Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Helsinki - Finland

The Place: Our first trip to Scandanavia, Liz and I spent a long weekend in Helsinki, Finland.
Some features: Helsinki is a small port city and the sight of its massive oceanliners which cross the Baltic sea are very impressive. Nesting slightly above the skyline of the city is a simple but beautiful cathedral which stands behind a large square with Alexander II (from when Finland was part of the Russian Empire) standing in the middle. Quite a few of the statues are unique in that the people wear bear skins with the head of the bear above their own.
We had a good night out on the Saturday night and were surprised as it was still light at 23:45! Met some Fins in one of the bars, one of whom mentioned that she was from further north in the lapland regions where there are days in mid summer with 24hrs of sunlight and conversely in winter, 24 hrs darkness.
There were loads of musicians walking round the city, partly because of a music festival taking place, but it seemed quite a few were just happy to strum a guitar in the park. Definitely a lot of heavy metal! In one of the more chilled out pubs they were playing a bit of death metal softly in the background.
We both really liked the old markets set up on the esplanade, where they sell alot of hand made wooden crafts, some using reindeer antlers as handles, or decoration. Also in abundance were mink coats, blue fox skins and reindeer pelts.
Took a ferry trip to the island Suonmenlinna which is an old fortress and an important part of Helsinki's history and is now a UNESCO Heritage sight. It stood through Finlands Russian and Swedish eras to when Finland became independent in 1917.
The Finnish language looks seriously complicated or in Finnish "Suomen kieli näyttää vakavasti monimutkainen!" but it was easy to get around as everyone seemed fluent in English. The nordic names are also really cool; coincidentally I was reading one of the Nordic authors books (Kon-tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (OK, he's norwegian)) but the names that came up included Bengst, Otto, Knut, Torstein to name a few.
Would love to return to scandanavia and experience life in the laplands, with a bit of husky dog sledging, reindeer spotting, snow saunas and northern lights. Maybe next time!