We are so sorry how long it’s taken us to post this one. Hopefully, we can finish up the cruise this month in order to share our other experiences. Thank you for your patience 🙂
The next day after Russia, we stopped at Helsinki, Finland. We ended up purchasing the Helsinki Card, where you pay a fixed price and admission to several museums, churches, certain tours, public transportation, and the Hop On Hop Off bus tickets are included on the card. It was a little drizzly and cold but manageable.
Thursday, 17 August 2017:
- Arrival: 7:00am (Clearance at 7:30am)
- Departure: 4:00pm (All Aboard at 3:30pm)
- Port: Helsinki West Harbour, Munkkisaari Quay LHB
The Hop On Hop Off brought us to Senate Square and we first saw the Helsinki Cathedral, which was originally built in the 19th century. It was attributed to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. In fact, it was previously called St Nicholas’ Church before the country’s independence.
Right in front of the cathedral, there is a statue of Emperor Alexander II, who was also a Grand Duke of Finland.
As we continued our walk, we saw the following unique-looking church below. It’s called Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral and is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. I think it looks pretty cool!
Of course, here are our morning pastries!
We then walked through Esplanadi Park, a small relaxing park. It was nice and pretty, but definitely small. The statue in the middle of the park we learned is of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the Finnish national poet who wrote the Finnish Anthem, ‘Maamme’.
What we saw next was the “infamous” Temppeliaukio Church (a.k.a. Rock Church). Completed in 1969, this Lutheran church was excavated into solid rock. It has become popular for concerts due to its great acoustics.
At this point in our trip, the four of us had made an interesting observation. We had two other experiences where we spent three euros per person to visit a church/building and it ended up not being worth seeing, lol. It seemed like at that price range, they typically ended up being small and unimpressive. Free ones or ones that cost more tended to be much better. This church cost just that, so Nick and I decided to pass. Originally, we had thought this church would be included on the Helsinki Card, however it wasn’t. Tony and Jillian decided to roll the dice and go in, only to come out a few minutes later and confirm the three euro theory. We’ll keep it in mind for any other trips 🙂 .
We were able to see a bit of the church when we formed a line to enter, and believe me, it really wasn’t that impressive for what it was hyped up to be, lol.
What it looked like in the back…kind of like a spaceship?
And here’s us (with the spaceship):
The popular chocolates in Finland are Fazer Chocolates, and it was time for this treat on our way to another park. We got a few when we first picked up the pastries earlier. Very yummy!
Afterwards, we visited the Sibelius Park that holds the Sibelius Monument. The monument is dedicated to Jean Sibelius, a Finnish composer. It consists of 600 hollow steel pipes and weighs 24 tons! Gosh, that’s so heavy! Kind of a neat monument.
Here’s inside this monument:
One of the last things we did was the 1.5-hour Sightseeing Canal tour, which is included in the Helsinki Card. The tour, by the use of speakers, is given in various languages. Best part? Fuzzy blankets are provided! Which was good because it was a little chilly. Here are the few notes I took from the tour are:
- Sweden created the city of Helsinki, but decided to leave it.
- Helsinki was bombed/burned by Russia several times during WWII.
- Part of the tour, which was really difficult to see, was the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress; this fortress was built as a way of protection of the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- In 1808, Russia had control of Finland. At this point, tsar Alexander II ruled Russia and was also the Grand Duke of Finland.
I will be honest that at this point in our whole trip, I was fairly tired and I might have napped a bit during the canal tour. 😛
Right near the boat tour is Market Square, which includes an indoor and outdoor market. I just had some fish and chips, but Nick had a deer burger, which he liked. The indoor market was pretty cool.
The last thing we saw was Kamppi Chapel (a.k.a. – Wood Church) in Narinkka Square. It is also known “Chapel of Silence” since it’s supposed to be a space to have a moment of silence and a soothing place. It truly was very quiet inside and the construction of the building is pretty unique.
By the end of the trip, we realized that there isn’t much to see in Helsinki. It’s more of a typical city rather than a quaint town and there are experiences (like the saunas) that would make the visit more memorable. Unfortunately we didn’t know that before, so Helsinki became our least favorite city in the Baltic Sea cruise. I think what made it more challenging to enjoy was that it was right after seeing all the cool sights in Russia.
At the end of the day we rested, saw a hilarious ‘The Love and Marriage Game Show’ on the boat, had dinner, and prepared for our next adventure!
Look out for our next post where we visit Stockholm, Sweden – a city we loved!
Thank you for reading! Until next time!