Saturday, September 29, 2012

Helsinki's Seurasaari Island

Less than a half hour northwest of Helsinki's city centre lies Seurasaari Island.  You access it by a quaint bridge and once there you can easily wander for several hours. My pictures come from the summer of 2012, but my daughter-in-law assured us that traffic did not slow appreciably during the winter.  


The water is pretty chilly, but some folks do hit the beaches.

The Open Air Museum on Seurasaari Island features period buildings moved from the Finnish countryside to this wooded site for both preservation and ease of visibility.  There is a remarkable variety that runs the gamut from little 18th century follies to  sod roofed rural storage buildings.

Below a two leveled storage building and pretty obviously a windmill

One of the most impressive buildings was the Karuna Church.  Dating from the 1680's it is the oldest building in the Open Air Museum.


The structure is accessible and the interior is charming.

It contains a remarkable old pulpit and the strangest dismembered arm wall sconces I have ever seen.
And in this sancuary there's always room for a few more
Nearby are some storage sheds for large old church boats that used to be used to transport isolated coastal and lake dwellers to Sunday worship

A craft fair was going on and a number of native cottage industries were being demonstrated.  There were basketmakers,  weavers and knitters, pottery whistle makers, and even a female blacksmith.


A  smattering of this and that will finish up our tour.  The stark colors in this fine old stable with painted brickwork caught my eye.

This old telephone booth was cute.

I'd not seen this particular type of wood rail fencing before.

And this is the end of the line. Park your bike and head out into the pathless wilderness.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Sights of Central Helsinki

On to Helsinki!  Finland's capital city contains not much more than half a million people and it is a most manageable and accessible city.  It has an always scenic harbor

 great transportation via bus, subway, and glorious trams that glide along smoothly over much of the central city.

 oodles of restaurants offering native and every conceivable international cuisine,  museums galore,  concerts aplenty,  and world class design.

Any short visit must start with the Lutheran Cathedral.


The cathedral makes a fine sight from many places in the city.  The exterior may appear a bit grand, but the interior is all Scandinavian simplicity.

For a special treat visit the cafe and art gallery recently opened in the crypt.

If you stand on the cathedral steps all of the Senate Square unfolds before you


 Most of the rest of the central city is nearby.  You can promenade or enjoy a snack on the Esplanade.

You can shop at a great department store called Stockman.

There are at least a dozen museums within central city walking distance and some of art is right out in full view, such as the statues that adorn the Art Deco central railroad station.

If more ebullient decor is your cup of tea, you can try the Uspensky Russian Orthodox Cathedral

You are never far from music in Helsinki.  There is a full throated modern rock and club scene as well as a classical bent that is dominated by the music of native son,  Jean Sibelius.  A pilgrimedge of necessity is a visit to Sibelius Park to view the organ pipe melange designed by modern sculptor Eila Hiltunen.


Next up will be Helsinki's great green spaces.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Finland: The Other Scandinavia

For many travelers a trip to Scandinavia means a quick stopover in Copenhagen and than a visit to  Norway and Sweden.  I know that was our circumstance in 2001 when we used a Scanrail Pass to skitter all over Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

The thing is we never really considered adding Finland to our itinerary back then and quite frankly it hadn't risen a lot on our "bucket list" in the intervening years. Then came a vivid bolt out of the blue.  Last summer our 47 year old batchelor son married a young Finnish woman he had met on a ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki.  Shortly after that came the announcement that the young couple  intended to live in Helsinki rather than Minneapolis.  Lo and behold  Finland jumped up to the top of our trip list. We quickly discovered that an eight hour direct flight from Chicago's O'Hare would get you there. 

To top it off we had our lovely and charming new daughter-in-law as a local guide and a whole new family to meet.

David and Lotta


Upon our arrival we were taken by our son David and his wife Lotta to the home of Lotta's sister and her family.
Lotta's sister, her husband, and their two delightful children

We were given instructions on how to take our very first sauna. We did it. And we can attest that it may be the ideal way to battle jet lag. Refreshed and ready we were then treated to a magnificent first Finnish meal.

Jan, David, Lotta

Later in the afternoon we checked into our hotel, the Scandic Continental on Mannerheim in Helsinki.

After getting settled we met Lotta and David for dinner and took a nice walk along the lake that was just across from our hotel. 

Lotta, Dave, Jan looking out over Lake Toolenlaht

The sun was sinking and the light began to edge toward gold.

On the far side of the lake and up high on a hill is Linnenmaki Amusement Park

On the near side a boat rental was just closing up for the night.


Next week we shall tour Helsinki.