Helsinki 2005

Off we went to Helsinki with no idea what to expect other than cooler days than we were having in England and very long days. We knew there'd be lots of water (as in sea) but had no idea there would be canals and lakes as well.

By the time we arrived on the first day, we only had time for a wander round and dinner. Jonathon was "brave" and had reindeer stew! I chose another of their specialities - salmon. Delicious.

The buildings seemed very imposing as we were walking around but at least it gave us a chance to work out that "katu" and "gatan" can both mean "street" and any of the streets could have either or both attached (very confusing til you get used to it).
Helsinki is bilingual - Finnish and Swedish. It has an interesting history of ownership with Sweden and Russia featuring heavily and the influences being seen around the place.
Our first trip the next day was on a boat - great fun and very interesting.
The boat trip wasn't that busy but people in Helsinki seem to be fairly late at getting up (other than those working hard to make breakfast etc. for the likes of us!)
We chose the Cruise Under the Bridges with Royal Line - a good commentary in 4 languages. The German version wasn't quite the same as the English so we had the benefit of both to listen to! We don't speak Finnish or Swedish so had to pass on those.
This took us out past the working harbour, around the Western Archipelago and through some beautiful scenery. It's amazing to think that Helsinki is split across so many islands along with the mainland part.
We could see both the Lutheran Cathedral and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral very clearly from the boat when we came back into the harbour so a visit was a must!
In front of the Lutheran Cathedral is Senate Square with granite steps up to the church itself.
The Russian Orthodox (Uspensky) Cathedral and very different from the Lutheran - much more ornate.

The views were pretty good from this cathedral as well.

A stroll along some more streets, past the canal and some interesting stuff on building walls and through the market.

We visited the first of many parks, walking up Observatory Hill ...
... to reach Spa Park. There are loads of lovely green spaces in Helsinki, some of them with great views of the sea.
The sculpture is called Pilgrim of Everyday Life and is by Sanna Karlsson-Sutisna.
From there we strolled up to the Botanical Gardens which were lovely.
The flowers were really colourful and the beds carefully arranged and labelled - full of good ideas for our garden!
There was also some interesting sculpture to look at.
I even managed to watch a bit of cricket - the outfield was drier than we're used to!
More wandering and finally back to our hotel (Radisson Royal) via the railway station - amazing architecture for a station. JC was so impressed that he thought he'd go take some night pictures but it didn't seem to ever get dark!
The next day we decided to wander North up the main street in Helsinki called Mannerheimintie.
As we wandered along, we found some more interesting bits on buildings and sculpture here and there.
We had two main objectives today - the first was Sibelius Park and the Monument which was just as spectacular as we had hoped.
There were even some enterprising young musicians who were studying Sibelius at university and playing for the tourists (mainly Japanese and us at that time of the morning)
A stroll through Sibelius Park ...
... and we found ourselves at the opera house.

Another stroll, another park (Hesperia Park this time) and a quick look at the Finlandia Hall ...
... the National Museum ...
... and Parliament
Our second main place to visit was the Church in the Rock - this was "awesome". As the name suggests, its a chuch built into the rock and the way the light plays is amazing - this was my favourite place of all those we visited. They had some gentle music playing unobtrusively in the background - I could have sat there and soaked up the atmosphere for ages!
All too soon it was time to wander back to the hotel, taking in some of the more popular "Sunday strolling" areas, collect our bags and go home.
Helsinki is a very laid back place with very friendly people. It is a great place to go to relax and get some fresh air. It didn't feel like a capital city to us (possibly because we're used to the rush of London) but it's definitely worth a visit for a couple of days.

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