Helsinki day 1 | Helsinki day 2 | Helsinki day 3 | Stockholm | Stockholm to Kosta | Kosta to Kalmar
Kalmar to Copenhagen | Copenhagen | Copenhagen to the Ship | Aalborg, Denmark | Flam, Norway
Alesund, Norway | Molde, Norway | Geiranger, Norway | Olden, Norway | Bergen, Norway
Eidfjord, Norway | Stavanger, Norway
July 17, 2016
Helsinki - Day 3
Today's sightseeing was largely finding something for us to do as we waited for the ferry to leave at 8 p.m. for the trip from Turko (Finland) to Stockholm. The drive to the coast was hours long and allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Otherwise, we stopped at a couple of towns that were in-the-country places that locals use to get away from Helsinki. Pretty small towns.
We boarded the ferry at 8 p.m. and were, at the last minute, told by our local guide that we had to be off the ferry at 6 a.m.! Our travel agent in Chicago, in yet another one of her cascading screw-ups on this trip (and on the previous trip this year), wrote in our itinerary that we got off the ship at 9:30 a.m. in Stockholm. Those 3+ hours make a huge difference since we're still not caught up on our sleep. Because we did not want to start eating dinner at 8:45 tonight (the ship pulled out at 8:30) we found a place in Turko to get a quick meal so we could get to sleep almost as soon as we got on board. No time to explore the Baltic Princess (it can hold several hundred cars and several thousand people).
I was in Helsinki about 50 years ago although not sufficiently impressed to remember the visit. However, I went back and looked at the few slides I took then and found I could place myself in the same spot today as I did in the original photos. The first picture below was taken about 50 years ago. The next two I took today. The obvious difference is that the wharf area is much busier with sightseeing vessels and a produce and souvenir market. A less obvious difference is that the obelisk (hard to see in all of these photos) did not have the Romanoff two-headed eagle 50 years ago whereas it does today. The result of time and politics. The light post in the foreground is also missing.
Possibly my lack or recollection and reticence to revisit the place was because Helsinki at that time was just a jumping off place to get to St. Petersburg.
Be that as it may, I was predisposed to be underwhelmed by the city. As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised. Helsinki is very modern, crowded with residents and tourists, clean, well laid out with lots of parks both large and small, with trees and lawns (very green). It's a place that I would not be uncomfortable living in.
On the other hand, it is dark all winter and cold - really dark and really cold. Amusingly the natives take their holiday in July (like other places in Europe). If it were me, I'd be gone in the winter.
It appears that, in addition to owning a car and a bike, many people own boats. There are marinas very close to downtown, and very reasonable to rent (all are government controlled). Bike riders are ubiquitous. Admittedly the areas we were shown as tourists were high end, attractive, interesting architecturally, and clean.
The people are also attractive. I can see where all the California blonds come from (in California's case it's a bottle, but not around here). The young men and women look like movie set extras. In contradistinction to the students in America, kids get a free university education in Finland. However, they must get their undergraduate degree in seven or less years because after the 7th year, they no longer get a financial free ride from the government. The men go into the armed service at age 19 for a year. Medical assistance is free but private doctors are available if you can afford them.
As a visitor, the people are polite and friendly. Our hotel was called among the two best in the city but unfortunately we did not find it to be that. The food in general is good but not memorable. Our walks through the markets and looking at the menus make it clear that fish is a large part of the diet.
The countryside is, as I said earlier, not dissimilar from our suburbs. The cars are the same (we were driven in Audis but had a Mercedes today).
Now let's see what Sweden has in store for us.
Legendary Cultures 2011 | Greece & Turkey 2012 | Circle The Arctic | France-Denmark 2016 | Helsinki-Norway 2016