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Published: December 21st 2013
This morning we started at the Uspenski Eastern Orthodox Cathedral that we walked around below yesterday morning on our way to the harbour. From up on the rocky outcrop that the cathedral sits on we could see across to the other big, white cathedral. From not knowing where it was now we can see it from everywhere!
After photographing the cathedral in disappointingly dull conditions we wandered down to the Market Square where we purchased some reindeer antler souvenirs and a birch wood 'puzzle' trivet that has been jigsawed into four pieces so that it can be used as one trivet or four coasters. Very nifty indeed.
From down near the harbour we walked back to Mannerheimintie to catch the tram to Kansallimuseo, the Finnish National Museum. Before gaining its independence in 1918 Finland had a complicated history being ruled alternately by Sweden and Russia. It was ruled by Sweden for 600 years during which time the Swedish considered it to be a buffer between Sweden and Russia. In 1808 Sweden ceded Finland to the Russians. Finland was then a Grand Duchy of Russia for the next 110 years during which time the Russians considered Finland to be a
good buffer between Russia and Sweden!!
After lunch at the museum we walk back downtown via Parliament House, the central station and and ice-skating rink in the large square adjacent to the station. We didn't have a go at ice-skating - we would have been the oldest people on the skating rink by at least three decades if we had been silly enough to try it!!
We went to the Finnish Tapas restaurant that we wanted to try for dinner to make a booking. A good idea but the restaurant doesn't open until 4.00pm. That meant we had some time to kill so we went window shopping until I was tempted to venture into a shoe shop where I tried on several pairs of ankle boots before deciding on a pair that I was happy with.
We continued down Mannerheimintie and finally took some photographs of Helsinki Cathedral, the big, white cathedral with lots of steps. And then ... at last, we took some time to wander around the Christmas market that is set up in front of the cathedral steps. It was a nice cold afternoon and some pancakes or waffles would have been delicious. Unfortunately,
there were very few stalls selling food. Even mulled wine was hard to come by. What sort of Christmas market is this?
When we did find a stall selling mulled wine it was a tent hooked onto the side of a bus. We went in and purchased our warmed wine in plastic cups. It's not nearly as good out of plastic cups, but disposable paper or plastic cups have been the norm in the Scandinavian countries rather than crockery mugs. Next we were confronted by a sign that said we had to consume our alcoholic drinks inside the tent. Finland must have liquor licensing laws that prevent people from wandering around the Christmas markets with their mulled wine. How boring is that?! Despite the plastic cup it was a very good batch of mulled wine and it went down a treat on a cold afternoon.
About 4.00pm we returned to the restaurant and booked a table for two for dinner and then headed back to hotel for a couple of hours. We caught the tram back into the city for dinner at 7.30pm. We each had three tapas-style morsels for our entree and then Bernie had the lamb
shank and I had the grilled Arctic char (fish). Our French waiter/sommelier encouraged us to drink too much wine with our main courses and then convinced us to have a cheese platter with a dessert wine!
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