Saturday 22 August Helsinki (Finland)

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to find that we were entering the narrow channel that led to the Port of Helsinki. We passed the Island Fortress of Suomenlinna and made our way to a berth in the very centre of the city. Helsinki, the capital and largest city of Finland, is located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea.
After a leisurely breakfast, at 9.30 we disembarked the ship for a City Tour by bus. We drove slowly up and down the streets of the main city centre, where there were many department stores, outdoor cafes and theatres. We drove through one of the industrial areas beside the sea and saw the shipyards, which have recently been given the contract to build 8 ice breaker ships.
Our first stop was at the Temppeliaukio Church, also known as “The Church in the Rock”, which is carved out of bedrock and seats 700. The church is covered with a dome that is lined with 14 kilometres of copper wire and the walls are made of rock. Around noon each day, the sunlight comes in the windows around the roof periphery and shines on the altar – a crevice in the rock wall. When Janet was in the Queensland Youth Choir, they did an overseas choral tour, which included Helsinki – the Choir sang at this church among others. While we were in the church, a pianist played and it sounded more like a concert hall than a church. There was a Pipe Organ, which stood against the rock wall and also a granite altar. While we sat in the church, there was an overall sense of openness and peace.
We continued our drive and went past the Museum, the Finlandia Hall, the Opera building and the Fun Fair.
Our second stop was at Sibelius Park, where we saw a very unusual monument made up of a large number of various lengths of etched stainless steel pipes mounted vertically. The Monument honoured Finland’s famous composer, Jean (pronounced Shan) Sibelius.
We passed the Railway Station and also the harbour where 4 ice-breakers were moored before arriving at Senate Square. Senate Square, which is quite large, makes up the oldest part of central Helsinki. Some of the main buildings surrounding the square are the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, main building of the University of Helsinki and Sederholm House, the oldest building of central Helsinki. In the middle of the square was a statue of Alexander II with four statues surrounding him which symbolise the law, light, peace and labour.
We were disappointed to see that Helsinki Cathedral was being renovated and had scaffolding on one part of it and also that it was closed at the time because there was a wedding about to take place.
Although we have seen photos of Katharine & Steve and Janet & Adrian on these steps covered in snow, because today was bright blue skies and 29 degrees, it was hard to imagine it covered in snow.
We returned to the ship for lunch and then decided that we would head off on our own to explore Helsinki further for a couple of hours. We wandered through the markets next to the docks and then walked to the Uspenski Cathedral, which is the main cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox Church. From there, we walked further around the harbour to where we could see the 4 ice-breakers to get some photos.
We strolled back through the markets again, looking at various stalls and also into a permanent market building, where we saw small restaurants and traders selling just about anything you could think of from fish to confectionary to jewellery.
We arrived back on board at about 4.00pm because we were leaving Helsinki at 4.30pm. We stood out on deck and watched the ship sail out into the Gulf of Finland.
We enjoyed our day in Helsinki and especially enjoyed being able to just wander around on our own this afternoon.

2 Responses to “Saturday 22 August Helsinki (Finland)”

  1. Janet says:

    You’re right, the Helsinki photos are very different coz both my experiences of Helsinki were in the middle of winter with snow everywhere! Shame you didn’t get time to explore Suomenlinna. But hoe amazing is the rock church?! Singing there was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, but also one of the coldest! lol

  2. sandy says:

    We would love to come back and do some of these places in winter Janet! Yes, we thought the rock church was just so amazing and so beautiful. xo

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