Helsinki

Trip Start Aug 25, 2005
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32
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Trip End Mar 31, 2007


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

What great place, arrived Saturday morning & Finnair bus takes you straight to town - central railway station - in less than 30mins for eur5.20 (they have Euro hurray). Was staying in Radisson Plaza Hotel which was incredibly near the station (which unusually is not a seedy area) but unfortunately my orientation was a bit skewed so lets just say I had a walking tour for an hour! Hotel was just by the National Theatre & Aaltonen's statue of poor old Aleksis Kivi, who died insane and impoverished before being acknowledged as Finland's greatest playwright. Very compact city so no harm orientate yourself (ahem), plus I couldn't have checked in til 2pm so that's precisely when I did, mind you the wind gave me pretty crazy looking hair & a red blotchy face, but no one seemed to notice & were very nice at check in. They have a fantastic train station - built by Eliel Saarinen in 1914, its a landmark of early modern architecture/late art nouveau with four muscular figures on the facade, each clasping a spherical glass lamp above the heads of passers-by. Intertesingly I read Saarinen was to emigrate to America & his son in turn became one of the best-known postwar American architects, whose most famous creation is the TWA terminal building in New York.

Anyway I met my Mum a few hours later & really when you think about it I saved her all the bother of searching for the hotel! Had late lunch there (vege options available which I was pleasantly surprised by) and that evening headed to Museum of contemporary art Kiasma which was brilliant, Mum loved it too & this is the woman who laughed her way around MOMA in New York. Also on display was work by Ars Fennica '07 candidates which were great(The Henna and Pertti Niemistö Ars Fennica Art Foundation was set up in 1990 to promote the visual arts, to open up new international contacts for the Finnish art world, and to encourage artists in their creative work) & you could vote, we voted for Marcus Kåhre (http://typo.kiasma.fi/index.php?id=851&FL=1&L=1), very intertesting stuff, had a drink at the very nice cafe there. Had look at shops in Kamppi mall & then we went for coffee & cakes (at about 17euro) in the Lasipalatsi, the old Olympic transit and entertainment building. Followed by hot toddy's in the very nice hotel bar.

Next day after a lovely Sauna & substanstial breakfast we headed off on Tram 3B for figure of 8 hour long tour of the city (24 hour ticket hop on-off 6euro)- saw Olympic tower stadium (1952 games), want along main drag Mannerheimintie where the Parliament building and Opera House are, got off at Senate Square & the exquisite Tuomiokirkko or Lutheran Cathedral beside some impressive university buildings & Government Palace, catherdral very fancy on outside with statues of 12 apostles on the roof & very minimalist inside - all the buildings in the square designed by german Carl Engel and modelled on those of St Petersburg. Then around the corner is the onion-domed Uspenski Cathedral, a legacy of Russian rule, which is very beautiful inside with a rich display of icons and other sumptuous adornments, including an impressive array of chandeliers dangling from the vaulted ceiling. Then we got the ferry to the fortress Suomenlinna (built by the Swedes in 1748 to protect Helsinki from seaborne attack,) now a UNESCO world heritage site, had lunch there in cafe Vanille & good walk around in the cold for a few hours & went to Ehrensvärd Museum occupying the residence used by the first commander of the fortress, tried to go to the toy museum which alas closed. After another ferry got 3T tram back to Kiasma to check out the book shop (which is supposed to be one of the best in Finland) & cafe again & after rests in the hotel released it was freezing out & so had dinner (vege menu) & nightcaps in the there.

So next day after more saunas & porridge we checked out 'Stockmans' on Mannerheimintie - largest dept. store in Europe & Market Sq. & then thought we'd get 12.30 ferry to Tallinn but due to rough seas the next 2 ferries we cancelled. And it was pissing rain, so not happy, ended up going for coffee in this nice hotel on the quays & went to the hotel hairdresser! Checked more shops with cool russian dolls & walked up Pohjoisesplanadi, past the Presidential Palace & then hit the City Museum on Sofiankatu where there's a permanent exhibition entitled "Helsinki Horizons" which creates an overall picture of the city in three realms - the Swedish era, the Russian era and the era of Finnish independence looking at Helsinki from its origins as a country village right up to the present day & there's also a little cinema called Kino Engel, which shows short films about Helsinki, which was very good & a great way to pass a rainy afternoon, then we stuffed our faces in Engle's cafe looking out at Tuomiokirkko where they had a very vege friendly menu. Then more shops - wolfords, maxmara, zara etc. And later went for mexican dinner which was 'nice but no cigar', more hot toddy's followed with the bar man now saying 'long time no see' & alarm call for 4:30am to 5am coach for early flights back to reality....
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