Continuing my short break in Helsinki……….
This was the undoubted highlight of the weekend. Suomenlinna (Castle of Finland) is an inhabited sea fortress built on eight islands and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
During the Finnish War of 1808, Sweden surrendered the fortress that they had started building in 1748 to Russia, paving the way for the occupation of Finland by Russian forces in 1809, and the eventual cession of Finland to Russia at the conclusion of the war.
Russia held the fortress until Finnish independence in 1918, when it remained as an active naval base until 1973. Nowadays it is a fabulous tourist attraction showcasing Finland’s maritime history.
The complex is reached by public ferry from Market Square and is home to several military museums, the last surviving Finnish submarine named Vesikko, many grand looking naval buildings akin to those in Greenwich in the UK, a plethora of statues and endless tunnels within the several metre thick walls.
The ferry journey also afforded some very fine views of the capital.
Despite it being Saturday the crowds were sparse, meaning that we could view everything we wanted in an unhurried fashion.
At one point we were a little disconcerted to see a row of military personnel holding guns.
By chance we had stumbled across a naval funeral with full military honours. After the 21-gun salute, a bugler played the haunting last post. Has there ever been a more poignant and evocative tune?
We strolled around for hours and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. That was until the rain came meaning we had to duck for cover inside a colossal building that was holding a film show.
This particular film showed pond water under the microscope and after twenty minutes of viewing squirming microbes multiplying and breaking off into weird shapes, we decided to brave what was left of the rain.
After watching a flock of barnacle geese flap around in the rain, it was time to catch the ferry back to the city.
After more expensive but delicious coffee and cake the rain thankfully eased off. We took a tram to the Kallio District, specifically to the huge Lutheran church standing attention to watch over the whole district.
We then walked back to the centre via a very nice lake filled park filled with Jugendstil architecture called Karhupuisto (Bear Park), which brought us out alongside the railway line.
I watched as the Allegro train bound for St Petersburg pulled out of the station. The journey takes 3 and a half hours and I suddenly wished that I was onboard!
Another tram took us home for pizza and tuna salad. We had certainly earned the carbs that day. Oh go on then, I will have another cake!
Last Day in Helsinki
We had the best part of six hours before we would have to get the train back to the airport. We decided to take our bags to left luggage at the main station. Every other visitor seemed to have the same idea and despite it only being 10 a.m., we were extremely fortunate to secure that last but one locker.
Thanking our lucky stars that we didn’t have to drag our cases around for the next few hours, we headed out to Sibelius Park to see the monument to Finland’s most famous son (I am embarrassed to admit that I could not name any more famous Finns!).
The 24 tonne monument is a sculpture by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen titled Passio Musicae and consists of series of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern.
After walking around the park which was surrounded by the sea, we walked back to the centre via the unusual Rock Church (didn’t go in), Parliament building and funkily designed Oodi Library which only opened in December 2018.
After yet another burger (Scandinavian ones always seem healthier?), it was time to retrieve our bags and catch the train to the airport.
Helsinki recorded as a big hit in my eyes. I must return soon.