A Fine Day In Finland

After a late departure from St. Petersburg (we were already asleep by the time we sailed), we arrived early in the morning in Helsinki, Finland. We were warned to dress warmly for the day, but that turned out to be an unnecessary warning. It was a clear and gorgeous day for us, and actually got quite warm.

Our tour left at about 10 AM, and we started by driving through some of the newer sections of the city. There is a lot of beautiful architecture, and the newer buildings are striking in design and construction.

Our first stop was at the old stone church in Sipoo, which was built in the 1400s. This, like most of the churches in Finland, is a Lutheran Church. Although it is no longer in general use, the stone church is popular for weddings due to its quaint and attractive construction.

For most of the drive, the roads were lined with lupines and other wildflowers in bloom. They were beautiful — pink, purple, blue, and white. The next destination was the lovely village of Porvoo. Located on the shores of the Porvoo River, the village has a number of wooden structures built along the river. It’s primarily a tourist destination now, and for good reason — Porvoo is quaint and beautiful.

We found a local business that specialized in licorice and chocolate, and fortunately they provided samples. Since we couldn’t make up our minds about what candy to get, we ended up buying two bags of caramels — some are licorice, some are licorice and lemon, others are fruit, vanilla, or chocolate flavors. If I’m not a diabetic by the time we return to Denver, it will be a miracle.

After Porvoo, we went to a local manor house that had a lot of farm fields surrounding it (growing a lot of sugar beets), as well as an old distillery building. Our lunch was served in the cellar of the distillery, built of brick with arched ceilings. We ate with our new friends Shirley and Jeff (we found out they’re even more conservative than we are), and had an amazingly tasty lunch. The salad had julienned radish on it, which I love, the main course was beef en croute that was sliced into fairly thick chunks, there were fresh vegetables, and a dessert of two small berry tarts.

And the bread… Awesome rye bread. I ate way too much of it, and decided during the meal that I need to learn to make bread. This was tasty, fairly light, and did I mention that it was tasty?

The final part of the tour was in the older parts of Helsinki. We stopped at the Sibelius Monument, dedicated to the famed Finnish composer. We made sure to have a photo taken by the ship’s photographer at the monument, in honor of Barb’s parents, who had a photo taken in front of the monument years ago and used it on their Christmas cards.

As this is a predominantly Lutheran nation, we expected to see some amazing Lutheran churches. One is the “Rock Church” (not its actual name) that was blasted out of solid granite. The church has a beautiful ceiling made of copper rope, and just a small crucifix behind the table-style altar. They had just finished an English-language international service as we arrived, so we were delayed momentarily before entering the church.

Our final stop was near another Lutheran church, this the Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki. It was designed in a somewhat Greek Orthodox style, and has a huge square in front of it that is dedicated to Alexander II of Russia, who brought a lot of progress to the Finns when the country was under Russian rule.

Barb and I walked down to the Esplanade, which is a two-block long park in the middle of the old city. We found a nice sidewalk café and had some drinks before walking back over the cobblestones to the bus.

Our ship sailed at about 5:35 PM for Stockholm, which will be our final port before returning to Dover and then starting the next part of our journey. Of all of the ports so far, we have enjoyed Helsinki the most!

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