Day two in Finland

We wanted to check out Suomenlinna. That word means “Finnish Fortress [Suomi = Finland]”

See, Finland was under the domination of Sweden for a long time. Suomenlinna was made by the Swedes, and they called it Sveaborg, which means “swedish fortress.”

Later, the Russians came along and kicked the Swedes out in favor of themselves having dominion over Finland. The Finns liked the Russians better than the Swedes, so that was okay with them. The Russians took up residence in Sveaborg and named it Suomenlinna, which ws thoughtful of them, since it was in the language of the Finns. An endearing action, which the Finnish people appreciated in a dominating country.

Of course, later the Finns decided that being in charge of their own darn selves was the best idea, and they kicked the Russians out in the 20th century. Right now, the fortress is a historical park. They couldn’t shut up about how Unesco has named it a historical spot. We even were shown a little film about it on the plane.

So, we woke up after a delightful night’s sleep to a sunny day. Hooray! The rain is gone.

So we ate a lovely breakfast of finnish food in the hotel. To our dismay, we discovered at the end that it was not complimentary. Yow! 60 bucks later, we left the restaurant and started out.

We walked around some more, and found the place to buy the ferry tickets to Suomenlinna:

It was near the harbor or port office:

This was the view from the harbor:

“Is that the island we are going to?” I asked Chris.

“No, Suomenlinna is much further out. There are 4 or five islands on the way.”

We bought our ferry tickets. But the boat didn’t launch for 45 minutes. We got to look around at the street fair:

You know, I saw all kinds of people walking around in Helsinki. There were African people, Asian people, all kinds of people. But I kept looking to see a Lapp. The only person I saw that was probably a Laplander was in the street fair, at a booth selling Lapland food. It smelled good.

One of the things Finland is very good at producing is fur:

Don’t those look so luxurious? It’s kind of strange to see it sold outside like that.

Well, it came time to get on the boat:

of COURSE we sat on the top of the ferry. This is what everyone looked like getting seated on the ferry:

It was a very good view, and lots of interesing things to see along the way. This was the island we saw from the harbor:

Another island. Look how extremely rocky that patch of land is!

We could look back and see Helsinki from the sea. This is sort of how the old seafarers would view the city:

Speaking of seafarers, Chris was very happy to point out all the ships that were in the harbor. LOTS Of ships:

They were very BIG ships:

We had a lot of things to point at on the way, but then we pulled up to Suomenlinna:

Doesn’t it look fortressy?


Check these little hobbit holes out:

Those are NOT hobbit holes, as snug as they look under the hill. They are for storing ammunition. Burying explosive things under the ground is a good way to protect them from being set off by enemy fire.

It’s quite a contrast, the beautiful land and the obvious violent military intent of the construction.

Of course, I really appreciated that it was full of nature there. They have birch trees, just like the kind I remember growing up in Alaska:

There were birds there too. The birds had adapted to tourists, and we were warned:
the napkin around his neck slays me.

Suomenlinna is not just one island, it is actually a couple of island strung together with bridges:

Chris was excited to see a Finnish Submarine. It’s a museum submarine now:

That there is the Vessiko, a 20 person submarine with a very international history.

Thing was it was apparently closed. No one was around and we couldn’t get inside to see the submarine. We looked at the outside, but then we just had to move on.

This is called the King’s Gate

It is a little harbor, and ships can tie up to that little post at the bottom of the steps. Yes, the King was supposed to, and did, come in at that entrance to walk majestically up those steps and be welcomed in.

We went on so see other sites:

See that cool tower? That happens to be a church. Let me talk about that church for a minute.

NOW, Suomenlinna is kind of older than Helsinki. Remember, the Swedes were there, and then the Russians. The Russians built that church on the island. Naturally, it was an othodox church of the very decorated style. THIS church originally had a whole bunch of onion domes on top, and was beautifully decorated on the inside.

See, Luther’s popular hit “95 theses nailed to the door” hadn’t really made it over the eastside. The Germans thought it was catchy, but the Russians couldn’t dance to it. Pretty much all the Scandinavians thought it was groovy though. And Helsinki’s major church cathedral (with the white white walls), built after the city became a capital in 1812, meant that the Lutherans held the floor in Finland.

But, this church was built by the Russians. Before Finland belonged to itself. When the Russians were kicked out, the Finns redid the church. THEY PAINTED OVER ALL THE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE!! And they took down all the onion domes. Lutherans like pews and white paint.

Thing is, in one little corner of the church, they had been doing some restoration, and they showed how the church ceiling was before the paint job. The orginal decorations were so ornate under that white paint.

Now, in my mind, Luther will always be the man with the white paintbrush. He and his friends went around painting the walls of churches with plain white paint.
I can see it now. Martin says to Agricola: “Hey…I have an idea…Indulge me…Let’s paint eveything white!”

So Here it is. The three P’s of Luther:
Paint, Pews and Pipes
Organ pipes, that is.
But I guess there is a sort of appeal in singing “A Mighty Fortress” while on a fortress.

After we saw the church, we figured we’d seen what there was to see on the island. We strolled back to catch the ferry to the mainland.

“It’s really too bad,” Chris said, “I will probably never get to see the Vessiko sub. I wish it had been open.”

But just at that moment, we passed by the sub, and THERE WERE PEOPLE GOING IN AND OUT! We couldn’t believe that we’d missed it.


Just as Chris was considering paying for another trip back to the island to see the sub, our ferry made a stop at the King’s Gate. We ran off and went to see the sub. Hooray!

I’d never been on a submarine before. Frankly I don’t see how it’s possible for 20 men to do it. It seemed incredibly small, but it was deadly. Here is one of the torpedoes going in the hole:

All the mechanics were kind of retro looking:

Chris was very happy, and I was completely worn out as we took our ferry ride back. But this was our last day, maybe for the rest of our lives, to spend in Helsinki. I tried to stagger around and see some more sights.

There was one last amazing thing I saw. Remember the Kalevala? I had not ceased telling Chris about the adventures of Wainamoinen since we arrived. I saw a building carved all with characters from the story.
Here is Kullervo (also known as Kullervoinen), a major bad guy:

And another major enemy in the story:
I was jumping out of my skin to see more of the story carved into the stone of the city.

We were ready to eat. We went out to find Pizza. Chris likes to know how other countries do Pizza. We found a place called Iguana that sold mexican and italian food.

The pizza was excellent, and I recommend it if you are ever in Helsinki. It seemed kind of like a college hang out.

We fell into bed.
“Time for Sleep-amoinen” Chris said.

“Good night.”

Next Stop: HELsinki

We landed in Helsinki in the early morning. I guess it was sometime between 6 AM and 9 AM Helsinki time. It had been an 8 hour flight, and I really wanted to play with the first class media toys they give you, but I was sleepy. I pretty much slept the whole way.

So we landed and checked into our hotel. It was GORGEOUS:

Hotel KAMP had all kinds of history. It was the location for lots of artistic and revolutionary talk. I envision the intelligentsia talking over Frazer chocolates and coffee, pounding the table about ideas to improve the world.

Utter delight. And it was so beautiful. Let us all have beautiful revolutions, friends!

All right, so we did not linger in the hotel room. We had to see the sites.

Chris said, “It’s raining.”

“How long are we here for?” I asked.

“Today, tomorrow, and we leave the next morning.”

“Well, it may be a rainy day, but it’s the only day we’ve got. We must get out and see the city.”

So we did.

Alright. So there was a lovely park that ran down the main street in front of the hotel.
And there were gorgeous buildings all around. The town didn’t become the capital until 1812, so all the achitecture is from the 1800’s. see?

See that big domed building there? Presiding over the city like…Like a god? Well, that’s the Lutheran church. I did not expect the church to have domes, because I thought that was an Eastern thing. But Helsinki rides the line of East and West.

THIS is the Eastern Orthodox Church (look in the back right corner):
It’s kind of steepley, which is what I would have expected of Luther. There is a teeny little gold onion at the top as a concession, like a maraschino cherry.

We walked through the town to see the sites. Like this cafe:

And we heard a military band:

We made our way to the Orthodox church. It was beautiful. Here’s what you see when you look up:

And the iconostasis in the front:

The whole interior was elaborately painted. Here a piece of the vaulted ceiling and a pillar:

Yes, I enjoyed that church. I bought some postcards there, and sent them to a few of you, my readers. Thing was, Helsinki charged RIDICULOUS amount for a postcard. I figured, the church should at least get my money if I was going to be robbed. A whole euro for one post card!

The next day, we did visit the Lutheran church. It was startlingly plain.
Basically, the best you were going to get was the view from the outside. I really hate to take that metaphor too far.

Chris said, “We have to go to this one store, Stockmann’s.”

“What is it?”

“Apparently, it’s this great department store that was really popular with Russians during the soviet period. They came over to Helsinki to go to Stockmann’s. It was so common that a lot of Russians thought that the name of the city was Stockmann’s.”

“Let’s go!”

We kept looking for that IKEA look. You know? It was everywhere in Stockmann’s. All the sheets and curtains and kitchen utensils had that look. It was totally IKEA in everything but the price. Wow! No 2-dollar measuring cups there. More like 15 dollars.

I bought an illustrated version of the Kalevala in finnish. Do I read finnish? No. But…well…it’s a national epic poem that was never written or read, only spoken, for century upon century. I think that if I sat and read it out loud, even not understanding it, I will get more of the beauty of the phrasing…

Plus it was a paperback and therefore cheaper that way.

We went to the Stockmann’s grocery section and bought food for a room picnic. We were tired, and it was time for eating and sleeping.

Back to our gorgeous hotel.

We decided to check out a nearby fortress island tomorrow: Suomenlinna. We’ll have to take a ferry. Should be exciting.

“Good night, baby.”