Today was another early day. I stepped out onto the balcony as we made our way into port and was instantly chilled to the bone. They sky was filled with dark gray clouds casting a pall on the city Helsinki skyline.
It was too early to go to the lounge so we headed up to the Windjammer for a quick breakfast then down to the lounge for coffee.
Back to the cabin to grab out jackets, cameras, tickets, and off we went to the gathering place, the Pacifica Theater. We ran into Steve and LuAnn, who, as it happens, will be on the same tour. They were on bus six so I went over and got stickers for the same bus and we were off.
Our morning was going to be a relaxed combination bus tour with periodic stops for photo opportunities.
We had a very pleasant tour guide who spent her time town giving pertinent details about Finland along with its history. She explained that Finland had been under Swedish rule for 800 years and Russian rule for 100 years. Finland gained its independence in 1917. Since then, Finland has always been a republic.
One of the first questions one of the tourist had for the guide was, “It is always bad or cold weather here”.
I thought her answer was very funny. “We never think we have bad weather, just bad clothes” she replied.
She told us a few interesting facts about the Finnish people. We learned that most people in Finland own their own homes. Randy and I were blown away when we learned that everyone knows at least four languages. They know Finnish, Swedish, English and either German or French as their fourth language.
One of the passengers asked how early the children of Finland learn how to ski.
“We do Nordic skiing here in Finland. When our children are very small we put little skis on them and throw them out the door,” she answered. This answer brought about a good deal of laughter from the passengers as it created interesting pictures in our heads. Very funny!
Our first stop was to Senate Square. The focal point of the square was the Helsinki Cathedral.
To get to the church we climbed what seemed to be a mountain of granite steps. The inside of the church was beautiful. The soft neutral colors on the interior walls, the light wooden closed pews, beautiful chandeliers and simple altar created a lovely and serene atmosphere.
Also in the square is a statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II, the University of Helsinki and the Government Palace.
The guide pointed to a small building across the street that was undergoing renovation. The Sederholm House is the Helsinki City Museum-Children’s town . She explained that Children’s town is a hands-on museum that encourages children and adults to learn the history of Helsinki by participating in workshops from 18th –century Helsinki. The Sederholm House was built in 1757 and is the oldest building downtown.
As we drove along the coast road we passed a marina, a little park, and an open-air market. As we passed the park she said, “We are basically green people. We love parks”.
We then made our way to the Temppeliaukio Rock Church. Because of traffic, the bus had to stop about quarter mile from the church. We were given 20 minutes to reach the church and return.
This unique church was blasted into the rock and was amazing to visit. The walls are made of quarried stone, the dome is lined with copper and the floor is polished concrete. It was hard to move around as there were so many tourist constantly coming into the building. The granite in Finland is red, mauve and grey. I loved the granite walls; just beautiful.
On our way back to the bus, LuAnn and I wanted to stop quickly at a souvenir shop. We stopped at the first one and, just like the church, it was filled to the rafters with tourist all vying for the attention of the clerks. LuAnn and I were both able to accomplish our mission and we were, once again, making our way back to the bus.
As we drove along we passed other points of interest including the Natural History Museum, National Museum of Finland, the Olympic Stadium, the Helsinki Central railway station and Sibelius Park.
The National History Museum is a research institution connected with the University of Helsinki and houses botanical, zoological, geological and paleontological specimens from all over the world. I loved the playful giraffes on the second floor balcony and the moose on the street level of the building. I thought they were quite whimsical.
The National Museum of Finland illustrates Finnish history from prehistoric times to the present.
The Helsinki Central Railway Station opened in 1919. The station is mostly clad in Finnish granite, and its distinguishing features are its clock tower and the two pairs of statues holding the spherical lamps, lit at night-time, on either side of the main entrance.
The Olympic Stadium built in 1938, hosts both national and international sporting events and outdoor concerts. According to our guide, the stadium is one of Finland’s most-visited buildings. The 1952 Olympic games were held in Helsinki.
By the time we arrived at Sibelius Park the cloud cover disappeared revealing beautiful blue skies. Sibelius Park was named after Finland’s greatest composer Jean Sibelius on his 80th birthday in 1945.
Within the park is a large sculpture resembling organ pipes with an accompanying sculpture of the composer to the right. The sculpture is meant to capture the essence of music.
We were a little tired when we returned to the ship. We decided to grab a quick lunch at the Windjammer and then go to the Solarium pool for a dip.
I was really surprised at just how comfortable the water was as I stepped into the pool. The Solarium pool area is covered and the water is heated just a little making my ‘dip’ a wonderful decision. Randy could not be swayed to join me opting instead to relax on a lounge chair and reading his magazine.
After a short time, we returned to the cabin and dressed for the evening. Up to the lounge and visit with Steve, LuAnn. We all agreed that we had a great time on the tour together and we should do it again in the future. Eventually, Tom and Maryann joined us.
I loved dinner this evening. I had the Chicken Marsala with Marsala-mushroom sauce, buttery mashed potatoes and asparagus. The chicken was very tender; I loved it. I decided after having a heavy meal I would choose something light for dessert. I chose the Sugar-free strawberry Romanoff with macerated strawberries, cinnamon with sugar-free vanilla ice cream. This dessert was just yummy!
As dusk started to descend clouds were starting to, once again, cover the sky. We returned to the cabin as the ship cruised away from Helsinki and made its way to Stockholm. The shoreline was lovely dotted with small homes, a variety of boats and boat houses.
By the time we made our way back into the Baltic a fog moved across the water hiding the sun giving it an ethereal, mystical aura.
Tomorrow we dock in Stockholm, Sweden.