Another quick city and country overview, or many a small history lesson (your call). Helsinki is the Capital of Finland, situated on the southern coast, overlooking the Gulf of Finland and Baltic Sea. Helsinki is predominantly a modern city with a population of 500K inhabitants. Surrounded by water on three sides, Helsinki has a natural seaport, which thanks to icebreakers can stay open year round. Currency used is the Euro. So, as you can see from this trip, money exchange has been a necessity (other than credit cards).
For Helsinki, we thought it best to finally take one of the ships tours. Reason why is that most of the sites are quite a distance from the port. Walking around town, would limit us to seeing just a few places. Our tour gave us the highlights of the Helsinki, trip to Porvoo and lunch at a local farm. Driving around the city we were able to see pretty much everything. Helsinki has plenty of parks and squares for the folks to sit out during the sunny days they have. We were once again lucky, that we had a rather nice sunny day. We passed by Senate Square, considered the masterpiece of the city. Our trip out to Porvoo, 30 miles outside the city, gave us a nice view of the countryside. Porvoo is the second largest city in Finland, established in 1346. We had time to wonder around the old town part, which is filled with old wooden shops, winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys.
A surprise highlight was the visit to the farm. I was raised in the farm lands of upstate New York, going to a farm in Finland was not something that I thought I would enjoy. I did enjoy it. The family farm has been around for almost 70 years. The original owner is still operating it. The father and his adult children live on and run the horse farm (sort of a family compound). Of course, Dad gets to just keep an eye on things and mow the lawn. We were treated to some of the family recipes for lunch. I was not able to get a Finish hot dog – as the bus only had limited stops.
My overall impressions:
- Helsinki is definitely different that Copenhagen and Stockholm. The overall ages of the buildings are newer (as the original city was made of wood – and many fires have fixed that).
- Since I was on a tour, I was not able to get a sense of the overall atmosphere of the city and the people that live there. From the bus, I did not see many people smiling and enjoying themselves. Could be just a miss of observing on from the bus. The folks on the farm were definitely upbeat and loved sharing their story.
- Provoo was cool. My wife and I took many pictures. We also stopped in a grocery store to see what all is in there. This store was like super Walmart or Fred Meyers – everything from food to clothes.