A Travellerspoint blog

Finland

Helsinki, Finland.

Home for a year.

Havis Amanda, Upenski Cathedral in background. - Helsinki

Havis Amanda, Upenski Cathedral in background. - Helsinki

A Special Place For Me.

Helsinki is a special place for me. I met my husband here in 1985 when I was just 19. We married in 1988 and have spent 33 happy (with the occasional fight) years together. In 1985 he was a teacher in Inlingua, Helsinki and I was an au pair living with a Finnish family in Espoo. We went back to Helsinki for the first time in the summer of 2009 and there was a feeling of coming home. We walked straight from our ferry to the hotel without once consulting a map. We revisited all the sights again without consulting map or guidebook. We stood and gazed on our former homes from the street. It all had a wonderful nostalgic feel to it.

Around Helsinki.

Helsinki is a city with some beautiful architecture, wide open streets and clear, blue skies. It is small enough for the main sights to be managed on foot. It has several interesting islands around it which make great day trips ­ Suomenlinna for its fortress, Korkisaari for its zoo, Serusaari for its skansen of old Finnish wooden buildings. Helsinki has plenty of greenery and lots of seascapes, too.

Sights worth Visiting.

The harbour area is very pleasant and its market is worth a look. When I was there in 1985 to 86 it used to have a Baltic Herring Festival,­ maybe it still does. Lots of stalls gave free herring and black bread samples ­ -delicious. There is a beautiful Russian cathedral; a lovely green and white Lutheran cathedral which towers over Helsinki. There are several interesting statues: check out Havis Amanda at the end of Esplanadi, the three smiths outside Stockmann Department Store and the slightly further afield Sibelius Monument. I love the railway station in Helsinki. It must rate as one of the most beautiful in the world. Visit Templeaukkio Church ­- a church carved into the rocks. From the outside it looks like a UFO. Inside it's like being in a cave.

The Markets.

The markets in Helsinki are certainly worth a look. They are beautifully set right on the harbour front. There is an indoor market hall and lots of outdoor market stalls. It's a wonderful place for photography as well as for shopping, because there is always lots going on here. Address: Kauppatori. Directions: At the east end of the Esplanadi Boulevard.

Harbour front looking towards cathedral. - Helsinki

Harbour front looking towards cathedral. - Helsinki

Havis Amanda Statue.

This beautiful statue stands between Esplanadi and the Market Square. It was sculpted by Ville Vallgren in 1906 in Paris, and placed in Helsinki in 1908. The statue is of a naked woman surrounded by four water spouting sea lions. It has gradually become the emblem of Helsinki. Every Vappu - May the first, when the population of Finland wear their student hats, Havis Amanda is washed and then a hat is placed on her, too.

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Havis Amanda - Helsinki

Seal fountain. - Helsinki

Seal fountain. - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral.

This beautiful orthodox cathedral is set at the edge of an island close to the Market Square. It was built in the 1860s. Have a look inside and see the many beautiful icons which cover the altarpiece. Good views from directly outside the cathedral, too. Address: Kanavakatu 1. Directions: Further east after the market square about 300 metres.

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Upenski Cathedral - Helsinki

Temppeliaukio Church.

Temppeliaukio Church is one of the most beautiful and unusual churches in Helsinki. It was built into the rocks and has a circular glass roof. Viewed from the outside it looks like a UFO. Inside it is like a cave. It's famous for having excellent acoustics so concerts are sometimes held here. The church was built between 1968­ and 1969. It was designed by two famous architect brothers, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. Very beautiful and peaceful. Address: Lutherinkatu 3.

Peter at the church. - Helsinki

Peter at the church. - Helsinki

Above the church. - Helsinki

Above the church. - Helsinki

Me on the roof of the church. - Helsinki

Me on the roof of the church. - Helsinki

The Sibelius Monument.

This monument was built in honour of Jean Sibelius, Finland's most famous composer, who wrote,among other things, The Finlandia Suite. The monument came about as the result of a competition held in 1906/1907. The winning design is made of steel and cosists of 2 parts:­ tall silver pipes that look like organ pipes and the composer's head. The monument is beautifully set among trees and close to the water.

Sibelius monument. - Helsinki

Sibelius monument. - Helsinki

Me at the  monument - Helsinki

Me at the monument - Helsinki

Where did all those people go. - Helsinki

Where did all those people go. - Helsinki

Sibelius gets to know a Japanese tourist - Helsinki

Sibelius gets to know a Japanese tourist - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park.

Toolonlahti Park in the centre of Helsinki is a very pleasant location for a peaceful stroll. In the centre of the park there is a large stretch of water with fountains. Many geese can be found on or next to the water. In the distance you'll see Linnamaki Amusement Park. You can watch people play chess, take a stroll, enjoy the sun, feed the geese or just enjoy the tranquility here.

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

Toolon Lahti Park - Helsinki

Toolon Lahti Park - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

Toolonlahti Park - Helsinki

The Lutheran Cathedral and Senate Square.

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral, Tuomiokirkko in Finnish, dominates Helsinki's sky line. It was designed by a German architect, Carl Ludvig Engel. He also designed the adjacent Senate Square. The cathedral was finished in 1852. It was built in honour of Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia, and was originally called St. Nicholas' Church. Its name was changed when Finland got independence in 1917. It is a beautiful building, but I've not forgotten that when I was a penniless au pair in Finland I got thrown out of here for reading a book. Senate Square is lovely. On May 1st people used to dance here after the Labour Day Parade. Perhaps they still do. Address: Unioninkatu 29.

Senate Square - Helsinki

Senate Square - Helsinki

Senate Square - Helsinki

Senate Square - Helsinki

The Lutheran Cathedral - Helsinki

The Lutheran Cathedral - Helsinki

Helsinki Central Railway Station.

The railway station was one of my favourite buildings when I lived in Helsinki in the eighties. I think its the carvings on the front of the building that make it so special. It was designed by Eliel Saarinen and inaugurated in 1919. Nowadays it is busier than I remember it. I used to occasionally buy hot dogs or cardamom buns from the food stalls here. Delicious. It is not just me who likes it, apparently it was chosen as one of the world's most beautiful railway stations by the BBC in 2013. I'm not surprised.

Helsinki Central Railway Station - Helsinki

Helsinki Central Railway Station - Helsinki

Helsinki Central Railway Station - Helsinki

Helsinki Central Railway Station - Helsinki

The Finnish National Theatre.

This building is located on Railway Square. The Finnish National Theatre is the oldest Finnish ­language theatre in Finland. The building dates from the late nineteenth century. At that time Finland was part of the Russian Empire, and the Finnish elite were Swedish speaking. Finnish was considered an inferior language. The movement to create a Finnish identity centred around Finnish language and culture ultimately led to the creation of an independent Finland in 1917. In front of the building is a statue of Alexis Kivi. He is a bit of a national hero as he was one of the earliest writers to write literature in Finnish. Before him Swedish was used for all written language and Finnish was considered an inferior language. His most famous work is a novel called 'Seven Brothers'.

The Finnish National Theatre and Alexis Kivi - Helsinki

The Finnish National Theatre and Alexis Kivi - Helsinki

Ateneum Art Museum.

This large Art Museum is located on Railway Square. I could be remembering wrongly but when I stayed in Helsinki during the mid eighties this museum was closed for renovation and part of its exhibits were housed in the Finnish National Museum. I remember being very impressed by the Finnish paintings housed there. The poster on the front of the Ateneum in my photograph is advertising paintings based on the Kalevala. The Kalevala is the national epic of Finland. It was compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the late nineteenth century using stories from Karelian and Finnish folklore. Elias Lonnrot did much to help instil a sense of national identity among the Finnish population. I personally saw the paintings based on the Kalevala in the Finnish National Museum. Address: Kaivokatu 2.

The Ateneum - Helsinki

The Ateneum - Helsinki

The Finnish National Museum.

This building looks more like a church or a castle than a museum with its tall tower. This museum concentrates mainly on Finnish history from the stone age to the present day. It contains coins, medals, jewellery, weapons, silverware and archaeological finds. The museum's entrance hall has ceiling frescoes based on Finland's National Epic, The Kalevala. These were painted by Akseli Gallén ­Kallela in 1928. Address: Mannerheimintie 34. Directions: Tram 4, next to the Parliament Building.

The Finnish National Museum. - Helsinki

The Finnish National Museum. - Helsinki

The Finnish Parliament.

This building is on Mannerheimintie near the Mannerheim statue. It was constructed between 1926 and 1931 by Johan Sigfrid Sirén (1889–1961). I have been inside here a few times as my employer worked here and sometimes I had to bring her child to her. It is possible to visit on a pre­booked tour, too.

The Finnish Parliament. - Helsinki

The Finnish Parliament. - Helsinki

Finlandia Hall

Finnish people always seemed to be very proud of Finlandia Hall. I never found it all that attractive to look at, but that's because I prefer old buildings. However, I did attend several concerts there and the acoustics were wonderful. Finladia Hall was designed by famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and was completed in 1971. Address: Mannerheimintie 13 e.

Finlandia Hall - Helsinki

Finlandia Hall - Helsinki

Mannerheim Statue.

There is a statue of General Mannerheim on the road that is named after him. Mannerheim was a Finnish military leader and statesman. He was born on the 4th of June 1867. He fought against the Bolsheviks in the Finnish Civil War, helping to bring about Finnish independence. He was commander-­in­-chief of Finland's defence forces during World War II and later became the sixth president of Finland from 1944 to 1946. He died in 1951. He is regarded as the father of modern Finland.

Mannerheim Statue

Mannerheim Statue


The Three Smiths Statue.

The Three Smiths Statue is a sculpture showing three blacksmiths hammering onto an anvil. It stands at the intersection of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie. It was created by sculptor, Felix Nylund and was unveiled in 1932. It is a popular meeting spot.

The Three Smiths Statue

The Three Smiths Statue

The Tsarina's Stone.

The Tsarina’s Stone is Helsinki's oldest public monument. It was erected in 1835 in honour of a visit by Tsar Nikolai I and Tsarina Alexandra. The monument is topped by a globe and a double headed eagle which was one of the emblems of the Tsars of Russia. This monument was taken down in 1917 when Finland became independent, but was put back up in 1971. It is located in Helsinki's harbourside market place.

The Tsarina's Stone

The Tsarina's Stone

Suomenlinna.

One of the enjoyable things to do when visiting Helsinki is taking a trip to the fortress island of Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna means Finnish Castle. Construction of the fortifications of Suomenlinna began in 1748 when Finland was still part of Sweden. It was built to defend the area from much feared Russian expansionism. Augustin Ehrensvärd drew up the plans for the site. He was strongly influenced by the ideas of Vauban, the most important military engineer at that time. On Suomenlinna there is a submarine called Vesikko which has been converted into a museum. This submarine was launched in May 1933 in Turku. It was one of the five submarines to serve in the Finnish Navy. Nowadays Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a lovely spot for a stroll or a picnic. In the eighties in the winter apparently the sea would freeze over and you could walk or drive all the way to Suomenlinna. I would not have been brave enough to try though I do remember walking across areas of frozen sea.

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

Seurasaari.

Another enjoyable day trip is a cruise to the island of Seurasaari where you can visit the Seurasaari Open ­Air Museum. This is a skansen type museum displaying old wooden buildings from all over Finland.

Seurasaari

Seurasaari

Sculptures.

There were some sculptures in Helsinki I liked. One was "The Boxers". This shows two boxers fighting. It was modelled by Uuno Pitkä and Armas Wilkman from the Jyryn ­Nyrkkelijät boxing club. It was created by Johannes Haapasalo in 1930. Haapasalo was trained by Auguste Rodin. Another I liked is of a horse and her foal. It is called "Maternal Love". It was sculpted by Emil Cedercreutz. It dates from 1927. Then there is the lovely bear sculpture which sits at the entrance to the Finnish National Museum.

Sculptures

Sculptures

Sculptures

Sculptures

Sculptures

Sculptures

Snowy Weather.

When I lived in Finland in 1985 to 1986 the winter was freezing cold. The temperature dropped to minus twenty. The sea froze over and there was snow everywhere. People were used to it. They changed to winter tyres, central heated all the buildings, employed people to clear the streets (all the snow was piled up at the sides with the occasional opening.) People wore lots of clothes when they went out and stripped off several layers when they entered heated public transport or a centrally heated building. On our visit in summer 2009 we got into a discussion with a young Finnish barman about winter. He claimed nowadays their winters are no worse than the UK's and the snows and ice belonged to days his grandparents remembered. As well as making us feel old, this did make us wonder has it really warmed up so much? I don't know but I do know that the snow looked spectacular and added a bit of light to the long dark winter days.

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Snowy Weather

Water City.

Helsinki is very much a city on the water as its located on the sea and various sea inlets. When we were here in the eighties these froze over in the winter and you could walk or even drive on them. Not sure if this is still the case.

Water City

Water City

Water City

Water City

Water City

Water City

Water City

Water City

Swimming Pools and saunas.

We deliberately chose a hotel with a swimming pool in Helsinki and were shocked to find the pool only opened around 2 hours per day. This is because the pool is part of the sauna experience. Finnish people love relaxing and cleaning themselves in the sauna. The sauna is expensive to run so will only be warmed up for a couple of hours each day. You'll find the swimming pool next to the sauna is ice cold. This is because it is acting as a substitute lake. The Finns love to get hot in the sauna then leap in an icy lake to cool down. Try it; it's an exhilarating experience. You'll be wide awake the rest of the day. Finally found a photo to go with this tip. It is taken on our ski trip to Jyvaskula in 1986.

Sauna in Jyaskula - Helsinki

Sauna in Jyaskula - Helsinki

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

We were amused by this promotion for a soft drink. Cans of the drink, frozen solid into huge blocks of ice were dumped on the square near the bus station along with piles of snow and people were provided with hard hats and chisels and invited to try and get them out.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Ice And Snow In Advertising.

Cleaning Carpets.

Every Finnish house I ever visited was always scrupulously clean. In winter I had to place all my employer's rugs in the snow, let them harden a little, then beat them with a carpet beater. In summer women don their bikinis head to the beach and give their carpets a wash.

Washing Carpets - Helsinki

Washing Carpets - Helsinki

Washing Carpets. - Helsinki

Washing Carpets. - Helsinki

Vappu.

I was fortunate enough to be in Finland for Vappu ­- May the 1st. This marks the beginnings of spring after a long, cold, dark winter and Finns wear their summer clothes for it, even if it's still snowing!!! On the Eve of Vappu the Havis Amanda statue gets a bath and a student cap is placed on her head. On May 1st everyone wears their student caps and there are lots of street festivities. It is a time to be outdoors after being stuck inside all winter. As it is also Labour Day there is also a Communist parade. Some Finns make a special lemonade called "sima" for the occasion from lemons, brown sugar, and yeast.

My husband celebrating Vappu. - Helsinki

My husband celebrating Vappu. - Helsinki

Alcohol.

My husband always says two old photos sum up Finland for him. In this first one he is leaving an Alko shop with a big grin on his face having just bought some beer. I'm not sure how it is now, but in the eighties you could only buy alcohol from Alko shops for home consumption unless you bought weak alcohol from supermarkets. Every year the Alko shops would go on strike for a while leaving many of us desperate for a drink.

Alcohol

Alcohol

Winter.

The second photo that sums up Finland for him shows him dressed to go out at minus thirty degrees on a bitter cold winter's day in the mid­ eighties. Apparently Finland is not as cold as it used to be due to global warming.

Winter

Winter

Espoo.

Espoo is not actually in Helsinki. It's one of the towns next to it. I lived here at one time. There's not much to see in Espoo though it does have some nice scenery and sea inlets and a lovely old cathedral. Espoo Cathedral is a mediaeval stone church in Central Espoo. It dates from the 1480s. The church became a cathedral in 2004. There is a pretty graveyard around the cathedral. There are some interesting frescoes on the cathedral walls.

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Espoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo.

Porvoo is a beautiful town about 50 kilometers east of Helsinki. It is located on the River Porvoo. It is filled with lovely old wooden buildings. It has a wonderful cathedral and a picturesque town hall. There are buses to Porvoo from Helsinki's Central Bus Station approximately every 15­ to 30 minutes. Tickets cost around 12 Euros one ­way and the journey takes around an hour. Porvoo is Finland's second oldest city.

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Take A Day Trip To Porvoo

Day Trip To Turku.

Turku is Finland's oldest town and was at one time the capital of Finland. You can get here from Helsinki by bus or train. It will take about two hours one way. Turku has an impressive castle dating from the thirteenth century and a large Lutheran Cathedral. Turku is located on the Aura River and the Baltic Sea.

Day Trip To Turku

Day Trip To Turku

Day Trip To Turku

Day Trip To Turku

Supermarkets: Eating In Helsinki.

If, like me, you find Helsinki rather overpriced and end up buying from the supermarket instead of always eating out, treat yourself to some sliced Finnish black bread and some maksa makkara sausage spread. This is what kept me alive in 1985/19­86 and it was still delicious last year. For dessert grab a punnet of fresh berries and life suddenly does not seem so bad.

Eating In Helsinki

Eating In Helsinki

Posted by irenevt 05:10 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

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