Tag: Finland

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki, Finland – July 15, 2015

As the Regal Princess slipped into the Port of Helsinki, we could tell we were in for an exceedingly beautiful day. The sky had barely any clouds, just a fantastic azure color. The port was bustling. Large ferries came and frequently went to other ports in the Baltic.

The Princess Anastasia is a ferry. It can carry 2,500 passengers in a combination of seating and 834 cabins. There is a deck that holds 580 cars.

Arrangements by the cruise line included a shuttle bus. For 10€, we had roundtrip transportation from the port to a bus stop near the corner of Erottajank and Bulevarden. Lorraine and Arlene made arrangements for a tour of the city.

A rather unique bicycle rack on the road near where our bus dropped us off.

Leslie and I opted to see some sights on foot.
Once we got our bearings, Leslie and I began our stroll to the Helsinki Cathedral at Senate Square. We entered the west end of the Esplanadi, a park-like area about four blocks in length. The east end of Esplanadi is at Market Square. Along the road on the north side of the Esplanadi are all the high-end stores like Louis Vuitton. There were several bronze statues throughout the park. In the center of the park, the wide walkway is gravel.

Statues in the park.
A walk in the park.

At Unioninkatu we turned to the north. As we neared the end of the first block, we got our first glimpse of the Helsinki Cathedral at Senate Square. On the corner, just across from Senate Square, we found a souvenir shop. Yes, we bought another magnet.
After the magnet purchase, we crossed the street to Senate Square. The mid-19t h Century Helsinki Cathedral dominates the north side of the Square. There are 52 steps leading up from the Square to the Cathedral. In front of the stairs was a large portable stage. The Square teamed with several cheerleading squads, obviously preparing to perform on the stage. We saw a couple of different crews practicing in the Square.
Given the number of steps, Leslie decided to sit at the base of the stairs and watch the cheerleading squads while I went to view the Cathedral.  I ascended the stairs and found the main entrance on the west side of the Cathedral.

This is the Cathedral of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of Helsinki.
A Swede posing on the steps of a Finnish Cathedral.
One of the minor domes of the Cathedral behind a statue of Peter.
View of the main dome of the Cathedral. The statue is of the Apostle Thomas.

The exterior of the Cathedral is all white with six columns holding the four pediments above each side. The top of the Cathedral has a large green dome adorned with a gold orb and cross. Four smaller domes with similar balls and crosses surround the central dome. The peak and two edges of each of the pediments are the bases for three statues.
It was hard to miss all of the gymnasts in the plaza next to the Cathedral. We found out the 15th Annual World Gymnaestrada. This is a gymnastic event held every four years. In Helsinki, there were 21,000 entrants from 55 countries.

Two groups of gymnasts practicing before one of the competitions for the 15th Annual World Gymnaestrada. There are a total of 55 countries and 21,000 gymnasts competing.
A ground view of the two practicing squads of gymnasts.
The steps of the Cathedral are pulling double duty as seating for the gymnast competition.
Some additional practice.
A slight hop in the routine.

The interior is quite Spartan. The chandeliers, altar, and pipe organ were all beautiful; but, other than some statues, there was not much decoration. Much like the encounter with the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, when I entered the Cathedral, I found myself saying, “That’s it?” With all of the hype, I was expecting a wonderfully decorated church. Instead, there was hardly any decoration inside. I was glad I did not have to pay to go inside the Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral. The main aisle leads toward the altar.
The altar in the Cathedral.
Detail of the painting at the altar in the Cathedral.
The pipe organ in the Cathedral’s choir loft.
In a niche of the Cathedral, one finds a statue of Martin Luther.

Exiting the Cathedral, I noticed a smaller white building at the southwest corner of the Cathedral property. As I got closer, I saw it was the gift shop for the Cathedral. Inside I saw some lovely handmade crosses that I thought would go well in Leslie’s cross collection. Instead of just buying one, I walked down the stairs and told her what I discovered. She decided to walk up the 52 stairs with me and look at the gift shop. She did find a cross she liked. The gift shop also sold coffee. We decided to have a cup of coffee at the small table outside, and people watch.

I guess the sign outside the gift shop says it all.

Finished with our coffee, we decided to walk downhill to the Market Square. We chose Katrinegatan for our one-block walk to the Square. We saw an interesting store, Made by Helsinki, and decided to go inside. Local artisans made everything inside. Everything from jewelry to pottery and clothing was on display. We found some wooden Christmas ornaments that, when assembled, were three-dimensional. We bought three, one for Lorraine, one for Arlene, and one for us.

On Sofiankatu looking north toward the Cathedral.

There were many people in Market Square, each going from vendor tent to vendor tent. Leslie and I each bought a Finland t-shirt. Although the designs were different, each had the words “Finland” and “Suomi” emblazoned on the front.  I asked one of the vendors what Suomi meant.  He said it is the name of their country in Finnish.

The rather crowded market square. This is where we scored our Finnish t-shirts.

From the Market, we began to walk west toward the high-end shops. I wanted to find the littala glass store. I read a lot about the glass factory in the Lonely Planet guide to Helsinki. We found the store, but quickly decided it was not for us.
We emerged from littala and hailed a cab. We headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art (Nykytaiteen Museo Kiasma). American architect Steven Holl designed the modern-style building, apparently much to the chagrin of many Finns.
The building is striking, finished in 1998. Entry to the museum was 12€ per person.
We decided to start on the fifth floor and work our way down to the ground floor. One of the first exhibits we saw on the fifth floor was Think of One Thing by Mariele Neudecker. There were several clear plastic cubes, each containing a mountaintop poking above clouds. They each looked very realistic. Another unique piece we saw was the “wind” drawings. The artist (I forgot to write down the name) attached a pen to the branch of a tree or bush. The pen rests against a piece of paper, making marks as the wind blows. The artist did something similar with photographs and light, but I could not figure out the logistics of those.

Think of One Thing.
Think of One Thing detail.
Branch drawing by the wind.

On the fourth floor, we both thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit Face to Face. That is where we saw works such as Scarlet, Villu’s Portrait, Jack, Topless Compact, and Michael. Possibly the oddest work was Michael. It is a video made in 2015 by Iraqi artist Adel Abidin. The video depicts a fictional interview with Michael Jackson when he returns from death, complete with screaming fans in Times Square.

The ramp from the fifth floor to the Face to Face exhibit.
Face to Face. Note Leslie in one of the mirrors.
Detail of the Face to Face exhibit.
Scarlet by Stiina Saaristo (2004).
Villu’s Portrait by Berit Talpsepp-Jaanisoo (2015).
Jack by Juha Hälikkä (2009).
One scene from the Michael Jackson video.

Except for the Andy Warhol and the Yoko Ono photographs, neither of us liked the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit on the third floor.

Andy Warhol and Yoko Ono.

When we left the museum, we walked about a block and one-half to the central Helsinki train station. I wanted to see it because of the art deco styling of the building. We found a place to sit and have a beer. Leslie stayed there while I ran around taking various photos of the station.

A view of the Central Train Station.
The Central Train Station dates from 1919.
Detail of the statues holding lights at the Central Train Station.
A stop for a well-deserved refreshment. It is entirely possible that these glasses became Finnish souvenirs.

After the beer, we continued walking to the south. Ultimately, we knew we would end up at the bus stop from this morning so we could make it back to the ship. We stopped at the Virgin Oil Co., a restaurant, to eat lunch. We shared a pizza and had a Koff beer. This building also had art deco styling, including some art deco statues.
Sitting at the Virgin Oil Co., I noticed an advertising sign touting the grapefruit and cucumber Crook’s Head Dram… no, thank you. I will stick with beer or wine. I will keep my fruits and vegetables separated if you do not mind!

What?? Another beer?? Note the smile!!
Some of the statues adorning the building at the Virgin Oil Company.
I like grapefruit and cucumbers; however, I do not need them in my alcoholic drink…
A family waiting for a table at the sidewalk cafe.

From lunch, we walked the final two blocks to the bus stop. There was a bus there, so we were able to board and sit down immediately. Across the street, I saw an El Jeffe sign. I had to snap a photo of that since that is how my team in Madrid referred to me. At the same spot was the Erottaja Bar. While that may sound like the word “erotic,” it is a nod to the name of the street, Erottajank.

I had to capture “El Jeffe.”
If my Finnish is correct, Erottaja translates to Separator.

The bus deposited us back at the dock within about 15 minutes. There was a large tent under which were more vendors. We bought a couple of packages of some type of rye cracker. It ended up that Leslie did not like them at all. I thought they were good. There was a photo of a statue with the face cut out. Leslie was a good sport, allowing me to make her crazy photograph there.

My very own Finnish (Swedish) goddess!

Coincidentally, Lorraine and Arlene were there too. After we all had our fill of looking, it was back on board to relax and wait for the second formal night for dinner. While Leslie and I waited, I sat on our balcony and took photos as the ship departed Helsinki. The most striking thing I saw was Pihlajasaaren Beach. It is located on a small island just about a half-mile from the mouth of the port. The colorful beach cabanas are what made it so picturesque. While we passed the beach, I found it surprising the number of seagulls flying beside the ship as we sailed. I heard the captain on the intercom warn the passengers that it was illegal according to maritime law to feed the seagulls from the boat.

A view of the island of Pihlajasaari as we departed Helsinki.
A seagull gliding by the ship.
Seagulls by the dozen followed the ship for a long way.

Leslie and I dressed for dinner. We sat and had a glass of wine, overlooking the piazza area of the ship where a quartet was performing. The ensemble was there every evening, just before the first dinner seating. When we finished, we went into the dining room to meet Lorraine and Arlene for another of our delicious meals.

Still in love after all these years.
Our cruising companions ready for a wonderful dinner.
Dockside photographer.
As we were departing Helsinki, this seagull showed up on top of one of the lifeboats with its dinner.
Vehicles and a trolley are stopped, waiting for the green light.
A beautiful bas-relief on the frieze of the National Library of Finland across the street from the Cathedral.
The cobblestone street in front of the Cathedral plaza.
A trolley operator in the old-town area of Helsinki.
The Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral.
Colorful, but empty, chairs at a sidewalk cafe.
A family out for a stroll.
Motorcycle parking.
The Canadian coat of arms at Pohjoisesplanadi 25, the location of the Canadian Embassy in Helsinki.
Flowers in a planter above the entry to the Helsinki City Hall.
Corrugated cardboard tubes.
Corrugated cardboard tubes detail.
Exhibits on the fifth floor.
Corrugated cardboard tubes close-up detail.
Horizons sculpture.
The Helsinki Music Center as seen from the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
Skateboard ramp outside the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.
Corrugated cardboard tube sculpture.
A side view of Villu’s Portrait by Berit Talpsepp-Jaanisoo (2015).
Detail of Jack by Juha Hälikkä (2009).
A piece from Come back – Stay – Go – Talk to me by Tracey Emin (1998).
Seat and shadows. A sitting area in the museum.
Seat and shadows with a view to the outside.
Handful of Empties by Käsi Tyhjiä Täynnä (2013).
Four Seasons Suite, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter by Ismo Kajander (1975-1992).
A ramp to level 2.
A red moto parked outside.
Ramps and stairs.
The museum gift shop.
Ikea!!
A trolley preparing to stop in front of the train station.
The main entrance to the train station.
Two of the 21,000 gymnasts from 55 countries attending the 15th World Gymnaestrada in Helsinki.
Bicycles crowd the side entry to the Central Train Station.
Bicycles seem to be strewn everywhere.
Just watching the hustle and bustle.
A young traveler.
Checking the phone.
Locking a bike at the metro station.
A very yellow maintenance trolley.
The Stockmann department store.
Pedestrians crossing from McDonald’s.
People waiting in queue for a drink.
Pedestrians crossing from McDonald’s.
A busy sidewalk cafe.
Two pedestrians passing by the sidewalk cafe.
A very busy part of Helsinki.
Stopped for ice cream while walking the dog.
A memorial at a Helsinki roundabout.
There may have been more bicycles in Helsinki than there were in Copenhagen.
An operator of the number 3 trolley line.
A wider view of the number 3 trolley.
A lovely park as seen from the bus on the way back to the cruise ship.
The endless geometry of construction.
A sailboat slipping by the cruise ship as we departed Helsinki.
A panoramic view of the Helsinki port.
A ferry and a cruise ship in the port.
A view back to the port.
Other ships navigating around the rocks on the approach to the Helsinki port.
The rocky end of the island of Pihlajasaari.
Looking back toward Helsinki across the island of Pihlajasaari.
A final view of the very busy port.
A lot of people enjoy a summer day on the island of Pihlajasaari.
A passing sailboat with the flag of Denmark flying at the stern.
A Viking Line ship negotiating the arrival to the Helsinki port.
The Helsinki skyline. The white dome to the left is the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral. The twin spires to the right of the Cathedral are of the St. John Lutheran Church.
Heading back out to the Baltic Sea.
Another sailboat passes the cruise ship. This one has a Finnish flag at the stern.
A view of the string quartet on the ship.
A closer view of the string ensemble.
Ready for dinner.
The “ready for dinner” portrait.
The couple from Islamabad.