We arrived in Helsinki, Finland today June 5th and spent the morning touring the city– really not much to see. Robin and I went on the Highlights of Helsinki Tour.
Russia had its influence in Helsinki– much of the architecture is block, not design oriented and rather drab– there are certainly some exceptions. Stockholm and Helsinki are very different cities considering that they are Nordic sisters.
We visited the Rock Church, commissioned by two local architects and built with natural rock in the round– unusual design that produced wonderful acoustics.
This church was jammed with tourists, and I felt that the building was unusual, but it was no Notre Dame or Sagrada Familia–yet it was the Highlight of Helsinki? I walked away with the feeling that if this is the best Helsinki can offer to visitors– then this city is a little sad. See the photoAnother quirky thing about the church was that you had to have a half-dollar sized sticker on your lapel when entering. There was no one checking to make sure you had a sticker. You didn’t have to purchase the sticker— no useful purpose, you just had to have one. And everyone did!
Maybe it was a way for the church to gauge number of visitors based on how many stickers were given out. Or maybe it was a lingering Russian communist influence– a factory was created to make church stickers!?!? Our guide said the whole sticker thing was ridiculous, but we needed to do it– dutifully we complied.
The strange thing about the stickers is that lost their stickiness when they touched fabric. So now there were thousands of stickers everywhere on the ground stepped on and really sticking to the sidewalks and church grounds. This iconic Rock Church of Helsinki looked like it had a case of chicken pox. Not sure the church elders anticipated the amount of sticker graffiti when they OK’d the plan.
For those of us we’re able to retain our stickers an unwritten disposal law was to decorate the drain pipes of local buildings with this spotted adornments — the whole thing seemed quite unusual– perhaps in was a Nordic silent protest– kind of let’s’ Stick it to the Man’. Here is one of the drain pipes
Our guide closed our tour with a must see Market Square visit at the water front, it was there that local artisans sold there wares. All very civilized you could buy a beer bottle opener with the handle made of elk bone or a genuine reindeer hid. As we were walking away from the Market Square we crossed a pedestrian bridge. See photo belowI stopped and immediately recognized that this was a Finlandia knock- off of the Paris Pont de Arts bridge or Lover’s Bridge over the Seine. You engrave your lover’S name on the lock, lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the water. This was just a smaller scale on a very pedestrian, pedestrian bridge
Finally, on our trip back to the ship our guide told us a story that occurred on April 13th ever year. It is graduation day celebration for those who have finished school. There is a giant party in the downtown area for all graduates and precisely at 6pm –50,000 party attendees pull out a white hat trimmed with black and gold and put them on— the point is that Fins have a wired and quirky sense of humor. I guess you should expect this from a city whose major export is ice breaker ships