Helsinki – Whirlwind Visit

I thought I would switch things up a bit. I have been doing posts about multiple places in one. Even though I haven’t done a post in about a week, I am going to break it up into multiple posts…

Helsinki, Finland

Inside a metro station… we see Calgary, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay

As I last posted, we moved to Helsinki on a tight schedule. We got to Helsinki late on July 1st (Canada Day) after a long day of sitting in airports. We arrived in Helsinki at about midnight. Nic made a friend on the flight and she asked her fella to drive us to our airport hotel. It was only about five minutes from the airport so it did not seem to be a problem. We had to get a hotel near the airport because we got in so late and could not check into an AirBnB that night. It was nothing great but it was a bed for the night. Check out was around noon and we went walking in search of food. We did not have to go far before we found a great buffet. It was 10.50 euros and had so many options including pizza, which frankly I really enjoyed. It was quite a deal.

The naked lady was a scandal in the beginning… now they dress her up with clothes for festivals.

After our meal, we took the bus to our AirBnB which took almost an hour. The location was pretty good because it was fairly close to both the central area and the terminal where the ferry to St. Petersburg was going. Once we arrived, we were in no rush to head out quickly so we had a bit of a nap. Then we went for a walk to the central area. Of course, I got myself a geocache along the way!

We had purchased a three day metro pass so we used it to jump on the ferry over to Suomenlinna. It is an old military fortress and is home to a training base for the military. We did not get off the ferry as it was getting late and we did not know when it returned. We planned to visit the island the next day. By the time we got back to our place, I still think we got in about 17,000 steps (I am sure Nic will correct me).

We found a geocache nearby…

Note/Hint: Our AirBnB did not have wifi and we had no data left on our Swedish SIM card. We did some searching and bought a Finnish SIM card for 4.90 euros. Each day, they charged 0.89 euros on the 4.90 balance and we got unlimited data for the day. We set the phone as a personal hotspot and we both used it. We downloaded a bunch of netflix shows for our boat trip. Too bad this would only work in Finland. It was fantastic for us.

On Wednesday morning (the next morning) we joined a free walking tour of the city at about 11 am. It took us to many places we had seen on our own the day before. However, now we had the stories to go with them. One thing that stood out for me that we learned was that Finnish was not originally a written language. It was a spoken language of the peasants that eventually a written language was created to match. The language is not related to Swedish, Norwegian or Danish. It is closer to Estonian but really only shares a grammatical structure. The language of the nobles was Swedish which is still an official language in Finland. On street corners, there are pictures of animals and then the word in both Finnish and Swedish. It was a way of helping those who could not read to understand directions. You can find neighbourhoods that are the rat neighbourhood, the cat neighbourhood and even the unicorn neighbourhood.

My morning coffee before the tour.
Our tour guide
See the different coloured cars? Those are saunas. Finns are obsessed with saunas.
Streets/blocks are labelled by animals
Trolls and Elves and Jeff

After the walking tour, we tracked down another buffet. This time it was 10.40 euros. It was good as well but I think I liked the one we had the day before better. We had adopted a strategy of having one substantial meal a day and at just over 10 euros it was well worth it. Then we headed to the ferry to Suomenlinna. We spent a couple of hours or so wandering the island. I recommend this for a nice leisurely walk. By the time we got back to our place we had a beer and a snack and that was good for the night.

Thursday was our last day in Helsinki (see what I mean about a quick trip). We will have to go back some day and explore more of the country. We had to go to our boat around 4 pm. We were able to leave our bags in our AirBnB while we spent a few hours exploring more. Nic wanted to check out the botanical garden, as she always does, so we mapped out a route that would take us by more of the highlights of the city. First, we checked out the rock temple church which is a church that is cut into the rocks. It is quite a beautiful church. From here we went to a sculpture park. And finally to the botanical garden. I am surprised Nic did not take any pictures at the garden… she thought I had the phone but she had it herself.

That is 22 km of copper wound on the top
Sculpture Park

On the walk back, we stopped for lunch at you guessed it … a buffet for 10.30 euros. See a theme? This one was Asian food. After, we grabbed our bags and headed for the Princess Anastasia. In the end, we still walked about 10 km I suspect that day. We enjoyed Helsinki but it was really a short visit.

Our ferry/ship to St. Petersburg.