Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Helsinki and home to Vancouver

My husband and I visited Russia this past summer ... after sorting through a few thousand photos, I'll be posting over the next few weeks.

The end of the tour, we took an excursion to Helsinki, Finland before heading home.

We left St. Petersburg on an electric train for Helsinki.
Along the way, we saw factories ... some operating and some decrepid.

The countryside changed from forest to farmland, and then to cities.

The train was fast and quiet. The terminal efficient and well designed.
The outsde of the rail station, with a statue of Aleksis Kivi, the national poet .

Gardens add a splash of colour

After a dinner in a 'Texan' restaurant, we wandered through the shopping district and enjoyed the street entertainment.

Historically: Sweden ruled Finland for 600 years. In 1809, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. The city of Helsinki is important for the large harbor that leads to the Baltic Sea. Today, Finland is proud of its independence.

Join us on a walking Tour:
We started in an old rail line that is now used for walking and bikes.

The city has many Empire and Neo-classical style buildings with clean lines and impressive entries. 

Some older buildings are made from stone  ... with a 'sturdy' look that will last the ages.

Most of the city is very clean, a little less so outside of bars. 
However, cigarette butts are everywhere.

We came upon the Temppeliauko Church, quarried out of the natural bedrock. The acoustics are amazing - it is also used for concerts.

And, outside, a Xmas store in July!
New 'glass' buildings are designed to fit in with the older stately buildings.
Public art is often part of the squares.
This unusual building is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence,a cooperative project of the Church and  Social Services.  It is  lined in alder on the inside and spruce on the exterior, waxed until it glows.

Wide boulevards encourage walking.
Narinkkatori Square
Bikes are common and have the right of way in their lanes.
Looking up to the railway station.
Streets in the old area are narrow.
Green spaces are valued ... Esplinade Park ... a place to find peace and quiet in a busy city.

The street car is another way to move around the city.
Walking is a serious business ...
On the other hand, when you are tired ...
A building of yesteryear, a message of flags from today.
Helsinik is proud of its Design District.
Some buildings date back in time.
Mimes are in the park. Put coins in their cup and they come to life.
Helsinki Cathedral, 1852 ... very impressive and imposing . The entire day was booked for weddings.  

Senate square is a gathering place. The Yellow building on the left was the Government Palace (1822) and now houses the parliament. To the right, Helsinki University.
Helsinki suffered a disastrous fire in 1815, causing the area to be rebuilt and was planned to become the center of the city.
Seagulls & pigeons do clean up.

This is the original bell tower. The beams shown below support the weight of the bells.

A young group gathered, dressed for the occassion, the police watched at a polite distance.

The mermaid rising from the sea.
Tsar Alexander II, from the time when Finland was a part  of Russia.
The square had kiosks for companies to show their product. The reindeer is made from  hair product bottles.

The is near the wharf ... selling product, veggies and food.

Looking the other way, is the Upenski Orthadox Cathedral, a reminder of the influence of Russia on Finland.
Helsinki historically was an important port  - it still has wooden sailing ships for tourists, cruise ships, ferries to Sweden and Estonia.  Icebreakers work from here in the winter. Many port buildings from the 17th century still exist.
A mother's work is never done ... these three youngsters harassed mom  until  she regurgitated her lunch for them.
Walking back, there was a concert in the park.

And, back to station square to the hotel.
The city is clean and organized, with a sense of planning and stability.
 We spent the last day in an art gallery on Station Square.
Beautiful old buildings are well maintained. 
Our last visit was to the Art Gallery and an exhibit by  Helene Schjerfbeck.
Ateneum Art Museum, dating  from 1887, contains 20,000 works of art from 1750 to 1950.

The next morning, we flew to Amsterdam and home.
The airport is large with pods ... a fair walk from one arrival pod to  the departure pod. However, signs are easy to follow and there are moving walkways.
The shopping and restaurants were great.
The trip home was uneventful, cloud layers all the way!
Nice to be home!
Here is the tour:
We were very satisfied with the company, on board service and food. The group leaders were very knowledgable. With a trip like this, you see far more than you could on your own. As well as the basic tours, we included as many additional tours as we could fit in. It was pricey, but a trip of a life time.

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