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Helsinki Overall

September 7, 2008

Written September 21

Dear Friends and Families,


During our Helsinki vacation, we were able to see the required places, such as the Suomenlinna harbor fortress, but we also wandered around the city, just exploring. In the end, we were impressed. Helsinki is a pleasant, modern-but-historic city, a bit expensive perhaps, but well worth a visit.

Here are some of what we saw:


Flying in, we crossed the coast and could see the long beaches on the German northern coast.

After the short flight and a quick taxi ride, we arrived at the SAS Radisson Park hotel; nice location, bigger than we normally prefer, but OK.

Helsinki has a great downtown, with plenty of Art Deco buildings. It's easy to see why half the population of Finland lives here.
Of course there were churches. This is still Europe, there are ALWAYS churches. The Lutheran cathedral is impressive, perched on top of a huge flight of stairs, but the inside is stark.
More dramatic is the Russian Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral, dating from the 19th Century when this was the Western side of the Tsar's empire. The ornate interior is the antithesis of the Lutheran cathedral's decorative scheme.

This church in the Art Deco neighborhood was a pleasant middle ground between the stark and the ornate cathedrals. I particularly like the roof as it seemed to reflect the ship-building techniques developed over the centuries.

On our Sunday morning excursion, we headed toward museums in the "Kaapelitehdas" (Cable Factory) area. Part of the area is still industrial and the ship container cranes loomed over the area like Star Wars tanks. I'm not sure pictures capture the feel, but it was a different world from the downtown churches, stores, and markets.
On one finger of the docks, three dramatic new office buildings, named Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, provided an ultra modern setting. On Sunday, everything was eerily quiet.

Our goal at Kaapelitehdas was the Finnish Museum of Photography. The first half of the exhibition showed photos and even movies from the time of the "Winter War", a civil war between the Red and White factions. at the time of the Russian Revolution. I could not help but draw a parallel to the intercine fighting found today in various countries where armed fighters, dressed as civilians, fight and kill each other.

The other half of the exhibition, titled "A safe world? Schoolchildren's photographs from Peru and Finland", was more positive. The series of black and white photos were quite charming. The little girls laughing over a lost shoe was Marianne's favorite.

We discovered that, upstairs from the Photography museum, the Cable Factory sponsored a Hotel and Restaurant Museum. We paid our two Euro admission and went upstairs and had this museum all to ourselves. Marianne had fun, playing chef in a 1930's kitchen and the 1950's hotel room looked like some we have stayed in!

The guy in the white lab coat came from an old "ALKO" store, the government liquor store that is still the only source of this "drug" here in Finland. Apparently, ALKO used to be even more clinical than it is today, as the government tried, unsuccessfully, to reduce alcohol abuse



So, that was our great excursion to Helsinki. It was a good trip, but a bit long. We were glad to see the German clouds of home as we landed back in Nuremberg. Who knows what our next bit of foreign travel will be.

John and Marianne


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