Published: August 8th 2011August 6th 2011
Before arriving in Helinksi we debated where to take a tour in this city since we had already visited the city in 2003, however in the end we decided to take a tour. We arrived at the port around 6:00am. The port area and scene was pretty bland, not very exciting. The temperatures were in the high 50’s and partly cloudy. Weather wise, we should be in good shape.
After breakfast we met our tour group and went ashore. No passport control today, thank goodness. Russia was the only country so far where we needed to show our passport so far. Our tour today is an all day tour and will visit several areas and a lunch. The stops include Senate Square, Temppeliauko Rock Church, Steam Train Ride, Porvoo, Sipoo Old Church, Sibelius Park and lunch at Haiko Manor.
Sipoo Old Church
After a drive through the city of Helinski, we drove through the countryside of Finland. The countrywide was full of flowers, rolling hills, cattle in the fields and wheat growing everywhere. The tour guide told us that 75% of Finland is forest, consisting mostly of pine, spruce and birch trees. He also said that 55% of this
is privately owners. We arrived at a very old church in a small town named Sipoo. The old church was also named Sipoo Old Church. The church was very basic in style, similar to those of mariner churches. One interesting observation about the church is the floor was rock, not concrete. On the church grounds there was a cemetery which is where towns people that died during one of the many battles Finland fought.
Steam Train Ride
We left the Sipoo Old Church and drove a short distance to a location where we were to board an old steam train for a ride into Porvoo. The steam train was named Lili. (www.steamrail.fi) The steam train consisted of the engine and two passenger cars. The steam train was fueled by birch wood. The passenger cars were like what you would see in on old train cars; luggage above your compartment and wood seats. The bathroom toilet was wood. Our ride to Porvoo was a lot shorter than I expected. The tour literature said 45+ minutes; however it only lasted maybe 30 minutes. Despite the short ride, I did capture some great shots of the countrywide from the rear of the
train and also hanging off the side snapping shots of us moving forward.
Once we arrived at the train stop to reboard our bus, I was able to climb up to the steam train engine and take photos of wood used to power the train, the engine controls, and the fire stove. Cool stuff.
Our bus took us on a very short ride to Porvoo where we were dropped off and given a short history of this town. This town is the second oldest in Finland. It was founded in 1346 by Swedish King Magnus Erikson. All the streets were cobble stone and many of the buildings still look like they were still preserved with the ancient timber they were built with. Thank goodness it was Saturday and all the shops were open. Instead of buying tourist stuff, we visited a chocolate store and tasted the various samples. In the end we purchased a bag of chocolate candies, good stuff. After our visit to the chocolate store, my wife, daughter and I walking up a cobble stone street/hill to an old cathedral on top of the highest point in town. Unfortunately the cathedral had a service so
we could not tour the interior. Bummer.
Haiko Manor – Lunch
This lunch location was by far the nicest and best location of all the lunches we ate our trip. The location was on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful lake. Next to the restaurant was a hotel, spa and conference center. Prefect location. For lunch we had a salad with no dressing (looks this is pretty common in Europe), a chicken dish with vegetables and berry cake dessert. One of the funniest things during lunch was the waitress delivered butter to our table that could have served 20 people; however there was only 8 of us.
Unfortunately when we returned to Helinski, it became cloudy and started to rain. This made walking around the senate square tricky. With my broken umbrella I ventured out to the square and ran up the senate building steps to keep dry. I was able to take a few photos there until it stopped to rain. I have memories of visiting this location back in 2003. A little bit about the square (from Princess Cruises) is this is a center square lined with 19th century neoclassical buildings-a legacy of
the Tsarist period. The square is home to the Lutheran St. Nicholas Cathedral and the University of Helinski.
Temppeliauko Rock Church
I was really looking forward to revisiting this church because of its uniqueness and style. Unfortunately because it was Saturday, there were several weddings scheduled for the church so we were not able to visit the interior. We did take some photos of the exterior. The church was designed by two brothers, Timo and Tuomo Soumalainen and built in 1969. The entire structure is built and carved into bedrock. I am really disappointed we could not visit the interior.
Since we were not able to access the rock church, we were able to visit a very cool location at a local park. Sibelius Park is a huge monument made with stainless steel honoring a great Finland composer Jean Sibelius. This blog has a photo of this monument.
We returned to the ship around 3:30pm after a very busy day.
Signing off for the day and will update you later on our short visit to Stockholm, Sweden.
There are more photos below