Helsinki #2: The National Museum of Finland and Temppeliaukio Church

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February 8th 2019
Published: March 13th 2019
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I was up super early to head to the ferry terminal. I was departing from a different one to that I had arrived in and it took a bit of finding. It didn't help that it was dark and that there weren't a lot of people about. I took a few wrong turns but got there in the end. The check-in process was super easy, just scan the QR code to get through to the departure area. They didn't even scan it again before boarding the ferry like the other company had. I was taking the Tallink ferry this time and it was almost three times the price of the one I had taken over to Tallinn, but the timings were a lot better, giving me more time to explore Helsinki. The ferry was a lot nicer that the other one I had taken although I didn't really see much of the other one. This one was also very quiet so I was able to bag a table by the window. I headed to the Starbucks for a coffee and second breakfast. I had a lovely smoked salmon with egg mayonnaise and slices of hard boiled egg sandwich. The ferry was due to leave at 7:30, but it only about 7:15 when it started moving. Why can't I get these in China? The ferry journey was smooth and uneventful. As we approached Helsinki, I started to see some of the island that dot the coastline. Disembarking was a simple procedure and I was straight out and onto the waiting tram. From the train station I made my way to the hostel, it was too early to check in, but I was able to leave my bags and also grab a coffee to warm up.

I had decided to head to the Rock Church as it was about a twenty minute walk from the hostel. The walk was nice through the city streets. It was nice just to see people going about their business and see a different part of the city. When I arrived at the Rock Church, there was a sign up outside to say that it didn't open until midday. Since it was freezing, I didn't want to hang around, so I carefully made my way to the National Museum of Finland. The streets here were pretty treacherous with snow and icy. It was a minor miracle that I managed to stay upright. I passed a car that had a smashed windscreen, I presume that it was caused by a large dump of snow falling off a roof, as I also saw some guys working to clear the roofs. On the way, or rather a slight detour as I veered off on the wrong street again, I came across a little park that had a statue of Kyosti Kallio, who was the fourth president of Finland from 1937-1940. He died in a rather dramatic fashion as he was about to board a train to his home in Nivala, as due his deteriorating health, he had resigned from office mid-term. The statue was made by his son, Kalervo Kallio.

I had seen the museum in the distance and made my way there. The building is rather striking and was designed by the architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen. It took five years to build to the museum, from 1905 to 1910, and then it was opened to the pubic in 1916. The style of the building reflects Finland's medieval churches and castles. After leaving my coat in the cloakroom, I headed to the reception desk to pay. The entrance fee was 12 euros and the receptionist gave me an overview of the museum. I headed down to the basement, which housed the Prehistory exhibition. The first thing that I read was the Finland used to be under kilometres of ice, which started to melt 18,000 years ago. I jut couldn't get my head around it, the difference was just too vast. I really enjoyed walking around the exhibits in the basement seeing the old swords and pots that had been made so long ago.I saw some of the skulls that had been discovered at a cemetery in Levanluhta and learnt that they had been buried in a small pond, which seemed unusual. However, archaeologists believe that folklore at the time believed that ponds, lakes, and bogs were portals to the afterlife, such an interesting idea.

I headed upstairs to the next exhibition, 'The Realm', which detailed Finnish history from the 13th to 19th century when it was under church rule, Swedish secular rule, and the annexation by the Russian Empire. The first part of the exhibition covered the Catholic Church and there were lots of religious pictures and iconography. It was quite interesting, but I'm not a huge fan of it. I quite liked the stuff from the time of the Lutheran church as it was different to the more traditional Catholic stuff. I liked the wooden statues and that you could see their facial expressions rather well. I also like the windows of the building as it had some small, kind of like stained glass pictures in the middle. I continued on through beautifully decorated rooms filled with people's treasures. The final rooms were about contemporary Finnish society and I think I liked those the best as it is more tangible for me. There was a room filled with beanbags that I presume were made by a local company, I forget the name now. On the all there was a set of images being projected, one of a different person for every year, I think, from 1918 to 2018. It was cool to see how things had changed over time. I also took a quick look at the temporary exhibit, but it was about design and really not that interesting for me.

I headed back towards the Rock Church taking care on the slippery, icy streets. I was glad to see that it was now open on my return. I also got a pleasant surprise as I had read online that there was an entrance fee, but there wasn't one, only a couple of donation boxes set up next to the door, which I put a couple of euros in. Temppeliaukio Church, to give it its proper name, is a Lutheran church, which was designed by brothers and architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. It opened in 1969 and was built directly into solid rock, hence its nickname. As I entered the main area of the church, I got another nice surprise, there was a concert going on. I sat and listened to the music for a while. It was really nice. Then I took a wander around the church, it isn't very big, so it didn't take long. The views from the upper pews were nice.

On my way back into town, I took a look around a couple of gift shops, all too expensive for me. I was feeling rather hungry by this point so I went to find a place that I had spotted earlier on the tram that morning. It took me about 15 minutes to walk there. The place I had chosen was a pizza/kebab place and my motivation for choosing it was that it did falafel wraps. I haven't had falafel in forever. I wanted the one with eggplant, but there was no eggplant left, so I opted for feta instead. The place was heaving, so I took my gigantic wrap back to the hostel and ate it there. It was late afternoon early evening by this point, so I took a rest on my bunk before heading out to the supermarket to pick up breakfast supplies, and beer and cheese. The rest of my evening was spent drinking the beer and eating the cheese, while chatting to some interesting people in the common room. I was pretty exhausted, so called it a night early.

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