies seem not to really welcome independent tourists; visas are time-consuming, expensive, etc.). Helsinki was founded in the 17th century and, unlike most European sites, has no Medieval nor earlier past.

We are even more pleased that we didn't drive. It would have taken days and days and cost hundreds and hundreds.

We got back to the Gabriella in time get a window table for two for the buffet/smorgasbord, for which we had been preparing (fasting) all day. I am sure we have had better meals, but few more memorable. See illustration for the menu. I am sure I tried each and every seafood items and all the Scandinavian items, plus much more, the Mediterranean and Asian. And cheese. And desserts. I actually liked the herring, in all its varieties of preparation. There were four varieties of caviar. And free beer and wine. Only the cheese course was lacking in variety.

We spent the next few hours digesting. About 11 we went up to the band/dance area and spent a few hours there. All this was occurring on midsummer eve, a high Scandinavian holiday, and these people know how to party. The ship was all decked out in greenery, and at midnight there was a special live performance, American discotheque from the 70s. Sort of. But it was entertaining.

We were back in Stockholm by 10 the next morning, the rain ended, a beautiful mostly clear mid-summer day on which we simply lazed about the campground, reading, puttering, exploring the island of Langholmen, and planning our next travels.

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