Monday, 29 October 2018

Day 15:Porvoo

Our plan today was to leave Helsinki and look at a town about 50km away. Transport is very easy to negotiate here and it took us no time to find the bus station, which was beneath a shopping mall. Leaving the city behind we immediately noticed a difference in the landscape from the other Baltic countries we had visited which were all very flat. Here the land was undulating with large, dark rock formations seemingly bubbling up through the grass.. It was a stormy day with heavy showers. Not sure whether it was a good idea for a trip out of the town. Maybe we should have found a museum to visit instead. Once we arrived in Porvoo, the heavens opened and we took shelter in a church.
There were one or two interesting things to look at inside the church whilst we waited for the storm to subside.  The present church dates from 1450s. Over the centuries it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. It became a Cathedral in 1723. The first church built here was around the beginning of the 14th cent.

This is a medieval statue of St Mary donated by a sea captain in 1988. It originates from central Europe from around the 15th century,

The pulpit made in 1764 by craftsmen from Porvoo.

By the time we left the cathedral the rain had eased off and we wandered through the old town with its narrow cobbled streets and wooden houses.

Down by the river are the red painted wooden warehouses. In times gone by ships would come upriver from the sea to unload and load their cargo. The warehouses were used by the merchants to store their goods.

From the riverside you get a good view of the Cathedral.

The old station which I think is being converted into a restaurant.

Completed in 1764 this is the oldest town hall in Finland. Now the building houses the Porvoo Museum

A local bakery

This is the home of Finland's National poet, Johan Ludvig Runegerg. It is Finland's oldest house museum. The Runebergs moved into the building in 1852.

Seeing the inside of this late 19th cent home was an excellent way to finish off our tour of Porvoo.

We returned to the bus station in Helsinki which is beneath a shopping mall and discovered that you could walk from one shopping mall to another via subways. We eventually came back up to ground level near the Chapel of Silence. It is constructed from curving strips of spruce and is used by people who want to escape the stresses of city life for a short time.

I had read in a guide book that if you travel on trams 2 and 3 you will see the whole of Helsinki so we set off to find the Art Nouveau / Art Deco areas of the town. The buildings weren't as unusual as the ones in Riga but they interesting in their own right and well worth the effort of locating them.

We walked back to our hotel via the marina for a well deserved G and T.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Day 14: Helsinki

No pressure to get up early this morning., we had said our goodbyes to everyone on the trip last night. At breakfast there was more hugging and farewells. M and I decided to move our luggage to our new hotel later in the day. We decided to try and find the Sibelius monument which is on the outskirts of the town. It took two tram rides and a walk but we found it!

Dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, it consists of 600 welded steel tubes. They are supposed to make sounds when the wind blows but we couldn't hear anything despite climbing on the rock standing beneath them.

The rain wasn't far away and we had heard there was a cafe by the water's edge that was worth a look.

Inside this wooden shed was a very cosy cafe full of interesting bits and bobs.

We were advised to have a look at the toilet at the end of the garden to see its slightly offbeat decor and signs.

Back in the city centre we had a look at the city's railway station.

Our  plan was to collect our luggage and move to our next hotel. We wouldn't have moved hotel if we had known which one our tour company was using at the time of booking. Anyway, our new one was in an Art Nouveau converted warehouse. It was huge with the inside resembling a ship.

From our room we could see the cruise ships which towered above the port buildings.
The weather had now improved and the sun was shining, time to get on a ferry and have a look at the island of Suomenlinna. It is one of the biggest sea forts in the world with its fortifications scattered over eight islands. We were delighted to to find that our tram tickets gave us free travel on the ferries as well as buses.

We passed the open air swimming pool on our way out of the harbour. I was surprised how many people were making use of it but then this is Finland, home to the saunas and cold water swimming.

It was a short crossing of about 15 minutes to this fortress island which still had many of its defences intact. It was a gorgeous day for wandering around. We had a picnic lunch overlooking the water,

before exploring the island.

This is Suomenlinna Church. The Russian garrison church was completed in 1854. It had five onion shaped domes and was built in the Byzantine-Russian style. When Finland gained independence, all the church's Orthodox features were removed. The lighthouse in the tower has guided air and sea traffic since the 1920s. Today the church is a popular wedding venue.
Its bell is the largest in Finland and the fence is made of cannons and chains.

We wandered through the dark tunnels and climbed up onto the battlements. It took a few hours of slow meandering to explore the  islands linked by short bridges.

Today many artists live permanently on the islands. There are a number of studios and galleries on the island. In this one we could watch glass being blown.

The wooden houses used to belong to Russian garrison traders. They supplied goods for military and civilian needs. They were also the pharmacists, butchers, bakers and innkeepers for the whole garrison. The traders were also required to hold food in stock in the event of a siege. Since Finnish independence in 1917 they have become shops and cafes.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our time on the island. The weather was perfect and the scenery spectacular.

Arriving back on the mainland we walked through the Esplanade. Lots of people were sitting outside enjoying the last of the sunshine.