Travel Frog was off to Helsinki

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August 4th 2008
Published: August 17th 2008
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Artic Ice PubArtic Ice PubArtic Ice Pub

Yes, I know it was a tourist trap especially for 10E, but I just had to go for a drink and I just looked at it as it was a very expensive cosmo! Artic Ice Pub is made entirely out of ice and the temperature is kept at -5oC. The bartender said they have to replace the ice about four times a year and it is natural (not man made because man made is too clear and looks more like glass.)
I started this blog over 15 days ago and as you can see, you are not just receiving it. I do not know where all of my time (and energy goes), but I never seem to slow down until I completely wear myself down and/or get sick. And yes, I got sick this week. I think it was food poisoning, but it started on Wednesday and Thursday was terrible. It was not uncontrollable, but I was in the restroom about every two hours. I am still not back to normal, but at least I feel a little better. I know I was tired when I laid down for an hour nap last night at 5 PM and did not get up until 9 PM to do a few chores around the house and went back to bed at 10:30 PM and slept until 8:30 AM this morning. I guess I needed the sleep and hopefully it will help my body fight off what ever it is that I have. It will be so nice to start drinking coffee and my diet Cokes again!

So now on to the travel blog that I started several weeks ago...Everyone knows the travel frog
Train StationTrain StationTrain Station

This was pretty cool especially at night!
by now, I had a free weekend and had been thinking about visiting Helsinki for awhile now. I was originally looking at going towards the end of the month, but it is starting to get cold here and our company olympics start next week with the big day on the last weekend of the month so it was looking like it was going to be Sept before I could so I got a decent fare on Aeroflot on Thursday and headed out on Friday.

What a great little city. I wish I had one more day there, but two to three full days would be perfect. It was a very laid back feel with a lot of modern art but yet they seem to get plenty done. You could feel and see a lot of the Russian as well as Swedish influence, but the people and the city itself was very much its own. Speaking of people, it is amazing how blond some of their hair is! It was also interesting and sort of confusing at first, they have two official languages so all signs are in at least two, if not three or four languages. It was a

I can not find the exact name of this monument, but I found it very interesting and they said on the tour is a popular meeting place and is located just outside of Stockman's Department store.
very tourist friendly city and they had a very easy mass transit system.

If you go, be sure to pick up your Helsinki card at the airport and then use the FinnAirways public bus that takes you to the main railstation which is pretty much city center or if not, you can get there by bus, train, metro, and/or tram. With the card, the ride is only a couple of euros verses a taxi which will run into the 30 euros. There are other buses as well, but they make stops along the route and also more difficult to initially figure out. No, not hard, but just one less thing you have to worry about.

I stayed in the Scandic hotel right in the city center and it was very nice. I was surprised for 115 Euro it was as nice as it was. I would call it a four star hotel with everything you needed there. Now let me tell you, I thought the Russians took their sauna seriously, I have never seen so many saunas as I did in Helsinki. There was one on every corner and sometimes more. Based on the tour, almost every block of houses has one that they have assigned times when their particular household can use it. The same way with flats on each floor. Saunas are serious stuff in Finland! And like a good tourist, I had to check one out. There was one at the hotel, but it only had specific hours so headed down the street to one near the hotel to say I went to a "real" Finnish sauna. Nothing bad, but it was like all of the other finnish saunas I have been to.

I sort of lost my train of thought so I am going to start from here to finish about my trip. {Sorry for jumping around so much but I want to get this finished this morning before my next adventure and then I mix the two stories up with each other.} One story I have to share, as I shared earlier, it is a tourist city in that all of the signs and public areas have multiple languages, sometimes too many that you can not even find the you are looking for. I think due to its location as well as it Finland was once part of Russia, there were a
Zetor RestaurantZetor RestaurantZetor Restaurant

"Falls under the 'only in Helsinki' category. Where else in the world can you find a restaurant with tractors parked inside? To label Zetor as rustic is an under statement." It was good food and fun atomsphere!
lot of Russians tourist there. As I got on the elevator at the hotel, there was a couple already on it trying to figure out the key card systme that operated the elevator (so only guest with room cards/keys could use the elevators) so they pushed their floor and looked to me and I said "six". They sort of looked at me funny and without thinking about it because I am use to when I know the Russian word to then say it in Russian so I said "шесть" which means six in Russian and that women gave me a double take and then twice over knowing that I did not look Russian and trying to figure out where that "шесть" came from. I did not even realize they were Russian, it was just habit but it was funny. After she looked me over and her husband pushed "6" for me, she whispered something in his ear and had she only known that was about all the Russian I knew. It is one of those storied that maybe you had to be there to see the humor in it, but I laughed about it to myself all evening.

Another funny story related to the double language. When I first rode the metro I kept seeing all of the stops had two names so I thought one direction was one name and other direction for the same stop was a different name that looked and sounded similar. No, dumby me, one was Finnish and one was Swedish. The moral of the story, be ready for multiple languages!

A little more detail about the pictures:
The Helsinki Cathedral on Senate Square. "In Finland, showing off, even in praise of the almight, is a major cultural no-no. Many govenmant buildings are within a storn's throw. Impressive neoclassical architecture from 1852." It was very plain inside but to me it actually looked like a working church unlike so many of the other cathedrals I have visited. "The Cathedral only became a cathedral in 1957, when Helsinki received its own bishop. The Cathdedral contains statues of Martin Luther, Melanchton and Mikael Agricola who introduced the reformation into Finland."

Although there are no pictures of it, if you enjoy modern art, you must go to the Museum of Contemporary Art - Kiasma. "Kiasma breaks the boundaries of traditional art museums and follows
Temppeliaukio Church or Temple ChurchTemppeliaukio Church or Temple ChurchTemppeliaukio Church or Temple Church

"This Lutheran church has been blasted out of solid rock...."
the latest trends." I would have to agree with that. Some of the art was a little too modern for me, but it was well worth the trip and with the Helsinki card, it was free. Even if you do not go inside the museum, you must see the building and its design. I forget how many different type of metal make it up, but it is an interesting building just to see as the building not even going in the museum. Another museum I wanted to go to but ran out of time was the Finnish Museum of Photography, but that is obvious since I enjoy photography.

I will not type the entire information, but I did buy a book about the Temple Church because I found it so amazing. I only got 15 minutes to be inside because it is very popular church for weddings so they allow you 15 minutes inside between weddings that last 45 minutes starting on the hour. We made a stop here on the tour, but could not get in but I had to go back and I am glad I did.
"Temppeliaukio Square was named in 1906, when the city plan
Temple ChurchTemple ChurchTemple Church

"Carved out of a small granite hill, the Temple Church is a stunning architectural innovation from 1969."
for Etu-Toolo was confirmed. Gradually, plans arose for building a church there, and an architectural competion proved unsatisfactory, and a new one was announced in 1936. the time, the third-prize winner, drawn by Prof. J.S. Siren, was accepted as the basic building plan. The excavatio work for Siren's cathedral-style church began in 1939, but was interrupted by the Winter War. A third architectural competition was won in 1961 by two brothers, architects Timo Suomalainen and Tuomo Suomalainen, with an entry titled the "Stone Church". for reasons of economy, their plan hadto be reduced by over 4000 m^3 and in the end the cubic capacity of the church came to 13,760 m^3. Construction began on 14 February 1968; the work advanced quickly, and the church was consecrated on 28 September 1969, with a final cost of 3.85 million marks."

"Quarried into bedrock,the church is situated on Temppeliaukio Square, near the center of Helsinki. The basic idea of the plan was to preserve the rock formuation of the square, and therefor the essentiall constructioin has been built into the rock as far as possible. The outer stone wall surrounding the church is made of quarried stone, piled and bound together with
Finland's Flag on SuomenlinnaFinland's Flag on SuomenlinnaFinland's Flag on Suomenlinna

"One of Helsinki's most popular attractions, Suomenlinna is a large miltiary fortificaton built on six islands by the Swedes in 1748 (Finland was part of Sweden until 1809)...In 1991, UNESCO included Suomenlinna on the list of World Heritage sites."
steels bindings. The wall shields the church from noise and people walking on the rock above. The church is covered by a copper dome which is joined to the rock by reinforced conceret beams of various sizes, in between which there are 180 skylights. On the rock to the right of the main entrance stands a cross designed by the architects. The church has no bells...The floor of the church is on the street-level, so that the altar can be seen from the street through the glass doors...The church has a cubic capacity of 11,000 m^3, and has seating space for 750 people. Its inner walls consist of bedrock and quarried stone, and their quarried surface has been left rough for acoustic and aesthetic considerations. Various kinds of colured formations of rock add to the beauty of the walls. Their surface is brought to life by water running from cracks in the rock face...the height of the walls vary between 5 to 9 meters. The inner sruface of the dome is lined with 22 km of copper stripping. The diameter of the dome is 24 m, and the height from the
King's Gate / KuninkaanporttiKing's Gate / KuninkaanporttiKing's Gate / Kuninkaanportti

King's Gate on the impressive sea fortress of Suomenlinna.
floor to its apex is 13 meter...The church benches are of birch. Bside the pine choir dais is located the pipe organ made by Veikko Virtanen Co. the mechanically operated organ has 43 registers, 4 manuals, a pedal and 3,001 pipes...."

"The church and parish premises are used by the Finnish-speaking Taivallahti parish, with about 10,000 members, and by the Swedish-speaking Norra svenska forsamlingen, of which approximately 3,000 of its 10,000 members live in the church area. Both parishes belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland...Over 170,000 people attend church functions every year, and the number of people annually visiting Temppeliaukio Church from all parts of the world is about half a million." The Church was truly AMAZING!

Finally is the impressive Suomenlinna sea fortress! "This sea fortress of Suomenlinna, founded on a group of islands off Helsinki in 1748, is a cultural treasures which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a supreme example of 18th century European military architecture. What is particulary special about it is that is has served in the defence of three different states: Sweden, Russia and Finland. Suomenlinna is alos a lively city district while also being one
Cannon Pointing to SeaCannon Pointing to SeaCannon Pointing to Sea

Hundreds of guns and cannons like this surrounded the island. Visiting Suomenlinna is a must if you go to Helsinki!
of the most popular visitor attractions in Finland." I must say the King's Gate was the most impressive for a pick-up/drop-off point if you can find a water bus that goes there as oppose to the main visitor center. Obviously you can walk the island and visit the different attractions along the way, but it is well worth the time and money to go visit. Also the Helsinki card gets you a 50% discount on the water bus ticket.

Although it was short trip and I did not get to see everything I wanted it, it was a great trip and a city I would like to visit again. I would not recommend going for a week, but it coupled with an other city would be great place to go!

So with that I will close this blog so you can get it read before it is months after the fact and so I can be ready to post something new. I will probably list a short one sometime next week once I get pictures back from Freddie, but it was Leo's birthday on Friday so we had a small gathering at my flat on Friday and then

I just loved the glass/metal architecture seen throughout the city.
on Saturday, Freddie, Leo and I went to watch the semi-pro outdoor beach volleyball tournament before riding our bikes around town. I did not feel my best so we did not do a lot of riding, but it was nice to get out and enjoy one of the last night weekends we will probably have here in Russia until Spring.


17th August 2008

Even if I don't leave my living room you are taking me around the world. Thanks so much. Learning a lot.
29th August 2008

Ice Hotel Bar
I'm glad you got to go to the Ice Bar. A friend of mine and work and I were actually looking at what it would cost to go there so it's neat that you visited the site. Jealous is an understatement.
6th September 2008

Not Worth the Hip
I am glad to have gone, but to be honest, do not go out of your way to go. It was fun and interesting, but you really do not want to stay there long and it would have been more fun with people you know, more as a group so if you get the chance, sure go, but do not make a special trip to go someplace just to go to an ice bar. At least that is my recommendation.
9th October 2008

Picture 3 - Ironworks
The monument is called "Kolme seppää" (=Three smiths) or "Kolmen sepän patsas" (=The statue of the three smiths)

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