Baltic breezes

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Aug 19, 2011

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What I did
Canal cruise

Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Friday, August 5, 2011

Well, I did get some sleep, even if I had forgotten to close my blackout shade... The sun was up at 4:30 in the morning!! I was up at 7:30.

I am glad that I did get a good night of sleep, however. This morning I went out, strolling casually through the downtown area of Helsinki, to the Market Square, where there are tour boats beginning as early as 10:00.  I had heard that the "Beautiful Canals Tour" was the best one to take and it was also the longest and most comprehensive according to the map, so I plunked down my 20 euros and got on the boat.

I was the first one on the boat, which was never crowded. It was also a 2 level with the 2nd level being in the open air.  Of course, on this cool but sunny morning, I chose to sit up top. I was already just a bit warm from the walk over and the direct sun on my face but as the boat left the dock, I enjoyed the cool Baltic breeze as it crossed my sweaty brow.  I began to feel more comfortable right away. Today was a beautiful temperature and the 1.5-hour ride was very enjoyable.

The tour began at the Market Square and went first around the shoreline and then deeper into the archipelago of islands that make up the whole of the city.  Since my seat was at the top deck and in the front row, it was incredibly relaxing and the green forests and clean beaches on the islands were striking.  My mind wandered deep into my imagination as I listened to the narrative explaining the simple history of the area.

Unlike many European cities, Helsinki has a relatively simple history.  Founded by the king of Sweeden to rival the neighboring port town of Tallinn to the south, it became part of Russia for a time and then was turned back over to Finland.  

It was explained that the Vikings used to use these islands to rest and recreate and I could imagine a ship full of Vikings, romping naked or half clothed, over the tree filled islands surrounding the cool bay.  It gave me pause and made me chuckle to myself.

I must say that I needed and reveled in the relaxing effect of being on the water. 

When the cruise finished at around noon, I found myself quite hungry so I walked leisurely through the Farmers' market that lines the dock way.  I bought some fresh fruit and brought it back to my room where I took advantage of a little respite before going out again on foot for an afternoon stroll.

I decided to simply walk straight down to the end.  Helsinki is on a square peninsula and the streets go in a standard grid, bisected by diagonals (much like San Francisco, where I come from).  My plan was interesting enough; I made a line all the way to the harbor and then went around the perimeter, through a lovely park and back to the Market Square, which seems to be the main part of the city for tourists.  Then I made my way down the promenade, through the main shopping district, watching the very interesting people as I went.  There are a lot of "Goths, Punkers and Alternative types" everywhere you go. It's impressive.  On one street I was on, I noticed that every shop was a hair salon. I couldn't figure out if it was a district meant for this or if it just worked out that way at random but it was interesting none-the-less.

The people here are very friendly and helpful but the prices are a bit high for things, unexpectedly high at that!!  

I absolutely can't get over the amount of parks and greenery that surrounds me here and the amazing resemblance in many ways to San Francisco.

So, after a nice after dinner break in my room, in which I had a talk with my mother and a friend from Rome, I decided to see what kind of things happen at night here.  I didn't get very far before I realized that I have been functioning on 2 different time zones. My computer is on Rome time while my phone is ahead 1 hour.  Either way, I didn't get far before I saw tens of nightclubs, full of people young and old, inside and out, very near my hotel and farther into the center.

I kept thinking to myself how fun it would be to go in and raise the roof but alas, I am alone and a bit old for that kind of thing, at least by myself. Maybe, if I had a friend with me, I might be braver but for tonight, given the hour and the time difference between my head and reality, I decided to call it a night.

In the morning I plan to take a tour of the inner city and I need my beauty sleep. Besides, tomorrow night is Saturday and I might get the chutzpah to go on into a club or two then.  I have 28 more days on this trip to do whatever I want, so...we'll see what happens next in the following installments of this story.
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