Helsinki #3: Around Senate Square

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February 9th 2019
Published: March 16th 2019
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Alexander II of RussiaAlexander II of RussiaAlexander II of Russia

and Helsinki Cathedral
I was pretty tired when I dragged myself from my bed. Idiot roommate decided to start a full blown conversation with another roommate when the latter returned from clubbing in the wee small hours. I don't really think she wanted to know the comings and goings of the people in the dorm during the night, but this bloke was intent on telling her. I filled myself up with coffee while eating my breakfast and then headed out to take another look around the city centre, this time in daylight. I made my way to Senate Square, which I had been to on my first night in Helsinki. I really wanted to go into the Helsinki Cathedral, but there was a funeral going on, so had to give it a miss. I noticed that the funeral car had a Finnish flag on it. I wondered if it was somebody important who had died. Senate Square looked pretty and I loved the coloured buildings, but there were big piles of dirty looking snow, that I couldn't get rid of from some of my photos. I had spotted another church behind the cathedral so headed over to take a closer look. However, when I got there the gate was locked meaning that I couldn't enter the grounds. There was a small notice on the gate, which told me a bit about the church. It is the Russian Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity. It was built in 1827. From here, I wandered over to the Bank of Finland building. It is home to the fourth oldest central bank in the world. It was originally established in Turku by Alexander I of Russia, but it was relocated to Helsinki in 1819. In front of the central bank building, there is statue of Johan Vilhelm Snellman. He was a Finnish Statesman in the 19th century. Across the road from the Bank of Finland, there was a very beautiful and ornate building. This is the House of the Estates, which used to be the home of the Finnish parliament, but is now used for government events. The building was built in the 19th century in the neo-classical style.

I kept walking with no real aim just passing all the pretty buildings. Eventually, I ended up by the water, which was rather frozen over. I took a walk along the promenade, looking at all the boats berthed for the winter. There were quite a few joggers about and I really don't know how they managed to stay upright as the ground was covered with a sheet of snow/ice. After a while, I turned around and headed back the way I came but continued towards Uspenski Cathedral. I was going to visit the cathedral, but I decided to take a detour first as the street next to harbour filled with cafes and restaurants looked interesting. There wasn't too much open, but it was still nice to take a walk along. I could see a large, rather grand looking building in the distance so made my way towards that. When I got closer, I saw that it was a casino, never mind. I kept walking for a while through the residential area, before heading back to the main part of town.

I made my way to Uspenski Cathedral. The cathedral's grounds were quite busy and there were some children playing in the snow. The cathedral looks quite imposing and it was rather hard to get a photo of the exterior from close up. It's just too big. The cathedral belongs to the Eastern Orthodox branch of religion and it is the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland. It was designed by the Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev, but he died before it was built. It took six years to build the cathedral and it was completed in 1868. Its name come from the Old Church Slavonic (the first Slavic literary language) word 'uspenie' which denotes the Dormition as the church is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. This is a great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox Church and commemorates the 'falling asleep' or death of Mary, the 'Mother of God' and her bodily resurrection before being taken up to heaven. I made my way inside (no entrance fee) and up the rather steep steps to the main hall of the church. Most of the church was rope off, so you couldn't have a good walk around or get to close to stuff. The interior of the church was beautiful. It was very ornate with lots of imagery painted on the walls and ceiling. Light was also streaming through the windows, which gave the church a rather other worldly feel.

From the cathedral I made my way back towards Senate Square. I wanted to go to the Helsinki City Museum, which is located in just off the square. The museum is free and was quite busy when I arrived. It seems to be a popular activity for local families on a cold and wet weekend. I really should have went to the information desk to find out about the museum and get some information, but I just decided to take a look around. The first room that I went to was, I think, the Time Machine. Here you could see what Helsinki used to be like in the past. There wasn't a great deal of information though. There was also a room filled with old photos of the city, but I didn't really feel like browsing through the many drawers, so I made my upstairs. The main exhibition room up here was much more engaging and I enjoyed learning a bit about Helsinki and how the city had developed. I would have liked to have seen what was on the upper floors but there was an event on and I didn't want to gatecrash it. I probably only spent around an hour in the museum. To me, it just felt a little lacking.

I was a little undecided about what to do for lunch. I had seen a nice restaurant when I had been in Helsinki before, but it was rather expensive and I wasn't feeling too hungry. I had read conflicting reviews about Old Market Hall, some saying that it was good and others saying that it was a tourist trap. Since it was close by, I decided to head there and check it out. I made my way to the South Harbor and to the Old Market Hall. I really liked the outside of the building. The market was opened in 1889 and is the oldest market in Helsinki. I made my way inside and the place was bustling. It was a Saturday lunchtime, but I wonder if it was as busy during the week. I did a circuit of all the stalls, looking at all the different things on offer. There were some rather unusual meats and lots of fish and seafood. I really wanted to try the reindeer as there was a Middle Eastern place that did reindeer burgers, wraps and kebabs, and although the queue wasn't too long, it was taking for ever for the people to be served, so I gave up and headed elsewhere. I went to a place that did fried fish and soup, and got a bowl of salmon soup. I'm not usually a fan of soups like this with a watery broth and lumps of fish and vegetables, I prefer creamy, pureed soups, but when in Rome. The soup was actually really nice and I could have eaten more of it. I just wish that it had been served with something other that half a slice of generic, mas-produced white bread. I decided that I wanted to have something else to eat, so I took another walk around the stalls, I saw lots of nice looking things on offer, but trying to find a stall that wasn't rammed with people and had free space at a table was a little more difficult. Eventually, I found a quieter stall, and ordered an open sandwich. The bread wasn't too thick, but it was dark and dense, and it was slathered with lots and lots of butter. There was a generous helping of salmon on top and that was garnished with pickled cabbage or onion. It was really yummy, and I would have happily had more of them, if they weren't over 4 euros each. I still had room in my stomach for dessert and I had spotted a bakery in the market, that sold a pretty decent looking selection of cakes and buns. I chose a strawberry jam and cream filled bun, a laskiaspulla hillo. It was really good, the bun reminded me of a hot cross bun. I was very undignified eating it, as I got the cream and jam everywhere. My last stop in the market was the coffee shop to get a get to go.

I made my way back to my hostel to pick up my stuff and then onto the train station. I passed a cool street musician, who had a large amount of bottles set up and he was using them to play music. I managed to get the right ticket needed to get to the airport. It was a good job too as ticket inspectors got to check everyone's tickets. I had enjoyed my time in Helsinki, but felt that there was still a lot more to discover in the city. In hindsight, I don't think winter is the best time to visit and I would love to come back in the summer and explore some of the surrounding islands.

Additional photos below
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Johan Vilhelm SnellmanJohan Vilhelm Snellman
Johan Vilhelm Snellman

and The Bank of Finland

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