I just got back from a cool 4 day trip on the other side of the Baltic to see the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn. My original plan was to try and take the ferry from Stockholm back in September, but you have to book the ferry pretty early to get the cheap rooms, so nothing ever materialized in terms of making it happen after the first attempt. Since then, I realized I was to have the final week of November completely free of school and obligations of any kind, so I decided against going to Rome or some place warm and non-Nordic and make a trip to the capitol of Finland. No one else here in Karlstad had much of a desire (or the money) to go, so, after doing Iceland and Norway alone, this was my final solo trip.
Helsinki was the 5th and final Nordic capital that I have visited on this trip, and just like all the others, it had its own vibe and feel, but was certainly more along the more modern lines of Reykjavik and Oslo as opposed to the old towns of Stockholm and Copenhagen. It was also immensely Swedish, because up until 1809, it actually WAS Swedish, and when Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917, Swedish became the second official language. So, if I needed to figure out where I was, all of the street signs were in Swedish and Finnish, making things much easier. Like the girl at Subway told me on Thanksgiving night, Finland is similar to Quebec in terms of being almost entirely bilingual, but unlike Quebec it is its own country.
Day 1: In The City
My trip started with the last flight from Stockholm to Helsinki in hopes that it would be overbooked and I could get a free night in a hotel. Instead, the opposite was true and the plane ended up being more empty than full. I made my way to the city around 6:30, while the city was still entrenched in darkness. After walking around central station a little bit and grabbing some coffee and a pulla (the Finnish version of a Danish), I walked to my hostel to drop of my bag, grabbing pictures the whole way there.
After the sunrise, there were glimpses of the sky through the every-gray Baltic sky, and when they did poke through it was some of the most beautiful light blue sky I had ever seen, like the sky-blue Crayola crayon in super high definition. I only got to see some early morning glimpses though, soon the sky was only gray.
I did not have much of a plan for the first day, only just walking around and getting a feel for the city, as well as getting info for the rest of my stay there. Stops included the Orthodox Church, the massive Lutheran Church, and various other places I had read about before leaving Stockholm. Here are the rest of the pictures from the first day.
I did make it to Uspenskin Katedraali (the Orthodox Cathedral). I had never seen nor been in an Orthodox church before, and we failed to find the one in Riga, so I took advantage of seeing one of the largest Orthodox Churches outside of Russia in Helsinki.
My favorite thing about this Cathedral was the amount of detail that went into the interior walls, which is really, really cool compared to the white, bare walls found in all the Nordic Lutheran Churches.
After thoroughly examining all the gold statues and decorations at the Orthodox Cathedral, I made my way over to Tuomiokirkko, or the main Lutheran Church of Finland. It clearly dominates the skyline.
Inside I was treated to a free organ concert, which was radical to say the least. Afterward I walked around for quite a bit more, and then got some info about my trip to Tallinn. As it would turn out, it was only 15€ for me to go on Thursday as opposed to the 25€ it would cost of Friday. With my limited budget, I knew I had to do it, even though it meant I would miss the metal concert I had planned to go to on Thursday night, but, once again, the budge reigned supreme. So, instead of a metal show, I ended up going to see the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra perform some Beethoven on Wednesday night with Juho Pohjonen on the piano. I really wasn’t dressed for the event, but it was a great concert nonetheless.
Day 3: Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum
After spending Day 2 in the Estonian capitol of Tallinn, I spend the 3rd day in Helsinki, most of which was spent at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, which is probably one of the best contemporary art museums in the world. Before the museum, however, I went for a walk on the west side of town to see the Sibelius-Monumentti, a sculpture of organ pipes for Finland’s finest musician.
Between the Sibelius Sculpture and Kiasma, I stopped by another Lutheran Church, the Temppeliaukio Kirkko. It looks like a half buried UFO, so, needless to say, I snapped a few photos and continued on my way.
And so I made it to Kiasma, where I spent an entire afternoon enjoying the art.
There were some Asian and American displays, but it was the permanent Finnish works of art that make that place so special. My personal favorite work was a music symphony composed entirely from the sounds of dot matrix printers, and also the photography of Li Wei. Here are some photos from the museum.
After the museum I snapped a few photos of Helsinki at night before calling it a night back at the hostel.
On the fourth day, I spent the day at Suomenlinna, which, along with Tallinn, is the subject of my next post. So check it out!