Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hello, Helsinki!

The Silja Symphony is one of those great big gihugic vessels that are not really our cup of tea. But we wanted the experience of sailing out of Stockholm, passing many of its thousands of islands. So that’s what we did to get to Finland. Unlike our voyage from Oslo to Copenhagen, where we traveled Commodore Class, this time we were in steerage. The room was so small that Joe’s bed was folded up until he was ready to get into it. And the neighbors were noisy: kids running up and down the hall shrieking in the early evening and late into the night, drunks bellowing as they returned to their cabins. 

But we did see some beautiful scenery, including many of those islands. We lost another hour on the clock somewhere in the sea, so we were a bit scrambled when it was time to disembark. But it all worked out. Helsinki has the cab thing under control — a queue forms and three cabs fill at once and pull out, then the next three, and very soon we were at our hotel

Our room wasn’t ready, so we stowed our luggage and walked down to the Market Square where we boarded a canal cruise boat — in 1-1/2 hours we saw many lovely sights from the water and learned a bit about Finland’s history. It got cold up there on the upper deck, and it was 1:30 when we returned to Market Square. 

There we noticed the tents of local cuisine and indulged in platters of reindeer, red cabbage, potatoes, and grilled vegetables. Neither of us could finish!

From there is was a climb up to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, so beautiful in a very ornate way. 

Helsinki differs from the other Nordic cities we visited. To my way of thinking, the architecture in many places exhibits a Russian influence — bulky buildings with a kind of militaristic appearance. The same is true, for me, of sculpture in the city.

This MAY mean "bus."
Then there’s the language. Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian have many commonalities and by the time we left Stockholm we were starting to recognize the cognates. We knew for certain that “bat” was boat in all three languages. And we were getting the feel of the way nouns were sort of piled on top of each other. Finnish has nothing to do with those languages. There’s a whole nuther configuration of consonants with impossibilities like double K and double A, sometimes all in the same word!

The hotel is large and modern with a heated floor in the bathroom (Finland takes winter very seriously). The room was one of the largest we’ve had on the trip, especially after the microscopic cabin on Symphony. 

We were tired at the end of the day and after our huge Finnish lunch, neither of us wanted much dinner. The hotel had a tapas bar, so we went there, thinking how odd it was that our first tapas would be in Finland. 


Karla said...

When I first read about Joe's bed on the boat, I read the words but my mind read that Joe had to sleep folded up. I had to chuckle. As always, your writings of your trip fascinate.


Barbara Anne said...

Lovely, wonderful photos and a delightful narration, as always.

How long did the boat trip take from Copenhagen to Helsinki? Methinks I'd take winter very seriously if I lived that far north. Perhaps that chunky architecture is another way to keep the cold outside? Brrrrrr!


AnnieO said...

I grew up with a Finnish neighbor and remember her chattering the language at her kids--don't know how much they understood :)

Sue SS said...

I just returned from a lunch with a friend who now lives in Estonia. She was lamenting trying to learn Estonian and said it was only second to Finnish as a difficult language. And this is a gal who studied Greek at Yale divinity school. She told us how beautiful Helsinki is. I hope you had a wonderful trip.

Janet O. said...

Glad you didn't have to spend too much time on the Symphony--maybe it would be more aptly named the Cacophony!
I once had an English teacher who could speak Finnish. Very different to the ear.