Helsinki – Wet Weather and Walking Trails

Our final day in Scandinavia. Still so much we want to see and do.

The weather outside is wet and pretty dark looking. We are not going to waste it though, we put on the wet weather gear and head on out…Along the way we stopped and I wrote the following in real time:

This part of the day’s notes is coming to you from Carusel. A truly sustainable cafe (using solar and wind to power it) we’ve popped into at 11:20am. It’s not that we needed coffee and tea or the cinnamon pastry that I’m enjoying, but what we needed was to find somewhere warm and dry.

We left the hotel at about 9am determined to see more of this handsome city. We have a map book that highlights a couple of walks through different districts and we really like the look of a couple to show us the character of the city. The first one we set out on is the ‘Sea and Nature Trail’. It has taken us back to the quay area and through the Old Market Hall where we could have eaten reindeer 10 ways, or even some bear meat…not sure how I feel about that one. Reindeer is a farmed and managed resource. Much like our beef, perhaps even more so as the Sami people have been herding and managing the reindeer for thousands of years and still do. Bears are wild animals and to my knowledge there is no husbandry in place for them. So, I have found my ethical boundary when it comes to what I am prepared to eat and bear does not make this list.

Range of seafood
Old Market Hall Kiosks.
No thanks…

The rain persisted and so did we. We walked along the shore until our map took us up towards observatory hill. There was a point here from which we could see back to the harbour and foreshore buildings though the naked trees. Photos in these conditions really do not do this city’s justice. The Art Deco buildings are pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow some in stone and some painted. They have beautiful design features and detail. Turrets with statues and decorative cornices decorate the outside with window ledges and frames in contrasting stone and with carved detail.

As we walk along the streets with our head down, avoiding rain in the face, we are still looking at the pretty pink stones that pave the gutters, streets, and in the natural rock that can be seen in parks.

The walk takes us through Kaivopuisto park dating back to 1886. It is one of oldest and more popular parks here and has been a popular spot for the wealthy visitors that used to come over to Helsinki from St Petersburg. A spa was built here in 1830s before the parkland was developed. The highest part of the park is the site for the Observatory belonging to Ursa, the oldest and largest amateur astronomy association in Finland.

The walking map directed us back to the foreshore and onto the Eiranranta Boulevard which is where we found Carusel. We’ve had time to warm up, dry off a little and will soon head back out to continue our walk.

What the camera can’t show is that as we look out the window, the trees in the foreground have droplets of water, then behind them is a pile of pink and red ocean bouys, behind which is a small rock island with restaurant, dry dock and other buildings. In the water there are still bouys floating without boats attached. The water here freezes over, so we assume most boats are out of the water at the end of summer so that they don’t get trapped and damaged by the big freeze. It’s a really nice spot to sit, relax and take in the marina landscape.

After enjoying our break, we set back out again and joined up with the ‘Art and Design’ Trail. This took us through streets with design studios, antique stores, art galleries and wonderful interior shops. The architecture was more of the Art Nouveau style and again we found the streets just interesting to walk through. It was cold and still raining yet as we passed by a school the playground was full regardless of the weather. The kids were rugged up and doing everything they would if it had been a sunny day. Kicking a ball, standing around chatting out in the rain with their raincoats on. No cotton wool here.

Kids in the playground at school.

Pink cobble stones that are used for roads, gutters everything.

We headed back to the Old Market Hall and stopped at a Soup Kitchen for lunch. Soup is a very popular lunch dish. Many cafe’s will have a big pot of soup out and you pay for the buffet and then help yourself to a bowl of soup and bread. We’ve seen this all across Finland even at the roadside stops up north and in the city cafes.

Soup Kitchen at The Old Market Hall

After lunch we set out again, the clouds lifted, rain stopped and we even saw small patches of blue sky. This time we were heading over to a few streets on the ‘History and Architecture’ trail. Along this trail we saw the Presidential Palace and happened to be there as the guard changed. We also saw the Uspenski Cathedral which is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. It features gold cupolas and is a remnant of the Russian influence on Finland. Less than 2% of the population of Finland now belong to the Orthodox faith.

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral
From outside the Presidential Palace.
The outgoing Guards returning to their quarters

We walked further along passed converted warehouses from the 1800’s and the Relandersgrund. The historic ship was used for hydrographic surveys and was rescued from the sea floor in 1991. It is now a restaurant/bar permanently located by the harbour.

Looking across to Halkolaituri Pier
Katajanokka’s converted warehouses
Relandersgrund – the Historic Lighthouse Ship.
Propellor and anchor outside one of Katajanokka’s many restaurants.

Just around the corner are moored a number of Ice Breaker ships. A large proportion of the Baltic Sea freezes over during winter. Ice Breaking is required to enable year round shipping and exports from Finland. The ice breakers also assist other vessels into port by freeing them or towing them out of the ice. All countries around the coast of the North Baltic must have a certain number of vessels to contribute in case of extreme conditions. This can vary from year to year.

Ice Breakers in Port.
Polaris on the left – Suomi 100 means 100 years of Finland’s independence from Russia

The Polaris which is Finlands most powerful ship in this fleet is the first icebreaker in the world to run on LNG (liquified Natural Gas). The Polaris can travel at 6 knots through ice that is 1.2metres thick and can move through ice up to 1.8m thick without stopping. The way it works is that the bow steel is thickest and as the efficient propellers provide motion, the ship rises over the ice and crushes down on it. That sounds really simple, but there is a lot of technical manoeuvring that an expert crew of about 20 is needed for. With the expertise and engineering of the ship it can crash through ridged ice and barriers that that may be several meters thick. The heavy ice conditions are often encountered around the Bay of Bothnia, where the town of Kemi is located.

We really enjoyed our walk back through the streets and the Senate Square to find ourselves once again enjoying a coffee and sharing a pastry before a spot of souvenir shopping before heading back to collect our bags and make our way to the airport.

Now, here we are all checked, tax refunds processed, dinner finished, passing the time before our flight. Over the last few hours we’ve reflected on our experiences here and really feel we’ve had an awesome honeymoon. We’ve had plenty of wonderful experiences and enjoyed seeing the natural beauty of this part of the world. We’ve learnt a lot about the culture, history and people of this region. We’ve had our travelling challenges, but nothing that hasn’t resulted in a bit of fun or opened up to something else that has wow-ed us.

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