Helsinki, Finland

Trip Start Jul 07, 2009
Trip End Jul 26, 2009

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Thursday, July 16, 2009

We travelled through fog all night as the ship's foghorn was going off all night. There was a short break in the fog at 11:15 p.m. and there was still a sunset! This really is the land of the midnight sun. The sun rose at 4:30 a.m. this morning and will set about 11 p.m. tonight.

We arrived in Helsinki at 8 a.m. Our Helsinki tour took us out into the countryside to a small village called Porvoo. The landscapes reminded me of Canada in some ways. We passed by fields of oats, barley and canola. There are forests of deciduous trees and evergreens. We made a brief stop at an old granite church that was built in the early 1400s.

Porvoo was established in 1346 and is the second oldest settlement in Finland. The old section of Porvoo is a charming town of cobblestone streets with aging wooden buildings containing shops that sell Finnish handicrafts and souvenirs. We had about an hour to walk around and shop. Bob and Charles found a cafe to have a Finnish beer. We had lunch at a farm that had once housed a distillery.

Back in Helsinki we stopped at another church. This was a modern one that had been carved out of a huge granite rock. Helsinki is built on rock, there are rock outcroppings everywhere. We also stopped at Senate square to see a huge, elaborate Lutheran church and were able to visit an open air market.

An interesting thing we have seen at all of our ports of call so far are these little suburbs of tiny, wooden summer homes on small plots with gardens, trees and shrubs. These are small "vacation" homes that people can rent or lease for the summer months so they can get away from their city dwellings and get back to nature for a period of time - a weekend or a week. Some of them are smack dab in the middle of the city. Europeans seem to have a knack for taking care of what is important in terms of health and well-being.

Everywhere we went we saw moose in statues, carvings, toys, stuffies. It seems to be some kind of emblem of this part of Finland. They call it "elk". Curious.

Our trip is half way completed so I asked everyone to give me their highlights.

Belinda loved the Lion King and the day in London that surrounded that.

Bob liked Warnemunde, Germany. He and Charles had an interesting time strolling the promenade by the canal and sampling various beers while the women shopped.

Pat loved the Lion King and Stonehenge. She also liked Dragor village because it was away from the city and you had a chance to see what daily life was like for the Danish.

Avis liked our day in Germany because it was interesting to be in the former East Germany and find out about the way they lived under communist rule and see how their lives had changed.

Charles liked the first night we all went dancing on board the ship. It was a good time and we danced up a storm. He also liked the walking of the promenade and beer sampling in Warnemunde.

Linda enjoyed Stonehenge and Dragor Village. Another highlight is our great cabin and sitting on the verandah watching us dock or depart at port.

Tomorrow we are on to St. Petersburg Russia. We have a really early start for our tour - 7:15 a.m. - yikes! and have a full day of sightseeing. We have had to go through all kinds of red tape to visit Russia although the crew of the ship has done an amazing job of taking care of everything. You are only allowed to leave the ship if you are with a tour group or have a visa to visit Russia. You are not allowed to leave the tour and go out on your own. We had to fill out special documents and must take our passport and a photocopy of our passport through Russian immigration along with these other documents. For some reason I thought Russia was a lot more open now. Maybe not. We'll see.

About pictures - sorry but there was no rendevous with the crew member, Deb! It is just too complicated to upload pictures from the ship. I will post some really good ones when I get home - on July 26 or so.

We go through another time zone tonight so need to set our clocks forward again. That makes it an even earlier start tomorrow! Must get going and get to my cabin.

Next entry from Russia!
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dlaldous on

Guess it's Avis' turn to try her luck getting some free time 'online!'
Enjoy the day! Have a decadent desert for me! (Tell Avis she needs to have a beer for Owen!)
Hey - can you get a message to Chucky from O?
He's wondering if Chuck wants to do the Selkirk Loop with us- and when (a week ride - BC, Wash. but would have to be before the 5th of Aug. and I think Chuck said that was the earliest he could go.) Thanks!

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