Trip Start May 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Friday, July 24, 2009

A more interesting day today as we arrived in Helsinki at around midday.

We stopped at a sculpture dedicated to the famous composer Sibelius, which looked a lot like it was constructed by a bunch of learner welders, then headed on to the Temppeliaukio underground church. It's not quite as underground as it sounds - it's really more of a hole with a shallow dome shaped roof over the top. It's still quite interesting, and has had concerts held inside it in the past because of it's good acoustic qualities, which were clear when we heard a violinist playing inside.

We then had a short driving tour of the city, before being dropped off at the town square so that we could explore the city on foot. Byron and I went and explored the markets, where we saw some interesting things for sale...such as moose antler bottle openers (the least portable/practical bottle openers in existence) and fox skin scarf/stole type things...with a stuffed head and plastic eyes and everything! (Sarah definitely wouldn't like them!).

After a bit of walking around I went to the Uspensky Cathedral, an impressive building inside and out. I'll let the photos speak for themselves on this one.

I then headed down to the food market building, where I bumped into Lucy from our group (a chef from the Czech Republic) and Seo (a doctor from Korea). We had a bit of a look around, and saw some interesting products for sale...amoungst the reindeer and moose meat, dried meats and salamis, we also saw tinned bear meat, bear, moose and reindeer pate, seafood and a chocolaterie...which had some very convincing looking 'rusty nuts and bolts' made of chocolate.  Not quite sure why nuts and bolts though..

When we left we decided to catch the ferry to Suomenlinna, a set of islands used as a sea fortress with construction starting back to 1748. Today Suomenlinna is home to around 900 people, and has some nice walking tracks and old ruins. It started raining heavily while we were there, and we had to keep moving to ensure we reached the ferry for the return trip on time, so we got soaked!

We got to the ferry in time, caught the ferry back to Helsinki then set about finding somewhere to grab dinner before we got the bus back to our camp site. Seo and I found a place called Carrols, which is similar to McDonalds, and grabbed some food there before having to run back through the pouring raing to the bus in the square where it left us. We were absolutely drenched (the raincoat I was wearing didn't put up much of a fight) and it felt really good to put on some warm, dry clothes when we got back to the campsite. It was a good day, and I enjoyed looking around, though the city did have a very similar feel to Oslo I thought.

A few facts about Finland:

-Population is about 5.3million

-The currency is the Euro, so some things are a bit dear, but certainly nowhere near as bad as Norway! Infact some of us decided that if you lived near the Norway-Finland border, it would probably be cheaper to drive to Finland, do your shopping and take it home with you! (even though there's a big drive to the first town)

-Most of the road signs are in Finnish and have a Swedish translation below them. Some also have Russian, as Sweden and Russia have both previously laid claim to Finland.

-Finland has lots of trees. Lots and lots of them.

-Finland also has lots of lakes...187,888 (larger than 500 square metres) to be precise!
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