Day 9: Helsinki, Part 1 (and mostly Suomenlinna)


If you read yesterday’s entry, we talked about this fascination we had with the idea that there wouldn’t really be a nightfall. Not completely anyway. And it doesn’t look like that happened. I went to bed about 1am and slept through until about 6:30am. Dan happened to be up at 2am and took the following picture. Still not completely down.

Then he woke up again at 4am and took this one – it was morning already.
Dan was definitely still asleep when I got up at 6:30am. I went down to the sauna area for a bit and then came up and had some coffee in the room. He got up eventually and we went over to breakfast about 9am. Breakfast was good, nothing we haven’t seen really food-wise. Pork-n-beans again. We cooked up a conspiracy that maybe they really aren’t a European breakfast food, it’s just every time we’ve seen them (best we can recall) for breakfast it’s been in a Hilton. Later I googled “pork n beans breakfast” and no conspiracy – saw references to England, Italy, Spain, and we’ve had them in Germany, Luxembourg, Finland. So definitely a Europe thing. Not sure what that’s about.
 We thought we had a little time to kill before the tram came so walked around a bit around the hotel. This is the backside. As we got to the stop the tram left – it was 4 minutes early. Thankfully, only 8 minutes until the next one.
The big event today was a visit to the old fortress of Suomenlinna. It is a short ferry ride away, a series of 5 islands that Sweden built a fortress on starting in 1748 when Finland was still part of that country. Over the centuries it’s been in a variety of hands, including the British and then Russia. Finland didn’t become an independent country until 1917, finally breaking from Russian rule.
Most of the pictures that follow are of the ferry ride and our visit to the islands. All in all it took about 5 hours of our day, including an incredible buffet lunch on the islands of Finnish comfort food.  (Which we keep joking contained reindeer because they were very sheepish about telling us what the “meat” was in the “cabbage leaf with meat” dish, which we happened to like very much. They did eventually tell us it was “cow” after having to check with someone in the back. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t want to tell me, I think they didn’t know what I was asking – confused them somehow. When we got back to the mainland we cruised through an open market and, sure enough – one stand was selling reindeer pelts, another “lapland food” which included reindeer.)
It was a Beautiful Day for the vast majority – high of about 65 with a nice breeze. It started to cloud up about 4pm and by 6pm it was raining.
 Just after the ferry left. Those tarps are they outdoor market I referred to above. They were there all day.
Seagulls trailing us for awhile, flying creepily close to our heads. Like something out of Hitchcock.
Dan zoomed this when we were pretty far out, and the resolution got weak; made it look a little like an impressionist painting!
 Commander Ehrensvard’s tomb, the guy behind managing the construction of this place. It has an interesting history. At one point it had 4500 residents – when Helsinki only had 1500. Currently, it still has 800 residents. Some are workers on the island, others commute to Helsinki. When there’s an apartment available, there are generally about 50 applicants.
 It also served as a naval base and shipyard. It’s still active, and while it hasn’t built a ship since 1975, it does still do repairs and storage.
Just a gorgeous day.
 On our way back. You can see how the sky changed.
 We were going to try to hit the churches on our way back to the hotel, but 2 out of the 3 on the list were closed, including this one.
 This is a Lutheran church, the ones in the earlier pictures scene from a distance. Those steps are pretty steep.
 The guy of the statue is Alexander II of Russia.
 Looking back from the stop of the steps.
 We saw this on our walk back – cracked me up. And it’s wrong on so many levels. Dan and I are always shocked at how often we see “Asian” restaurants in Europe. You know, because all Asian food tastes alike…
After walking around the city center a bit, we made it to the 3rd church, whose doors closed at 5:30 just seconds before we got there. Oh well. It would have taken about an hour to walk to the hotel from that spot so we decided to go for it since it was still early, and went different routes than the tram had taken us before.
 We were fascinated by this: subway like terrain for bikes and pedestrians.
Couldn’t tell ya. We came across this in a park on our way home.
About 30 minutes into this walk it started to rain. We hadn’t taken our umbrellas so changed course to land back at a stop for a tram. We definitely stayed dryer than if we had walked all the way. We were still pretty full for lunch, but left about 7:15pm for a cafe next door-ish to the hotel for coffee and dessert. I had a Napoleon, Dan had a chocolate mousse cake of sorts. Both pretty good.
We spent some time in the sauna area once we got back. We are really enjoying that experience.
And that was the day! Not much to it but we are really enjoying our time here.

 

 

 

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