Helsinki, Finland - July 2010

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July 19th 2010
Published: October 25th 2010
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After a lovely night cruising we woke fresh and early to an awesome bright and cloudless day, the temperature was already approaching 25 degrees by 10am - we couldn’t wait to get into Helsinki and have a nosey at the great city founded by Czar Alexander I of Russia in 1809. (Although the actual plot of land was established as a trading town by Gustv of Sweden in 1550... but it never really took off!)

After a quick disembark we found ourselves plopped in the heart of Helsinki with no real concept of where we were or what to do... perfect. After a wee bit of acclimatizing... (Staring at maps in bus stops etc) we headed down to the waterfront, which promised a range of cool sites and impressive architecture... and did not disappoint. Throughout the streets of Helsinki there are masses of awesome facades, entranceways, statues and quirky gargoyles etc - it really is an ideal place to just stop and stare occasionally - there are soooo many cool aspects to the actual city itself that can be easily missed if you are in too much of a hurry. And so we gawked. And gawked 😊

The most dominant features of the old town area are the magnificent white Tuomiokirkko (The Helsinki Cathedral) and the stunning red brick Uspenski (Orthodox Cathedral) which is right on a canal. Both of these mighty edifices are incredible in their own right, representing very different architectural periods and they both just reek of grandeur and pomp... awesome.

It was a cracking day so we figured a good move would be to head out onto the water and take in the sites of the Gulf of Finland around the city. Similar to Stockholm, it’s an archipelago of hundreds of islands dotted with holiday accommodations and private residences - a very nice place indeed. We could very easily see ourselves in a Finnish holiday home on a private island!

We took off for a boat trip and saw the imposing fortress of Suomenlinna (Now a UNESCO site) - originally built on 6 small islands while Finland was Swedish and designed to stop annoying Russian neighbours from coming and pillaging and what-not in the mid 1700s. This didn’t really pan out, as soon Russia took the reins in 1809, but eventually the fortress became property of Finland when they finally gained independence in 1917. In 1855 the fortress also took a beating from the Brits and French during the Crimean war and a then from a few other scuffles over the years. Needless to say this is not a ‘symbolic’ or ‘memorial’ fortress! It had a huge role in 3 different regimes securing the area. The bonus was that once the fortress was taken Helsinki was undefended so there was no reason to go crashing about! We circled the area from the water - time preventing a really good look around, then cruised off into the warren of islands, lovely homes and picturesque views.

The whole area is just beautiful, peaceful and laid back - it reminded me of NZ in a lot of ways, people were all focused on enjoying the beaches and the sunshine, the pace of life in Finland is sedate and appealing in a big way. We meandered through some man made canals, under some dodgy low bridges and soaked up the atmosphere as best we could - a wicked day to be on the water!

After grudgingly returning to shore we filtered through the harbour side markets and did a bit of shopping, We also discovered the joys of sweet-peas straight from the pod! The Fins ate these like chips or peanuts - in large quantities and fast - No wonder the Scandinavians are all so pretty - even their snacks are suspiciously good for you!

Helsinki is a cool town, the vibe is relaxed and the people are all super-friendly and chilled out. The city itself is fascinating in a subdued sort of way - nothing really jumps down your throat and screams ”look at me, I’m historic!” but on closer inspection its chocka-block with wonderful sights and sounds and subtle charms. To quote our travelling catch phrase “We would love to come back one day!!”

Additional photos below
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25th October 2010

Happy to stay on your island or holiday cottage in Helsinki anytime. :-)
26th October 2010

Great Blogs
Hi you two - lovely photos and descriptions of your trips. What a wonderful opportunity, I'm so envious! Send more, more....:-)

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