Sunday, October 11, 2015
Sept. 8 Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki is one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in Scandinavia and is home to 616,000 people. Much of the neo-classical architecture is from the Tsarist rule which began in 1809 after political rule passed from Sweden to Russia. Finland finally gained it's independence from Russia in 1917.
The bus tour of the city was very nice; we had a good driver and a great guide named Oona who spoke of the history and customs. We stopped a few times, some for just a photo op and one or two stops were for 20-30 minutes. All the passengers were back on time so the day trip went smoothly.
At one stop most of the passengers went to a museum but it would involve too much standing for me so I just hung out by walking around the block. Each time i crossed at an intersection i joined the locals as they crossed otherwise i may not have done it correctly. They have very small spaces in the middle of the intersection where you stop and wait for the next light. The light turns yellow after a red light which seemed unusual but upon actually crossing i could see how the warning and the extra 3 seconds helped ensure you'd get across in time because you started out faster. That idea would work here! There were lots of bus tours there today as there probably always is during cruise ship season.
Oona said the winters could be quite harsh with tons of snow or ice. Our day was a little cool but with sunny spells so it was sort of perfect for me. We were parked in an area that wasn't really a good shopping area but there were lots of spaces for buses to park and the passengers could walk uphill for a few blocks to whatever the other attraction was up there. As for me i checked out whatever was nearby and took a look in a beauty salon supply store and marveled at their different hair supplies then walked into a second hand store that had interesting stuff. I bought a used book for 1 Euro and as i already had one i didn't have to break a bill to pay for it so that was good and there was no tax. The book pages in Finnish will give me lots of collage fodder without any danger of using text that's inappropriate or rude being as it's a childrens book. I would have bought a solitary roll of awesome wallpaper as well but it was heavy and a cumbersome size to bring home. Wish I could have nabbed even an 8" piece of it. Back on the ship i was exhausted and napped all afternoon. I sat awhile on the balcony redoing my manicure and the timing was right to watch as we sailed away from Helsinki. Princess cruise lines plays a few bars of the Loveboat theme song as she sets sail and i watched a little boat approach our ship a few decks below our cabin which i know is the usual embark/disembark gate. It was to pick up the pilot who had guided us out of the Helsinki harbour and it must have been a special occasion for him as they played the Loveboat song twice. Later we went to our second formal dinner and the food i ordered was excellent and quite possibly the best meal I've ever eaten. Unfortunately some of my food pics didn't turn out well; maybe because there was a white plate on a white tablecloth and some turned out looking....well, too white. I ate a mushroom/feta cheese cold soup with crunchy grapes encased in a coating of pecans. Then something like a Vietnamese salad roll with a hot sauce. Then came a lobster tail with jumbo shrimp and that was awesome. For desert I had a chocolate extravaganza that had something green inside, maybe kiwi, whatever it was capped off a great meal. We had very nice Australian dinner mates again tonight. Apparently there's about 500 Aussies onboard and they are very friendly chatty people. We retired to our cabin as we have an early morning tour in Stockholm tomorrow. It helps somewhat that we turn our clocks back an hour tonight so going to enjoy an extra hour of sleep.
This is the Princess Theatre. Those on tours have to go to get their colour/bus number for each tour and wait until your number is called before heading out to look for your bus.
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I visited Helsinki, too, many years ago. I don't remember any of its sights, though. I think this was because it was the end of a 3 week Scandinavian driving tour. Upon reaching Helsinki all we wanted to do was return home to Frankfurt, Germany, where we were living at the time. I remember traveling straight through Helsinkii to Frankfurt. What a long drive!
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