On the flight to Helsinki one of the onboard newspapers said it was Design Week in Helsinki. What luck! It sounded as if it was just the sort of thing we like. First thing Saturday we went to the Old Customs Warehouse and were told they wouldn't open until noon. So we decided to take a boat cruise around the islands and harbor. That would be an interesting and a good way to pass the time until the exhibition opened.
Arrival procedures in Helsinki were a bit of a surprise. We disembark the plane, collect our luggage and walk out. No customs. No immigration. Nothing!! Both Finland and Germany are part of the EU and it is just like going State to State.
We took a cab to the hotel, checked in and decided go for a walk. Our hotel is right by the harbor and that seems to be the place for an open air market. We strolled along the booths that were selling fruits, vegetables, fish, knit goods, jewelry, and lots of souvenir items. This is where the cruise ships dock and there are a LOT of cruise ships and HORDES of tourists.
The large cruise ships on the left travel between Helsinki and Stockholm. It's an overnight trip and apparently very popular. The low building in the right hand picture is a market. Our hotel is across the street from the market.
The open market had lots of fruits (We bought some wonderful strawberries.), vegetables, etc. I was intrigued by the various mushrooms. Here are four different varieties.
Below is a woman selling fresh fish right from her boat.
The harbor is filled with islands. Some seem to have private homes, some are too small for anything, one or more have fortifications, etc. The picture on the right is of the straight that leads to the Baltic Sea. On the bottom left we are approaching a draw bridge between two of the islands. This one swings away to let us pass.
On the left is another of the cruise ships. There are about 300 cruise ships per year and about 300,000 tourists. Almost all are during the short "summer" season. It seemed like a good percentage were there the day we were walking around Market Square.
During the winter, all the waters around Helsinki freeze. The winters are long and cold!! On the right are two ice breakers which I'm sure see plenty of action during the winter.
After returning from our harbor cruise, we set off to see the Design Week exhibition. Much to our dismay, it was a complete fiasco and either we were in the wrong spot (we went where it was supposed to be) or we misinterpreted what would be there. Either way it was a big disappointment.
We strolled around the rest of Saturday afternoon and arranged for a tour of Helsinki for Sunday.
First stop on our Sunday tour was the Uspenski Cathedral. The cathedral is Eastern Orthodox and one is reminded that Finland was a duchy of Russia from 1809 to 1917. Unlike the churches we saw in Russia, this one had icons but wasn't covered wall to wall with them.
Next it was on to the Helsinki Cathedral. This is an Evangelical Lutheran church and the main church of Helsinki. This one we viewed only from outside.
Yup, that's us in front of the Helsinki Catheral and with the statue of Alexander II behind us and to the right. Alexander II was the tsar that was assassinated in St. Petersburg at the Church of the Spilled Blood. Here we see him with and without regal headdress.
The group below seems to have lost their cross- country skis! Apparently one of the things one does in Helsinki is to practice cross-country skiing when there is no snow.