The final stop of our short excursion in Helsinki was at Helsinki Cathedral. We would have less time there than initially planned as we were running late because of what had happened at Temppeliaukion but it turned out that this didn’t really matter; our guide explained to everyone before we hopped off the coach that we could choose to make our own way back to the cruise ship if we wanted (so long as we let him know so he wasn’t waiting around) and we were in the minority of people who decided we’d brave the incessant rain to spend some more time in the Finnish capital city rather than head back to the comfort of the Crown Princess.
Helsinki Cathedral looked very attractive from the outside but suffered a little from all Lutheran churches we’ve encountered on our travels by being just a little spartan inside so we spent enough time to take a nose at the more interesting aspects of it before heading off to explore the city.
Just to the south of the cathedral was Senate Square, the oldest part of Helsinki. The centre of the square contained a statue of Emperor Alexander II but it was difficult to pay it any attention whatsoever as much of the public space was taken up with sculptures of seals painted by various artists and organisations. Our guide had explained before we’d wandered off on our own that the seals were being used to promote cleaner seas around Finland.
From Senate Square we continued southwards to Market Square situated on the coastline. The first thing we did when we got there was duck into the City Hall to get out of the rain for a few minutes, take a nose at the art exhibition taking place, and – mostly – to use the toilets. Being rained on for hours can have that sort of effect.
Back outside we took a look around the square. As its name suggested there was a market in operation although it was a small affair with only a few stalls offering either food or souvenirs. Around the square the obvious sights were the SkyWheel (a Ferris wheel), the ferry terminal, and the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral.
It’s at this point that I owe the city of Helsinki a little bit of an apology. When we got back from our Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess it was Finland’s capital that we found the least appealing of the cities we had visited; it had the least to do and see and for me it was architecturally-unappealing. It’s now that I’ve been going back through the photographs and processing them for publishing that I realise the designs of the buildings were actually very impressive. The rain during our visit obviously had more of an effect on us at the time than I had been aware of; I can only assume I had my head lowered so much to avoid blinding I’d missed a lot more than I realised.
We headed westwards through the Esplanadi park, a narrow bit of greenery that would possibly have been very nice under the sunshine. Along the way we passed a stage where some performers were singing to a crowd of about five (including us for the few minutes we hung around). Throughout the city there had been a number of venues preparing for concerts to celebrate the country’s centenary and I hope they eventually had better weather for it.
Turning northwards up Keskuskatu at the end of the park we headed towards the impressive-looking Helsinki Central Station. Our guide had remarked on its architecture and interior design and we certainly couldn’t fault him regarding the building’s exterior. Inside, though, there was a feeling of Lutheran influence again in the clean emptiness and we didn’t stay long.
At this point we decided we’d had enough of Helsinki’s rain which far from letting up was starting to get heavier. With several hours still in port and plenty of Euros still to spend we decided the best use of our remaining time would be in a bar and as luck would have it we’d passed one on the way to the railway station. We duly made our way back to it and after a chat with the helpful barman set about grabbing some lovely locally-made ales.
We’d just about dried off when it was time to make our way to the bus stop that would get us back to the cruise ship. Subsequently, we were drenched by the time we got back again.
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