Weekend in Helsinki, Finland

This blog post is a sort of “part two” to my post last Friday on St. Petersburg. My sister and I decided to take a quick trip up to Helsinki, Finland, which is only a few hour’s train ride from St. Petersburg. When hearing of our plans, quite a few people wrinkled their noses and said, “Helsinki? Why? There’s nothing to do there.” This initially made me second-guess the trip and consider going to Riga instead. But, we’d never been to Helsinki and decided to go for it, and that was the best decision.


7AM on the bullet train to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. This far north, at 7AM in late May the sun would already be high. This particular morning was overcast and rainy.

A picturesque Russian town

A lone fisherman


The Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Market Square—the vendors are getting set up

On Norra Esplanaden, near the massive Stockmann department store. Also near the most expensive cold-cut sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. That’s how it goes in Finland, though!

I bet this seagull was awfully proud of himself. These statues commemorate writer Zacharias Topelius.

A building facing Esplanade Park

Details around a window

Delightful people on an office building

On Aleksanterinkatu. “Katu” means “street,” and I really enjoyed saying that word. That street’s name was an easy one—you realize that after you’re faced with street names like Korkeavuorenkatu, Yliopistonkatu, and Koydenpunojankatu (and this is without the written accents). Anyway, I loved the trolley system in Helsinki—relatively cheap and they went everywhere. We didn’t even need to use the subway.

Statues with abs of steel

Tuomiokirkko, or Helsinki Cathedral

I looked up and saw these owls peering down at me. Another great apartment entryway!

Swans and clovers

A great place to relax with a drink on a warm day. Cafes like this can be found all along the water.

Johanneksen Kirkko, or St. John’s Church—designed by a Swedish architect in the Gothic Revival style. This church is on a hill that for many centuries had been a place for Midsummer (John’s Day) bonfires.

The front of St. John’s Church

The Helsinki Cathedral, this time later in the day

Out and about in Helsinki

These apartments have a fantastic view of the sunset over the marina.

This little guy was next to the front door of an apartment building.

Pardon the blurry shot. When I travel, I’m amused by the breeds of dogs shown in the “no dogs” signs. In Helsinki, it’s a Scottie or a Miniature Schnauzer. In Croatia and Latvia, the graphic resembles a German Shepherd.

Temppeliaukio kirkko, or Church in the Rock, literally dug out of solid rock. It’s said that from above, it resembles a crashed UFO.

The Sibelius Monument, dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius

Young people enjoying the warm day in Sibelius Park. Helsinkians are active bicyclists—the bike path network exceeds 700 miles inside the city limits. Also, don’t even think of wandering into the bike lane when you’re trying to read a map, pronouncing street names syllable by syllable like a child learning to read…

The Havis Amanda (“Sea Nymph” in Swedish)—a maiden standing on seaweed as she rises from the water. Four fish spouting water are at her feet. The statue was unveiled in the Market Square in 1908 and symbolizes the rebirth of Helsinki.

This meal, called “Reindeer Surprise,” perfectly hit the spot before the boat ride to Suomenlinna. The dish consists of reindeer meat, reindeer sausage, potatoes, and onions. Everyone who goes to Helsinki and stops by the market must try this delicious dish!

Reindeer Surprise in its glory, served by the friendliest Finnish women.

Trying Finnish beer (the Lapin Kulta, I believe) before boarding a ferry to Suomenlinna.

A little garden on Suomenlinna—an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands (and part of Helsinki). It was founded by the Swedes in 1748 to protect against the Russians and was then called Sveaborg.

A view of the Helsinki Cathedral in the distance

A great day for sailing

Nowadays there are about 900 permanent residents on the islands. The fortress is not only a museum, but a living community—a town within a town.

By now, you probably know that I like photographing doors. I particularly like the spade handles here. A great gift recommendation: a series of Inga Vitols Photography door greeting cards. I dare you to buy some!

This cherub is part of Augustin Ehrensvard’s grave. Augustin designed the fortress. The face is actually tiny and I photographed it with my macro lens.

On our last walk around Helsinki (well after 11PM). One of the things I knew I’d miss the most about the general region was how long there was light in the sky. I quickly found out how important it is to go to bed before 3AM or so, when light slowly creeps across the sky, or else you really mess up your internal clock.

Leave it to Helsinki to have a design exhibit in their airport!  Helsinki Airport selected 15 chairs by up-and-coming Finnish designers, and visitors are encouraged to “sit down and enjoy a unique moment of Finnish design and restfulness.” Don’t forget to seize the moment while you’re at it!

The long weekend trip to Helsinki was the best way to wrap up my big 2012 vacation. Thanks for reading!


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  1. Mar August 10, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    “He-ei!” ;) Love the pictures, you really captured the city.

  2. Heather August 10, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    I love the buildings and the details you captured on them. The statues were also beautiful. Ah, I’d like to go. How much was that sandwich??

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