Sunday, sweet Sunday
Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
15Trip End Aug 19, 2011
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After getting an overview of the sights yesterday on the "Hop on/off tour," I decided to take a self-guided walking tour that I saw in a magazine offered by the tourism department of Helsinki. There are 5 tours and I had hoped to do as much as possible in case I never come back here.
The first tour is called the "Historic Center" tour but it isn't really that old, like so many other European cities. There is a lot of interesting architecture on this tour but the history is from the 18th century forward.
Just like most of the tours here, I began at Senate Square heading east along the Katajanokka Island. Beginning at the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral and then down along the shoreline east toward the end of the island. There are so many interesting buildings built in the Jugend style from the 18th century.
There are spiraled towers and gothic looking facades all through the area. Situated below is the oldest part of the city and some important historical buildings including the mayor's house and some old military buildings, which have been converted into public facilities, and museums of various types. The most amazing part of this area for me were some of the doors on the Jugend buildings. Like a storybook land with giant brick and stone entryways and giant, hinged, wooden doors with great adornments. We love our hardware!!
Following the coast around the island, it contains many old shipyards and warehouses, which have been converted into expensive and interesting residential homes. It is nice how the modern images rise up in front of the older ones creating an interesting contrast as you look down the long streets.
Completely surrounded by a shoreline park which I strolled casually along, I arrived at the port for the Viking cruise line and then turned up a small hill to an old prison which is now a luxury hotel
After my stop at the "jailbird hotel" I went along the shore where there are many old brick buildings along with deco and 18th century buildings mixed in.
When I arrived back at the starting point, I headed north along the shoreline where there is a guest harbor and some historic buildings along the street on the opposite side. I got to the north end and made a left where I came across the oldest wooden home, which is a very interesting free tour in which you can really feel how the working class families of that era lived. The last inhabitant died in 1976. I was told she was a bit bohemian and thus wanted to keep her home in its original style.
The second tour of the day took me through the design district. Straight down the "esplanade" where there was a sit-in of hippies. I was told it was a "legalize marijuana" group and I supported their cause
The design district basically runs straight south through the center and is filled with more hair salons in one area than I have ever seen, along with clothing shops and furniture. Mostly, I was impressed by the number of designers using recycled materials in their products.
There are so many parks and trees; it made the walking most pleasant and relaxing. Reaching the square known as "Kampi" I noticed an area full of tents that seemed like a camp of some kind with a high fence and barbed wire and guard towers. It seemed like a concentration camp!! Curious, I asked a nearby tourist information worker who explained it was a demonstration to bring attention to the plight of illegal refugees from eastern countries. I must say it was all too realistic but one of the guys was very willing to explain their program, which had just ended. I thanked him for his work and moved on feeling happy that there are still people willing to go out on a limb in these hard times. As I arrived back near my hotel, I stopped in the "Church of the rock" which I missed seeing the day before due to it being closed for a wedding. It is extremely modern and actually is a dome over a hole in the bedrock of the city. The seats in the pews were covered with a purple upholstery and the domed ceiling was of copper and had windows all along the horizon where the dome met the rock. If you come to Helsinki, this is a "must see".
I really need to rest my feet as the total walking time lasted from roughly 9:30 until nearly 4:00. I would have to say that walking is DEFINITELY the way to see the most interesting parts of this particular city.
And, before I forget to mention, there are a preponderance of karaoke bars and a lack of street vendors selling sunglasses. I'm just saying.
Thanks for reading,