Friday, 24 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 15 - Helsinki, Finland

We awoke in the harbour of Helsinki. I must admit I
Helsinki Harbour
know next to nothing about these next three countries we will visit.

We took a “hop-on-hop-off” bus to get a general overview of Helsinki. It was a good choice. We were taken along the sea and through neighborhoods that had a quite affluent look. There were many apartment buildings, but no high-rises. Few buildings exceeded four stories. The architecture reminds me of parts of nineteenth century Budapest and Vienna, the yellow houses with white decorative trim.

Our guide told us that Finland, in addition to having a national health plan that covers all that country’s people for everything, birth to grave, also has a national education plan under which all education is free through university and post high school technical schools. No student ever has to pay a cent to attend school at any level. What a model to aspire to!

Sibelius Monument
We saw the highlights of the city, Sibelius Park, with a monument to that great Finnish composer. The monument, executed by a contemporary Finnish sculptor, looks like nothing so much as a collection of organ pipes standing helter-skelter next to each other in a large bunch. It seems the people of Helsinki were no more impressed than I, because they made him go back and insert a bust of Sibelius in among the pipes.

There is quite a lot of super-modern architecture
Finlandia Hall
tucked in here and there, particularly in public buildings. Finlandia Hall is one example, lots of glass and odd shapes.

It is always interesting to hear viewpoints on “the war” meaning WW2. These were voiced, unsolicited both in St. Petersburg and here. Finland managed somehow to remain neutral all through the war, so, according to our guide, was a hot bed for spying, as well as a refuge for those escaping from German held territories. Both the Russians and the Americans had Embassies here, in the same block for the duration of the war.

Lutheran Cathedral
The Lutheran Cathedral, visible from the harbour, is an imposing all white structure with columns and a dome, in the Senate Square.

They told us the other important church, the all brick Uspenski Cathedral near the harbour, is the largest Orthodox Church (I suppose meaning Russian Orthodox) church in
Uspenski Cathedral
Western Europe. The inside is ablaze with chandeliers and gilt and florid decoration.

After our sight-seeing we wandered through the market and bought a box of strawberries. These are small ones, a bit like the wild ones. They are sweet beyond belief!


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Books of Blair McDowell
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Blair McDowell