A day trip to Helsinki

Trip Start Aug 03, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2008

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

We caught a huge passenger ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki. Inside there were bars, restaurants and WiFi. How different to the little wooden boats of SE Asia! So we settled in for the two hour crossing and searched the web for an apartment in Paris. As we neared Helsinki, we passed by lots of tiny islands and then a cluster of huge cruise ships and passenger ferries.
On arrival in Helsinki we landed near Market Square. We walked through the collection of orange stalls lining the harbour side. All manner of souvenirs were for sale and food too. As we were hungry, we stopped at a stall with a huge pile of yellow rice with prawns, herrings and other delights all sitting on an iron hotplate. There was also a large flock of seagulls eagerly watching and we were warned to guard our food. We sat at a wooden bench in an adjacent tent, enjoying fried sprats and rice salad and watched the antics of the birds buzzing anyone walking past with food in their hands. A little way past the market was a collection of boats offering cruises around the islands in the harbour and then a small building called Market Hall which was full of delicatessens selling baking, chocolates and other temptations.
We found Helsinki to be a clean, upmarket city full of neo-classical and art nouveau buildings. We visited Esplanade Park, a long rectangular park in the middle of town, which was full of people watching a fashion show. The cafes in town were all spilling out onto the streets and the tables were all full as people enjoyed the perfect summer weather. We visited two cathedrals, first the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, a red brick Russian church with golden domes sitting on a small hill. We then made our way past docks full of boats to the impressive neo-classical Helsinki Cathedral. This huge white building had a tasteful light green dome and being a Lutheran church, a very plain but elegant interior. In front of the Cathedral were steep steps leading down to the Senate Square which was surrounded by impressive buildings and full of people. Part of the city is called the "design district" due to the concentration of designer stores, which were interesting to wander through.  We returned to the harbour and followed a walkway past the ferry terminals and around a curving hill. Just offshore were lots of cute islands and the harbour was full of little boats. Continuing, we came across a large park, then a small marina. We entered the park and climbed over some boulders up onto a hill for a great view across the Gulf of Finland.
As our Tallinn-bound ferry left Helsinki, we skirted around the famous fortress island of Suomenlinna. This maritime fortress was built in the 1770s and is one of the world's largest. It certainly looked very impressive from the ferry and we would have liked to have had time to explore it. On the return, we had entertainment, an ensemble of four Finnish gentlemen and some of the elderly passengers got up to dance. We arrived back in Tallinn just before midnight, having really enjoyed our day's excursion.
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