We arrived in Helsinki around 6 pm coming from Ulan Bataar Mongolia (through Moscow). After a little confusion as the airport employees directed everyone on the plane in a wrong direction, we arrived at immigration. We had been first off the plane, but after the wrong directions and everyone turned around, we were last. We waited about 45 minutes. Ugh. We got a taxi to our hotel, the Sokos Hotel Helsinki and checked in there. We put our bags down and decided to take a little walk. The hotel is on a pedestrian street and about 3 minutes to Esplanade Park and 5 minutes to the Market Square. Couldn’t be a better location! We were exhausted and headed back to sleep. Our room was very nice, not huge, but had blonde hardwood floors, interesting photos on the walls and white bedding with red accents. Modern, clean and a nice place to come back to. I think it was about $130 or so a night, a bargain, I thought!
We woke up and went downstairs to breakfast, which was included in the room rate. Oh my goodness – huge selections of all sorts of hot and cold food and juices, teas, etc. I ate far more than I should have every day! First order of business was to get transport passes – we bought 3 day passes at the tourist information center just on Esplanade Park. They were very helpful. After that, we headed to the train station via tram to buy train tickets, as we were heading to Turku in a few days’ time. I liked the Art Deco architecture of the train station. We got back on the 3T tram after that and rode it all the way around and back to Market Square. We then walked up to the Cathedral – it is very impressive to look up at. It is fairly plain inside, however. It was close to noon, and they were having an organ concert, which we stuck around for. The music was more modern, but I enjoyed hearing the organ! After that, we stopped in at the Helsinki City Museum (free), which was having a huge exhibit on Finnish film of the 30s and 40s. DH is a real film buff, so he had a great time here! I did too – they had film clips from movies, as well as clothing that the stars wore, props and even a cinema entrance rebuilt. They also had an exhibit on 60s films with furniture and clothing, which was fun. It had excellent English language signage. I wrote down the names of the films, but have had a heck of a time trying to locate copies to purchase! In fact, I haven’t found any, and if you know where I could find some, I would appreciate any tips! I found modern films, but not these from the 30s and 40s.
We walked back to the Market Square and found a tent selling crepes. DH had a ham & cheese crepe and I had one with ham and pineapple. We then walked up to Uspenski Cathedral. It was very decorative and very beautiful inside. We walked along the harbor to the North Harbor then back. We stopped in at Sederholm House, a branch of the Helsinki Musuem that is free, but they only had a small photo exhibit on housing in the suburbs. We just took a quick look around. We went back to the hotel and then made a run to the Alko store for some wine and rum. We had a few drinks at our hotel, then went to Kolme Kruunua restaurant for dinner, where we had reservations. We shared an escargot & blue cheese appetizer. DH had weiner schnitzel and I had sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes. Both were excellent. We walked back to the hotel along the waterfront.
We had another huge breakfast at the hotel. We went down to Market Square and caught the ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. The ride out (and back) gave wonderful views of the city from the harbor. We disembarked at the Main Quay and walked all the way to the King’s Gate. This got us away from most of the crowds. We walked through some of the fortifications on the way, taking our time and doing a little exploring. At the King’s Gate, there are nice views and places to sit and look out over the water. We saw sailboats, tour boats and a large ferry going out. We started the walk back, stopping for lunch at the Café Piper. We shared a beer and had sandwiches and chips. DH wanted to go into the Vesikko submarine, so I sat on a rock and did some people watching and enjoyed the sun while he did that. He said it was very narrow inside – he could reach all the way across. We stopped in the gift shops at the courtyard. There was a souvenir shop and also a shop selling pretty glass items, but nothing really caught my eye. We took the ferry back to the city and then took the 3T tram to the Rock Church. It was a very striking and beautiful modern church inside. I’m not always a fan of modern churches, but I really liked this one! They were preparing for a wedding and an organist was practicing. It was fun to hear yet another organ in a church – we seemed to be hitting churches at just the right time on this trip! They started ushering people out for the wedding, so we took the tram back to our hotel. That night we went to the Bar/Café Amanda on Esplanade Park. We had small reindeer wraps – it was mixed with a spread like cream cheese inside the wrap and was pretty tasty.
We woke up to some pretty heavy rain this morning and had breakfast at the hotel again. DH said he wasn’t feeling great, so we went back up to the room. I read while he took a long nap. By the time he woke up, he felt much better and it had stopped raining, so we headed out to go to the Seurassari Open Air Museum. We took the bus and after a little difficulty finding the stop, it was a straight shot out and dropped us off right at the footbridge that leads to the museum. This museum is a collection of Finnish buildings, mainly houses and farm buildings, and a church, that had been moved here from all areas of Finland. It was not crowded at all and was very peaceful, as it is set away from the city in a forest and next to a lake. Many of the houses had interiors decorated in period furnishings. We bought a ticket that let us go in and out of as many buildings as we wanted to. I think you could just walk around the park for free, if you only wanted to see the outsides of the buildings. We had a light lunch of quiche at the little café at the entrance before we started out. The church was my favorite building. The man who founded the museum, and his wife, are buried in the churchyard. They had an informational plaque that told about him. I thought that was so nice, that he was buried there. There were people dressed in period clothing at each house or farmstead that could tell you about the home and the furnishings. We spent about 2 ½ hours here and it was a good amount of time. I really enjoyed and highly recommend this museum – it was so peaceful and pretty. We took the bus back to town and went back to our hotel. It started raining really hard again, and I am ashamed to say, were seduced by the thought of an easy dinner at McDonalds right across the street.
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Round the World Part 4 - Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Rep., Paris