And on to St Petersburg

Trip Start Apr 29, 2011
Trip End Sep 03, 2011

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Thursday, July 14, 2011

It was a lovely sunny day and we were all looking forward to the evening when we would be catching the St Petersburg ferry. In the meantime, we had some exploring to do but firstly, we needed to rid ourselves of the bags that we were taking with us to St Petersburg. That meant catching the 21V to the station and leaving them in left luggage – unusually, they still had diy facilities and €4 rented us sufficient locker space for the day.

I've not yet mentioned the station in Helsinki. I’m assuming it dates from the 20’s as it has an art deco feel to it. It is airy and clean and not a drop of litter anywhere, quite a pleasant place to be if one was waiting for a train, especially when compared to the likes of Euston, for instance. Outside, it boasts 4 impressive figures that guard the main entrance (see photo).

We caught the little ferry out to the islands at around 12:30 and we were soon sitting on the dockside in the sun eating our lunch – at least the others were, I’d already eaten mine on the ferry! The island constitutes one large fortress, construction of which commenced in the early 1700’s when Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. On the substantial ramparts are large guns, dating back to the time when Finland was under Russian rule during the 19th century. Indeed, Suomelinna Island fortress is sufficiently important to have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We thoroughly enjoyed the few hours that we had to spare prior to making our way to the ferry and it was good that we had something as nice as this to do to occupy our minds.

The ferry sailed at 19:00 and we got ourselves on board at around 17:30. The Princess Maria is quite a large vessel, capable of carrying 1600 passengers and over 300 cars. Details are here :-

The girls had a 4 berth cabin and I was to share another cabin elsewhere on the boat, unless they could be prevailed upon to allow me to join them or more specifically, if Julie’s bunk was wide enough to accommodate 2! However, such considerations were for the future as our initial problem was the state of the allocated cabin – the ceiling light had been ripped out, there was insulation everywhere and there was no clean bedding. Happily, the error was rectified promptly when the purser saw the problem and another cabin was provided, this time fully fit for occupation, albeit very hot and yes, the bunk was wide enough, barely.

We had paid for dinner and breakfast on board and all meals turned out to be absolutely fine – good in fact. There was even free wine, albeit the white was undrinkable and the red barely better. A nice touch was the provision of a glass of fizzy white wine (quite potable) and a shot of vodka (ditto). The food was by way of a buffet, with lots of fish and shellfish and cold meats for starters, an array of hot food consisting of roasts, stews and casseroles and a nice selection of puddings and cheeses – all surprisingly good. One nice surprise was the presence of some English people on the table behind us, two men and a woman. It transpired that one of them, David Pratt, was a Cruising Association member, with vast sailing experience and the owner of a 13m Nauticat, Jenard 111, who had been sailing with two friends, Ted & Cath and who were squeezing a quick (one day in St Petersbug) trip in to Russia before flying home.

We got back to the cabin and got ready for bed, looking forward very much to the following day but collectively dreading the coming night as it was really, really hot in the cabin!
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