Who knew you could find 3 days of stuff to do in Helsinki? We really weren’t sure when we booked this, but wanted to stay 5 nights because of the deal we got at the hotel. In the end we decided it didn’t matter, that it might actually be nice to have a slower pace for once. We tend to push pretty hard when we travel. Yet we’ve still had pretty full days.
We were up early and made it down to the sauna by about 7:30. That has been a great addition to this trip. It’s only open from 6am-10am and 5pm-10pm so we’ve been trying to make it down there once in the morning and evening. Finnish saunas are not like you may be used to at home. They are a serious part of the culture here; some estimates say there’s enough saunas in this country to get all 5.4million Finns into them at one time. Most homes have their own.
First off, they’re hot. The one we’ve been using has ranged from 75-82 Celsius. That’s 167-179 Fahrenheit. Secondly, and my favorite part, they’re not as dry as you’ve probably experienced. A Finnish sauna has a pail of water in it with a ladle, and you’re encouraged to spoon as much water as you like onto the hot stones to create steam. We learned that 2-3 is great for Dan, I preferred 3-4, maybe 5. 6 ladles of water was definitely Too Much. The steam moistens the air, increases the heat, and makes you sweat more. When you’ve had enough, you take a cold shower right outside, or jump into the pool down the hall, and go back in. We’d do several rounds of this (using the shower because it was less hassle) each time we went down. There’s a resting area with a couple of couches and a deck that looks onto the lake just outside. It felt great to cool down in 55 degree weather after you’ve heated up like that. It’s been a real treat. For those of you who know my love for Harbin Hot Springs: sort of like that, but not as wet!
After the sauna, breakfast again in the hotel, and we took our time getting moving. We were out about 10:30. The tram was there when we got to the stop. The hotel is at the last stop of this line so it usually sits for a few minutes before it starts its next round. And it was empty, as you’ll see below. These suckers are long.
Our first stop was the Kamppi Chapel of Silence. What a great concept. It’s just across from the central train/bus station, and is operated by a collective of churches and the Social Services department of the city. It is non-denominational and no services are held. It is intended to be a place for silent prayer and mediation for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. It’s a very modern design with a variety of kinds of wood. We really didn’t know what to expect.
This outer wood is spruce.
If any of you are serious meditators, you might be familiar with “the hum of the universe.” I’ve heard it many times before but usually only after supplying some consciousness. When I walked into this room the silence was so pure all I could hear was that hum, without trying. It was pretty cool. There was only one other woman in there when we got there, but as other people came in a few minutes later, of course the silence weakens and then we were ready to go. But it was sweet while it lasted.
The inner walls are made of alder, and furniture is ash. All of the wood comes from Finland. Those items to the right are pillows, I think meant to look like rocks.
That’s light coming in through skylights that edge the entire ceiling.
This was the Kamppi shopping center just outside of it.
A cute little park we came across as we continued our walk that at one time was apparently a cemetery. The engraving on the headstones was so worn you couldn’t read it really, but the dates of death were in the 1800’s.
We went through a public market that had lots of cute little stands for the locals to their stuff, mostly food items. Lots and lots of salmon.
St. Henry’s Catholic Church. He is Finland’s patron saint. It was locked so we couldn’t go in.
There was another good sized park with various playgrounds for kids that bordered the water, and a large hill to climb, which gave great views of a sailing harbor beyond.
We were thinking of eating lunch near a nature area on the opposite side of town, but realized after we boarded the bus that there wasn’t much to pick from over there. Yesterday we had walked through a department store, Stockmans, that was 8 stories and had a great cafeteria on the top floor. Dan had mentioned then we should try to come back for lunch at some point. No time like the present since our bus happened to be approaching it. We jumped off and made our way to floor 8. Dan was in the fish line, got his food first and found a great table in the corner. This place was full of locals, lots of business people and retired folk at lunch. We loved that.
Dan thinks it was trout, with lots of dill, and potatoes, and an interesting salad of snow peas, soy beans, black beans, chick peas, sun dried tomatoes, other stuff.
I got a creamy pasta mushroom dish topped with parmesan cheese and arugula, made fresh there right in front of you. It was excellent. (It probably was more photogenic before I stirred everything up!)
Just as Dan started to take this I got a fit of the giggles reading something silly on Reddit. He took like 10 of these in a row, most of them unsuitable for public consumption, so this is highly edited!
Next we went to Seurasaari
, a recreational island for hiking and other activities, with an open-air museum. “The island is a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city and a museum of the traditional Finnish way of life is displayed in the cottages, farmsteads and manors of the past four centuries that have been relocated from all around Finland.” We were just interested in the walking around part and didn’t get the ticket to go into any of the buildings. And that was enough. It was chilly weather – hovered around 60 most of the day and usually cloudy, but at least it wasn’t raining. We spent about an hour here and enjoyed it.
The bridge to the island.
We had read about the friendliness of the squirrels but didn’t think we’d experience that since we didn’t have any food. He didn’t seem to care. This isn’t a zoomed photo – he was that close, climbing the branch towards the camera.
There were ducks and pigeons all around our feet as we were watching this family feed the squirrels, who were literally eating out of their hands.
A restaurant towards the end of the island. It’s about a kilometer long.
Cute squirrel eating a tiny pine cone.
A building associate with the church.
It was about a 25 minute walk back to the hotel from here. On our way we came across a park we’d walked by yesterday, but not in, so we took a different path and discovered this.
As we looked at all the names and birth/death dates of the stones we realized this was a World War II memorial of some kind. But there were no signs or markers of any kind to tell you that. Again, an oddness around their attitude re: WWII. Is it embarrassment? If we hadn’t walked right into it we would never have known it was here.
We got back to the room about 4:15pm, a nice easy day. I worked on the blog from yesterday while Dan did some planning for our day tomorrow and went down to the sauna. I finished the blog and got down there just as he was coming back up about 6:15. I didn’t stay long; we had 7:30 reservations at a Japanese restaurant. We got sushi; some of it was great, but mostly it was just OK.
Dan caught more photos of folks on surfer boards from out window. Remember: it’s 60 degrees outside. I can only imagine how cold that water must be.
Tomorrow we end our trip with a day in Tallinn, Estonia.