When Helsinki Freezes Over

Trip Start May 17, 2012
1
10
13
Trip End Jun 02, 2012


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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Free wifi at the port, so I'm trying to upload some pictures. More narrative later!
Well, the free wifi didn't pan out.  It did work, after much effort, but it was as slow as the ship’s connection, and the pictures refused to upload.  So it looks like pictures will have to wait until I get back, which is fairly soon.

Today was Helsinki.  I dated a Finn in graduate school, and I now know that they all look like elves and have names like Smurfs.  The place names are kind of Smurfy too.  Most seem to begin with a "k" though.  Some examples: kampin keskus, kiasma, kaartinkaupunki, kruununhaka, kluuvi.

We had yet another beautiful day weather wise.  The captain told us this morning that it was 13 degrees, which is about 56 in real temperatures.  But that was early.  It was a little overcast, but not anything anyone could (or should) complain about.  We have been very, very lucky. 

I did take my rain jacket, just in case, but I wore it from the ship onto the tour bus, and then it was off for the rest of the day.  I was fanning myself with my map when an Australian couple got on and the man said,  “It sure doesn’t feel like 13 degrees.”  I said, “especially if you’re in your 50s,” and his wife said “or in your 60s”.  Australians sure are a lot of fun, very easy going and friendly—and polite!  Why can’t all people be like that?  We do have an unusually high number of them on this cruise, over 25%.  I always meet quite a few Australians and New Zealanders, but this is a lot.

I had a general tour of Helsinki beginning at 10.  I thought I’d get an overview, and it took us out to th Sibelius monument, which is a little out of the way.  Then I figured if I wanted to I’d stay in town and walk around.  We would have a few hours before we needed to get back on the ship. 

You gotta love the Finns.  At Senat Square there are all these grand (in the Finnish sense) buildings and a huge church.  It’s relatively plain, but there are some Russian influences, like the onion domes are painted blue with gold stars.  Our guide, Maria Louisa Marie, was almost apologetic.  “You see this church, it’s very ornate, but it’s Lutheran!”  I told her I also preferred a plainer church, but that I thought this one was just right.  She assured me it was plainer inside!

We went out to the park to see this Sibelius monument. It’s made of a bunch of pipes to resemble an organ.  Apparently people objected to it, feeling that a statue of the composer himself would have been better.  So the same artist (a woman, by the way, and they’ve had a woman president too, like most countries I’ve visited lately) made a sculpture of his face.  I like both a lot.  I’ll post pictures later.  I think the reason Sibelius is scowling is because he is constantly being crawled on by children.

We stopped at The Church of the Rock.  This is a big deal.  I looked for a tour that didn’t go here, and there was not even one.   A couple of architects blasted out a bunch of granite and put a roof on it and called it a church.  I’m sure they thought they were being very avant-garde.   I had seen it in pictures, and it looks like the big room at the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns to me.  Every tour also posted a warning that getting to the church was difficult, a 400 meter steep climb on uneven surfaces.  I stayed on the bus and talked to a couple from Denver.  We talked about how rude children are these days.  I blamed the parents.  We shared some stories.  

Why does Java want to be updated every damned day?

I digress.  All the people returning from the church were exhausted.  Even the guide was out of breath.  But they said it was nice.  I don’t have to see every church.  I’ll go see one that has some architectural or historical significance but I think the Flinstone style is not for me. 

Our last stop was at Senat Square, which I mentioned above.  We lost two people, and after ten minutes beyond the deadline, we left them!  Ha!

I didn’t stay in town, but there was a little shopping area closer to the port where I used the pitiful but free wifi, had some coffee, and chatted to some folks.  I bought a t-shirt with a moose on it and “Finland”—the moose is their largest animal and sometimes will wander in to town.  So there’s a lot of tourist shit with moose.  I did not buy a can of (seriously) bear pate. 

The Big Liebowski is on TV tonight, so I’m watching it, of course.  I decided to open up one of the beers I  bought in Tallinn.  I thought I’d remembered seeing a bottle opener in the cabin, but after looking around, I realized that was in my hotel room in Amsterdam.  Rio, one of the stewards, brought me one, but I got the feeling they’re in short supply, so I bought a moose refrigerator magnet bottle opener.  I figured it would be my travel opener from now on.  So I’m having a Saku Kuld with my movie.

The other thing I’m having is Pringles.  What follows here is evidence of my genius.  In St Petersburg, Chuck’s wife and I were taken with these posters.  I don’t know if they’re authentic from the Soviet era, but they’re in that style.  Hers was of a woman basically shushing you, but I don’t think she found out what the writing actually said.  Mine is of also a woman and says, in Russian, “Stop kitchen slavery!” 

So then as we’re excitedly laughing over our purchases and talking about the ones we didn’t buy (She had an attraction to one with a KGB guy and I liked one that said “The Mother Land is calling.”)  I raised the question of getting them home.  I don’t think we’re going to have an opportunity to find a mailing tube. 

Enter Lou’s genius.  I was in the ship’s shop today, just passing time before dinner, and I saw they had Pringles.  I realized that two Pringles cans would make a really good mailing tube.  So I bought them, and it won’t be hard for me to get rid of the contents.  I brought a little roll of duct tape with me (and I’ve already used it once), so I can tape the two cans together and protect the poster!).  I’m in awe of myself. 

But now I wish I’d bought two posters. To paraphrase the Dude, they could have really pulled the room together.

Oh, and get this: I did win the daily trivia yesterday—the one in Dutch.  Got a completely worthless little Eurodam pin. 


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Comments

cuzin ca on

russian government has word of your personal relationship with Mickey Mouse in Germany .... they are watching you

drtee
drtee on

I read this at the breakfast table and laughed out loud--then I had to explain to the people next to me.

c00p on

I like that unfortunate Lutheran church! And the Sibelius monument..

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