- (of course) capital of Finland
- 584.420 inhabitants (largest city)
- located in the southern part of Finland directly at the Baltic Sea
- Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP
- main sight: Helsinki Cathedrale
What came next? Of course the most popular sight in Helsinki: the famous Helsinki Cathedrale! I guess you all have seen this big white building on pictures before which is located on the upmost point in the city.
Our next target was the 'Rock Church' - yes, you understand right: a church built into a big rock. Before we reached the church, we were approximately 5-7 kilometres on the wrong way. But with the help of some nice Finnish supporter, we finally found it after 1,5/2 hours. How should I describe the rock church? Imagine a rock in the middle of densely populated neigbourhood and inside a little, but impressive Lutheran church. At least for myself I can say, I have never ever seen such a church before. Even if the interior is not typical for a church, you can feel a mystical atmosphere in there. But because words can't describe it very good, please just have a look at the following picture of the interior of the church.
One of the most impressive landscapes in the Helsinki area is Suomenlinna. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site which former name was 'Sveaborg' (=Fortress of Svea). The meaning of 'Suomenlinna' is Castle of Finland, this renaming in 1918 had patriotic and nationalistic reasons. Swedish speaking people, of course, still use the former name. The Swedish crown commenced the construction of the fortress in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. Today, in peaceful Finland, the island is for sure no more used as a fortress. It is a tourist attraction - a great one! You can just take a 'waterbus' (a little ship) which runs there once every hour for app. 3€. The transportation to the island takes about 15 minutes while passing a lot of smaller islands on the way there. Arrived at Suomenlinna (btw: we had beautiful weather!!!) the first stop was an old church.
We made our way forward, seeing a lot of little fortresses and vaults, sometimes quite creepy and mystical. Furthermore there were some old military monuments and weapons, like cannonballs. Between those attractions, the landscape was enriched with green fields, trees, rocks and little hills :-) At one of the highest parts, it is possible to have a wonderful view at the sea: wind was blowing, sun shining, sea swooshing - what a moment!
But Suomenlinna is not just a tourist attraction - for some people it is their home. Nowadays there are about 900 permanent inhabitants on the islands, and 350 people work there all year round. So, it is not just an attraction, but also a living community! There is a minimum-security penal labor colony in Suomenlinna, whose inmates work on the maintenance and reconstruction of the fortifications. Only volunteer inmates who pledge non-use of controlled substances are accepted to the labour colony.
We had also a quite typical Finnish weather phenomenon in Helsinki. Beautiful weather (as you can see on the previous pictures), walk in a park, next to a lake. See the next picture:
For another nice view, I can recommend the Olympic stadium in Helsinki. Pay 2,50€, go 60 metres up, see whole Helsinki and be astonished! You have two possibilities to go up to the top: elevator or stairs. Well, for me that means: 1 alternative = elevator! But I guess there might be also some (crazy) people going up using the stairs. On top I found a sticker that said 'Mannheim' with an eagle on it. Mannheim is not even 20km away from my home town, so I even had some sentimental feelings looking over the whole capital! :-)
On of the last stops was the shopping mile, including a Christmas shop. Have I mentioned that I am a big Christmas fan? Well, I AM! You will see more enthusiastic pictures and stories in the next post (Lapland post!). The Christmas shop was great, like a exploded Christmas package :-D You can even feel in Helsinki (more than 1000 km from Lapland away, where Santa Claus is living) that Finland is the mothership of Christmas feelings, hihi ;-)
Helsinki was a really nice trip - it is (for me) the 'Cosy Capital', because unlike other capitals, it is smaller, not so much overcrowded, not dirty or too loud - you feel homelike and adapted pretty soon!