Helsinki, Finland

DOING HELSINKI, FINLAND IN 20,000 STEPS

Home of the 1952 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Stadium and surrounding complex is much smaller than you would expect, a sign of how much the Olympic Games have grown over the years.

Al is letting me write one of the blog entries today.  We arrived in Helsinki, Finland around 7:30 and they opened the gangway at 8:00.  Al and I were some of the first people off the ship as most people waited for the $6 shuttle rides from the ship to the City Center since it was a 1 mile walk.  We decided to just walk it as we needed to burn off last night’s great dinner in the specialty seafood restaurant (Aqualina…yum, lobster!!!).  We went away from the general dock area and first hit Uspensky’s Cathedral.  We were there so early though that it wasn’t open for going in yet if it did open later.  From there we walked to the very beginning of the Market Square market full of trinkets, t-shirts, jewelry, etc….  We decided to come back to that as we had plenty more to see.

One comment I’ll make on Helsinki is that they have plenty of public transportation throughout the city.  It was a Monday morning and I would never say that I noticed a “rush hour” where cars were backed up for many blocks.  There were nice clean buses everywhere as well as inner city rail system that was electric powered.  They also have a Metro train system that we received a map for if we wanted to venture out to any of the reachable but distant sights.  There were also many ferries taking people from Helsinki-proper to many of the surrounding islands.  Also, as we may have commented in earlier entries…in all of our walking around through downtown today, we only heard one car honk….such a difference from Chicago.

We walked up to Senate Square and to the cathedral there.  Something big had just ended there the night before as there were lots of workmen and trucks there breaking down various stages around the square.  We took lots of pictures there and then walked to the beautiful Helsinki train station and the Anteneum Art Museum and their National Theater.  We then walked up Mannerheimvagen Road and passed: the Finland Museum of Modern Art, the Parliament Building, Finladia Hall (not related to the vodka as best as we could tell) and then passed the Finnish Opera House.

I was on a mission to see the Olympic Stadium from the 1952 Summer Olympics so we continued further north for a few blocks.  According to the signs, it appears that they have revamped the former stadium into a Youth Hostel.  As we approached, it was clear that something was happening there as there were lots of security people around and others with Event Staff shirts on.  There was also a lot of equipment being loaded into the former Olympic Stadium.  We walked around the entire stadium (big for 1952 maybe but pretty small compared to the size of stadiums we see nowadays).  As we got around full circle there was an area of park that was roped off and was full of lots of teen aged and college aged people all in black and with various piercing and hair colors.  Al commented that he “could smell the angst” in them as it almost seemed like a quiet protest.  We came around to the side we started at and saw people setting up a t-shirt selling booth.  Ah, a concert was setting up for tonight…..we had to chuckle when we got closer and saw that it was none other than New Jersey’s finest, Bon Jovi playing tonight there at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.  The world seemed to be getting a bit smaller.

We’d gone out as far as we wanted and now turned back.  We walked through Hesperian Park were we saw ducks and pigeons and some kind of goose maybe that I’ve never seen before.  We kept heading back towards Temppeliauko church (the Rock Church) which was right in the middle of a large residential area.  It literaly is built in out of an enormous rock.  We went inside with about 6 other tour buses full of people but it was a very pretty church inside and they had a girl playing piano to show off the accoustics in the chapel.  Very nice.  From there we walked back into City Center and back to the Market where Al saw many things he recognized with his Finnish background.  We ended up only buying a loaf of sweet bread that he’d had something similar to when he was growing up.  After 20,000 steps (6 miles) according to my pedometer, we got back to the ship by 1:30 and had lunch and relaxed for the rest of the day.  It’s nice being on vacation……tomorrow, St. Petersburg.

- Kenn