Finland is a sparsely populated country and Helsinki hasn't been a "city" nearly as long as other European capitals we've visited. Therefore, there was no "old town" area. We explored what it had to offer starting with Suomemlinna Fortress. The fortress is on an island a short ferry ride away.
|view of Helsinki from ferry|
|looking for hobbits|
We were prepared for chilly temperatures, but it was really windy when we were walking on the top parts of the fortress making it feel much colder. Brrr.
|boats in Helsinki harbor|
Turtles help drivers know where not to park their cars - and also provide a nice resting place.
There are always churches. The three we visited were all very different.
|Senate Square Cathedral|
|interior during poorly attended service|
|Uspensky Orthodox Cathedral|
|interior views via postcard|
|exterior of "Rock Church" built into the rock|
|conveniently timed visit kept us dry during a downpour|
|not good protection from rain|
Discovering Finnish food:
Cold weather made for a perfect time to try the traditional salmon soup. Tasty!
fish and pork pastry
beef brisket (the best of these)
cheddar cheese with tomato compote
Having enjoyed food tours in Lisbon and Istanbul, we signed up for a food tour in Helsinki as well. It wasn't nearly as good as the others, but still interesting. Coincidentally, the day of our tour was also "restaurant day" in Helsinki. Anyone can set up a stand and sell whatever kind of food they want to on this particular day. There were all kinds of regional foods available. Many booths were congregated in a central part of the city, but we also saw booths on their own.
|interior of oldest food market|
|two types of reindeer jerky - smoked or unsmoked|
|tiny pan-fried fish - don't look, just eat the whole thing|
|licorice fudge - who knew?|
The drink (below) was fizzy and flavored with juniper berries. Not very good, but not awful.
This is something that people eat for breakfast or carry with them for later in the day. (made from rye flour with fruit on top) It is available in many flavors.
It became abundantly clear that Finland loves licorice. The containers here are almost exclusively licorice and there were even more choices in another area of the store!
|licorice ice cream is weird!|
We were given these samples to taste:
The brown was last year's winner of the new flavor contest. It had an almond in the middle and also chocolate. The licorice flavor was barely noticeable which may be why it won. The white was a traditional licorice flavor rolled in powdered sugar. Not bad, if you like licorice.
|Our guide looks on while I make a few choices|
|interior of newer food market|
Buildings were moved to this location on the edge of Helsinki to create the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum.
|church and bell tower behind|
|I love the candle holders|
This tree-storehouse keeps meat away from bears and wolves.
|delicious, as expected|
We saw interesting architecture while walking around Helsinki:
Tallinn, Estonia is directly across from Helsinki. Why wouldn't we take a 90 minute ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland to explore it? No reason not to.....we went. Unlike Helsinki, Tallinn has a compact "old town" area for us to explore in one day.
Walking up from the ferry station, the first point of interest was Fat Margaret Tower. Not a very nice name, but it is fat. Inside is the Estonian Maritime Museum.
|Fat Margaret Tower with St. Olav's church behind|
Who wants to go underwater in all that metal? Scary!
|Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria|
|view of Tallinn from the top of Fat Margaret Tower|
Narrow streets make it impossible to get far enough away to get a good picture of St. Olav's church. We were surprised by the interior - very plain, but with plenty of screens and speakers.
|speakers and screens look out of place to me!|
|Alexander Nevsky Cathedral|
|interior with lots of gold|
Two views of the town hall with its skinny tower
|central market square|
We never learned the details, but there was some event/protest involving chimney sweeps. We didn't get too close or they would have put some of the soot on our faces! No thanks!
|nice sooty faces|
|warm cinnamon almonds were yummy|
House of Blackheads was the meeting place of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, an association of unmarried merchants and shipowners. They could join another guild only after marriage.
|close up of Blackheads door|
Holy Spirit Church with close up of its clock and views of the interior
Views walking along and on the old city wall
|St Olav's church in the distance|
|last evening in Helsinki - lots of good salmon|
It was fun to explore a new locale, but I wouldn't rush to Helsinki unless, like us, you've been lots of other places. I definitely would not stay overnight in Tallinn. A friend told me after we booked our trip that Tallinn is the destination of choice for bachelor parties. We did see evidence of this in the strip clubs advertised and the young intoxicated men walking around in "rude" costumes. Luckily, we left before evening when things probably got more exciting.
Time to go back to quiet Horgen!