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Helsinki, the more you see, the more you like

by Véronique and Mike

24 July 2015 • It’s not the first time I have been in Helsinki. I was hoping that our ship was going to berth into the old port, near the Viking Line terminal. Yes, when VOYAGER entered the narrow passage between the islands of the Suomenlinna fortress I knew it was going to happen. Indeed, again our ship had the best imaginable berth. She was virtually parked on the Kauppatori market square along the waterfront, south of Esplanadi, Helsinki’s main boulevard.

Actually the first stop was at the Sibelius Park, where the famous monument made of steel tubes is located, as a tribute to this classic Finnish composer. 

Next stop was at the Temppeliaukio Kirkko, a must see when you are in Helsinki. Much to my own surprise I never saw these two monuments before.

The modern church is built not on, but in the rocks. The architecture, conceived by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, and finished in 1969, is stunning by its simplicity. Imagine a huge round hole in the granite rock, and a cupper dome on top, supported by repetitive concrete pillars.

Nature is very important for the Fins, and the link with religion is never far away. This church encompasses this spiritual emotion by virtue of its integrated architecture. I was speechless.

The bus drove along so many interesting places, such as the Late Art Nouveau central train station, the Finlandia Hall and the Music Hall. Unfortunately we did not have time to stop. The plan was to halt at the Senate Square, under the stairs of the conspicuous white Lutheran Cathedral.

When we passed the square I saw hundreds of colourful youngsters sitting on the majestic stairs. Immediately I wanted to jump out of the bus for this unique photographic opportunity. Alas, the bus could not park and the stubborn driver decided to continue. I almost got mad. Luckily I could convince the guide, an Italian translator who worked with Finnish literature. Thanks to him I got off the bus and could walk on my own. The vibrant get together was about bringing gymnastic teams from all over the world to Helsinki, for a week of friendship and sports.

I took dozens of photographs of the otherwise pale Cathedral.

Time was running fast and soon I had to be back on board. There was just enough time for a stroll along Esplanadi, the main boulevard and green artery. I enjoyed watching the Finns enjoying the mellow grass on a lovely summer day.

It was also nice to talk with the girls from a tasteful popup shop, Shell’oh, as they were enjoying the delicious sunshine.

Before getting back on VOYAGER I passed the market. Scandinavian strawberries are often the best in the world, because their growth is stimulated by the endless daylight during summer. I ended up buying a basket of Finnish strawberries, and thoroughly enjoyed them during our sailaway.

Text en photos: Mike

Véronique discovered Helsinki on her own. You can find the story of her visit below.

In Helsinki I had little time on my hands as I had a conference call planned. My first mission was consequently to find a place with a good internet connection. I was stopped in my quest when I saw the colourful gathering in front of the cathedral. A couple of nice volunteers explained that the 15th world Gymnaestrada was taking place. More than 2100 volunteers from 51 countries gathered to give their interpretation of 'Make the Earth move', the slogan of this year's gymnaestrada.

After coffee in the cosy Think Corner of the University of Helsinki, a good place to prepare for my call, I did a quick discovery tour of the city. I loved the Helsinki Central Railway station in Finnish granite designed by Eliel Saarinen, with its authentic heavy doors and the statues at the door holding lamps at the entrance.

I paid my usual visit to a local supermarket and saw how popular Moomin is, a character used in a series of books and television series by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. 

A place I would recommend to visit in the city centre is the Rajala specialist photo store in the Main Post Office Hall- especially if you love photos and cameras. The shop was designed to invite the visitors to delve deeper in the world of photography. In the Foto Café you can drink and eat something with a view on the beautiful store or in the quieter section with sofas.

Another stop in the same building was the Central Library. You can borrow a tablet for personal use. What a great idea. 

My last stop was the Museum of Contemporary Art. Unfortunately not to visit. One of the exhibitions was about Robert Maplethorpe, the famous American rock photographer. Some timea go, when teh exhibition was in Paris, we missed it too. Sometimes you just can't have it all. Anyway the building, where the main architectural focus is on light, is beautiful. The architect Steven Holl was fascinated by the changing light conditions during the day and the seasons in Finland. And there is large pleasant bar area with free internet access. This was going to be my place to sit and work. 

Before I headed back to the ship I had a quick look around the museum. I love that area filled with young skaters doing their thing in half pipes, the KIASMA and the Music Hall , which I saw in the distance. 

This was the second time I was in Helsinki. Both times to short but long enough to make me long to come back soon.

Text & photos: Véronique

Music HallNo time to visit the KIASMA museum but there is always the shop if you don't have a lot of time

We are travelling on board VOYAGER with Belgian cruise tour operator All Ways, discovering the Baltic Sea and St-Petersburg. Mike often joins the excursion, while I mainly go explore myself. In the evening we gather our stories and share on the blog the things we loved most.