|I passed through Helsinki on my way to the Arctic, so my experience here was limited. I did go to two of the most famous cathedrals in the city though. On the left is the Helsinki Cathedral that sits right in front of Senate Square. I had gone to the square just as the city was taking down the vending stalls for the Christmas Market that had been going on for a week! So I missed it just by a few hours. On the right is the Upsenski Cathedral. Both of these were locked when I visited so I wasn’t able to go inside either one. The Upsenski cathedral gets a fair share of visitors everyday though. In 2007 someone stole a famous piece of artwork from the cathedral in broad daylight! It was never seen again.|
|Walking around Helsinki was difficult in the weather I had. It was above freezing but the wind and the rain made it less enjoyable. Fortunately the vendors along the streets were smart enough to put tarps up. I had a small lunch in one of these along with some hit chocolate to rejuvenate myself. Earlier in the day when the weather had been clear I saw this musician playing songs with wine bottles he had set up.|
|What I liked most about Helsinki was their trams and their bricked streets. I walked along this main street which was lined on either side by shops and restaurants like in the two photos below.|
|I normally don’t take photos of my food, but I ate at this restaurant in downtown Helsinki and it was by far the best restaurant I ate at during this trip to Scandinavia. The first dish you see on the left was an appetizer made out of squeaky cheese and elk meat followed by the main course of Swedish Meatballs, mashed potatoes and beets. Most restaurants are very expensive in Scandinavia, and this was one of the few where I felt my dinner was worth every penny.|
|Helsinki had a few rivers within its borders. Most weren’t very big but could still accommodate small boats. One of the bridges I crossed was covered in these locks. This practice is usually done when a new couple is married.|
|Like most of Scandinavia, Finland and Helsinki’s coastal areas are made up of fjords. I stayed in an area across from Helsinki known as Espoo. My taxi driver described it as a small suburb that houses the high tech industries of the country. On the right is a large cruise ship leaving Helsinki harbor.|
|One of Helsinki’s best places to explore is Suomenlinna Fortress. I had expected the Fortress to be a single castle on a small island, but I it’s actually more like a small city built across six islands. The Fortress was built for the sole purpose of protecting Finland from any Russian invasions and construction started in 1748. The gate you see is known as the King’s Gate and is one of the most famous icons of the entire fortress.
Above is one of only a few large 6 inch 35 caliber cannon built in the late 19th century. This cannon was used during the Continuation War, which refers to battles between Finland and the Soviets during World War II. After the war the cannon was placed on Suomenlinna while most of the others were destroyed.
|The architecture and vast size of the fortress make this visit worth it alone. For those with lots of time there are several hotels and places to spend the night at on the islands. The island actually is inhabited by locals so there are plenty of homes that you’ll pass by. Above is the entrance to one of the internal parts of the castle on the left, and on the right a shot of some of the stone buildings and walls.|
|I didn’t realize how big Soulemmina was until I stepped foot on the islands. I had expected a single small island along with a small castle. Soulemmina is more like a small city on a large island. Above is a photo of one of the many houses I saw. On the right is the island’s church, another one of the most famous landmarks on Soulemmina. Looking at the signs below you can see how many things there are to do here. The weather when I visited was cold and extremely windy by the way. The tunnels I came across below gave me a nice break from the wind storm.|