My brother has been living in Finland for a while now, but I hadn’t gotten round to visiting. So when Michael gifted me a trip for my birthday (yes – it was in September – so?) I had chosen to go visit him and his girlfriend (and the bunnies Nono and Mintu) in Helsinki.
Helsinki was nothing like what I expected. What I hadn’t realised was that Helsinki was only made Finland’s capital city in 1809, when Russia annexed Finland as the Great Duchy of Finland. This means that there is no old town area which I typically associate with old cities (and which due to lack of research on my part I didn’t know wasn’t there). Instead, most of Helsinki to me looked pretty much like areas of Prague outside the old town. I guess this is possible due to the strong links both had to Russia.
Though I might have been disappointed on the ‘typical old town’, I definitely wasn’t disappointed from the ‘impressive building’ point of view. I was particularly inspired by the Helsinki Cathedral. This cathedral is built at the top of a massive set of steps rising up towards a stark white cathedral. This makes it an impressive sight indeed! I was surprised to see though that the main door did not lead to this flight of stairs, and instead was to the side of it.
Another impressive site is the island-fortress Soumenlinna. Sailing through a sea of ice floes was an experience in itself! We walked from the Jetty in the north, to King’s Gate in the south – the walk was definitely worth it if only to see this picturesque gate! I finally got the picturesqueness I was looking for! There is so much to see in the place though, that even though it was freezing cold, we still spent over 2hrs walking around! There is first of all the main sights, such as the Dry Dock and another imposing church. However there is also numerous tunnels and paths to get lost (though not too much) in.
However, besides the sights, there is one thing Finland is known for: design! Unfortunately the Design Museum had only one floor open as they were preparing for a new exhibition. I would have loved to see the rest of it too! However, if shops is what you are after, the Design District is the place to go. It’s good that we don’t have our own place yet and we don’t have much space at the moment, as otherwise my bank accounts would now be in some serious trouble!
Of course, sight-seeing and shopping is not the only things to do in Finland! But more on that in later posts.