Helsinki (Mothers Day 2017)

Finland, home to famed Olympic runner Paavo Nurmi (think early 1900s), has two official languages (Finish and Swedish) and 5.5 millions citizens who are in love with saunas which, we were told, are built into most homes and lots of apartments. It was the first country in Europe and the second in the world to give women political rights and continues to actively encourage equal participation of men and women in the professions and government. It has only been an independent democratic republic since 1917 having previously been under the thumb of Russia and before that Sweden.

We chose to spend half our day out of town and half in Helsinki. No matter, both were a stark contract to Saint Petersburg. Very clean, organized, and pretty, but in an understated pastoral way with all its granite buildings. We took a bus an hour out of town to Porvoo, the second oldest town in Finland. We passed mile after mile of forest with lots of white-trunked birch trees that stood out from the evergreens. Spring has been long and unseasonably cold here, so the fields were not yet planted and the trees were without leaves. There were tall fences along the highway meant to keep moose off the road. Reindeer are prevalent in Finland also but they are further north in Lapland so not a problem this close to the water.

We made one stop in Sipoo to see a charming, small country church made of stone with a low lying stone wall and small grave-markers in the lawn where war dead were laid to rest. It was very simple but sweet with an uneven cobbled floor and no outstanding decorations whatsoever. We lit a candle for Aunt Jerry.

Once in Porvoo we explored the picturesque narrow streets and browsed the gift shops, a tiny outdoor market, and a small chocolate factory (Brunberg Oy) where we took full advantage of the free samples, one of which was salted licorice. Not to our liking. The town is situated on a narrow river and is very quaint. Dan and I love to go to grocery stores when we travel, and we found one here. The shockers were a) finding six gambling machines at checkout. They were slot machine height but very understated. We did not try our luck. And b) a moving walkway to get shoppers and their carts from the first floor (food) to the second floor (clothes and housewares).

Once back in Helsinki we had a city tour and enjoyed looking at the highlights. A few of the country’s eight icebreakers were docked, so it was fun and a first to see those. We stopped at Helsinki Cathedral which is white with a soft green roof. It is on a small rise and looked magnificent against the clear blue of the sky. Once inside we lit a candle for Aunt Jerry. It is a Lutheran cathedral so very simple but elegant with a gigantic organ and long pews separated from each other by small doors on each end. Our last stop was at a relatively new church blasted from solid rock aptly named Temppeliaukio Rock Church. It was like nothing I have ever seen with its low lying dome shaped a bit like a Frisbee or a flying saucer and lined with miles of coiled copper wire. The anticipated effect of all the stone and cooper was that of cold and detached but it was actually very peaceful and beautiful. We lit another candle for Aunt Jerry and called it a day.



3 thoughts on “Helsinki (Mothers Day 2017)

  1. I always wanted to go to Helsinki, is just sounds cool–LOL

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