Bad Weather and just tired out.

Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
Trip End Jul 02, 2010

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Norwegian "Sun" cruise ship

Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 12, Helsinki, Finland

Today we were in Helsinki and it was sort of anti-climatic after St. Petersburg. The weather was lousy, cold, foggy, raining, and extremely windy.  However we pressed on into the heart of Helsinki bad weather, tired feet, and all.

We did not take any tour today but we did do one of those Hop-On, Hop-Off bus things.  It picked us up at the cruise ship and dropped us off there when we were done. 

We first visited the Temppeliaukio Kirkko or the Rock Church.  The church was blasted out of a rocky outcrop about 40 feet above street level.  It was very neat and is a popular church in Helsinki.  Most of the population in Helsinki is protestant, mostly Lutheran, but do to its location near Russia there is also a significant Russian Orthodox population too.

After the Rock Church we walked to an area called the Glass Palace.  It is really a building from the sixties with a lot of glass which is now filled with little stores and café's.  Danielle and I tried some of the local food and then we went to a mall and shopped.  The mall was just like any other mall we’ve been to except the price tags have four or five prices on them one price for each of the different currencies in the area (Estonia, Russia, Sweden, and Euro’s).  While we shopped Sam checked out the local McDonald’s, surprisingly ha ha, he said it was good.

From the Glass Palace we hopped back on the bus.  The bus tour took us down Helsinki’s main street,  Esplanad street, which was pretty, (its really a boulevard and has a park in between) except it was raining and on top of the bad weather today was Helsinki’s national freedom day so it was very crowded.  We did feel like we were at home though, because there was road construction all over on Esplanad street.  Esplanad street had a lot of pricey exclusive clothing stores. Such as Hugo Boss, Laura Ashley, etc. Another interesting fact about Esplanda street is the sidewalks along it are heated, so during the winter snow and ice do not build up on the sidewalks and they clear themselves.

After main street we saw Market Square.  Market Square is along the coast and to us it appeared to be like a farmers market, lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and fish.  But the main attraction today was Senate Square and  Tuomiokirkko or the Lutheran Cathedral.  It is huge and quite severe.  The outside had definite Russian influences but the inside was plain and I guess I would call it clean with simple lines.  Again it is a major tourist attraction but is an operating church with services on the weekend.

A little (and only a little because that’s all I learned) Finnish history, Finland was part of Sweden until Russia defeated Sweden in the early 1800’s.  Finland then was annexed by Russia and remained that way until 1917 when Finland gained its freedom and became its own country.  Senate Square, where the Lutheran Cathedral is located, has a statue of Alexander II.  Alexander II was the Emperor of Russia but he initiated many reforms in Finland during his reign.  These reforms increased Finland’s autonomy from Russia which is why he is honored with a statue in Senate Square.

Since today was a national holiday the square was the site of a large celebration and also the staging point for a parade.  We left before the parade but there were many colorful costumes and floats in the square.    From Senate Square we traveled back to the cruise ship along the coast.  The coast is very rocky but also beautiful.  The Finnish people love to sail and there were lots of boats in the water even though it was so extremely windy. 

On our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour we also saw the Olympic Stadium from the 1952 summer games, Helsinki’s Railway Square (trains to almost everywhere including Russia, four hours to St. Petersburg), the Swedish Theater, and Helsinki’s flea market.  Helsinki has a lot of green area or parks.  The bus tour took us by at least ten of them and the Finnish people are proud of their parks and the cleanliness of their city. 

A couple of interesting Finnish facts, 95% of the population speak Finnish (a cross between, German, Estonia, and Hungarian) while the other 5% speak Swedish.  Even though only 5% of the population speak Swedish all school children learn both languages.    All of the street signs have two names on them the first or top name is the Finnish name while the second or the bottom name is its Swedish name.  In addition, there is a university in Helsinki that teaches only in Swedish and in Finland’s "constitution" it is against the law to ever remove the teaching of Swedish from the school system.  

A second interesting fact is Finland is one of the largest ship building areas in the world.  They built the newest cruise ship at sea, I think it is the Radiance of the Sea.

20% of Finland’s population is located in or around Helsinki and since Finland has some of the lowest populations/kilometer in the world (17 people/kilometer if averaged for the entire country), that means the northern most area’s of Finland have more mosquitoes’ and reindeer /kilometer than they have people.

Finnish people drink the most coffee in all of Europe breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner.

Nokia is a Finnish company not a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or any other Asian country company.

Paper and paper products were once Finland’s greatest export.

Many Finnish people travel to Estonia for shopping trips because the prices are much cheaper and it’s only about an hour and a half cruise across the Gulf of Finland.

There are no homeless people in Finland, everyone who needs assistance is given it. 

All Finnish people are covered by health care except there is a waiting list to be seen by doctors at the clinics.  Some businesses provide health care for their employee’s and those people do not go on the waiting list to be seen they can go to their own doctor.

Ok that is all I can think of from today.  My overall impression of Helsinki was a very nice city but long cold winters and today, June 12 when it should be “warm” we saw many people with scarves around their necks wearing heavy coats, not a place I would want to live.

Tomorrow we will be in Stockholm, Sweden and then we have two days at sea before we take a quick tour of London and then head to Zurich, Switzerland.

Tonight the sea is ruff and the ship is a rockin, not as bad as it did in Alaska but bad enough that the crew placed pretty white bags on all of the stair railings for those whose stomachs are wishing for calmer waters.  The air temperature is about 50 degree’s and the sky is gray and cloudy, however, the good news is we gain another hour tonight meaning we will only be seven hours ahead of Michigan, so that is good news.

Tonight at dinner I asked Sam and Danielle what they thought of Norwegian Cruise Line (what we are on right now) in comparison to Royal Caribbean and here is what they told me.  Both think the shows on this ship rock, last night we had a pick pocket guy, Bob Arno.  He took a tie off of a guy and the guy did not realize it until he was off of the stage on his way back to his seat.  He also removed an older gentleman’s suspenders from under his sports coat.  Impressive.  On the down side for Norwegian is the overall “things to do on ship” category.  Sam liked BINGO better on RC and Danielle liked the teen club better on RC.  One thing they both said, which I though was interesting, was the meals here on Norwegian which are eat when ever and where ever you want, they do not especially like this "Freestyle" dining.  They enjoyed eating in the dining room all together on RC and missed the waiters who were the same every night and made the meals fun.

Well my fingers are getting tired so I will close for today.  Luv to all,

Ann, Sam, and Danielle--on a very rocky boat in the Baltic Sea.

PS  Happy Birthday Ron!!!  Hope the fish are biting, the weather is sunny, and the lake is flat.

PSS  Ron, I heard you had Barney at Londo and he was in the water you are in TROUBLE with Danielle!!!
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