Helsinki

Well, it seems summer is over. It was quite a busy one and I kinda neglected this blog. No worries now, with the wave of crappy weather that’s keeping me indoors, I have a little time to catch up on my writing.

And we’re kicking off with the family trip to Helsinki. “Family” means no marathons or mountains, just regular sightseeing and stuff. 3 months after the trip, the thing I remember most about Helsinki is how civilized it was (I might be subjective though, living in Bucharest makes you appreciate every person that smiles or says “Thank you”).

What to see in Helsinki

A bunch of churches! Besides the “normal” style churches you would expect to find, there are also a couple of less usual attractions, like the Chapel of Silence or the Rock Church. The Rock Church was particularly swarming with tourists, having even a Chinese couple filming some sort of holiday video with a drone and two drone operators.

Suomenlinna Fortress
Suomenlinna
 is an island fortress south of Helsinki. Reachable by ferry, the trip is 5 euro return (if I remember correctly) and takes about 15 minutes. It would have been a nice spot for a picnic, if not for the cold and windy weather (but we still had the picnic anyway!). The island features a few museums. We started with the Military Museum, with tanks, cannons, torpedoes, mines, jeeps, weapons, uniforms and more. We caught one of the guided tours and got to test the guide’s knowledge on all sorts of questions, such as the engineering behind the working of a cannon or how were jeeps propelled using wood as fuel. We continued with the Vesikko submarine, where we had the same guide tell us about the sub’s controls and navigation (it seems they relied mostly on a guy with headphones in a sound proof room). The south side of the Suomenlinna archipelago features some bastions, fortifications and old cannons.

Seurasaari Open Air Museum
This is a sort of village museum set withing a park on an island. You don’t need a ticket if you’re not going inside any of the buildings. It’s relatively far from the city center, but you can easily get there by public transport (although I would recommend jogging, both this park and the rest of the city are great for running).

The Zoo
Yet another attraction placed on an island (so the animals can’t escape). Get here either by ferry or by tram, for a total price (entry+transport) of 18 euro. I don’t usually visit zoos, as I don’t agree with locking animals up for the sake of entertaining people (if you want to see a tiger, just go track down one through the jungle!). But I guess I got persuaded into visiting by their claims on breeding endangered species. They seem to be successful, at least judging by the 5 or 6 snow leopards jumping around their pen and devouring prey.

What to do

We happened to visit Helsinki during the week when they had their Pride Parade. It was mostly a very good experience (except for an old fat naked woman I wish I hadn’t seen). It was fascinating how open minded the Finns were. For starters, the parade started in front of the Helsinki Cathedral (imagine something similar in Bucharest – there would be priests with holy water and people armed with crosses trying to “protect” the holiness of the Mitropoliei Hill – and this would be on top of the “normality” parade that happens each year in Bucharest). Secondly, there were lots of families in the parade, complete with kids and infants in strollers. I guess parents want their kids to grow up in a healthy open minded atmosphere.

Enjoy continuous daylight
If you come here around June-July, you will get no darkness. The sun will be setting sometime around 11 pm and rising at 4 am. It will feel pretty weird if you’re returning to your hotel at 7 pm, while the sun is up and bright. But on the other hand, if you go jogging at 10 pm, you will enjoy a long and lovely sunset.

Go to a sauna
Seems the Finns really like saunas – there are 5 million people there with 3 million saunas. There was one at the hotel. Went once – mostly to have a complete Finnish experience.

How to get around

A ride with a bus or tram is 1.50 euro. But the city is pretty small and very walkable, so you will rarely depend on transport.

How to get there

We flew with Air Baltic – 2 flights with a layover in Riga. Besides changing the flight schedule after we bought the tickets, everything was OK. The plane ticket was about 150 euro both way, but checked in luggage and in-flight refreshments were not included. Air Baltic is sort of a semi-low-cost airline.

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