well ... now we can pick up from where we left off ....
On Wednesday, September 5th, we returned to Mette's place from the summer cottage and on Mette's way to work she dropped me and Chris off at the bus station and we headed to Helsinki.
Helsinki is a beautiful coastal city. Chris and I made our way from the bus station, past the railway station, through the park, into the harbor area and climbed onto a boat that took us out into the eastern archipaelgos of Helsinki. We saw many of the island homes and the neatest thing for me was to see the saunas perched right at sea level with stairs leading down to the water. It is Finnish custom to go to sauna for a few minutes and then go outside for a couple minutes, back to sauna again and then outside again. So, when you have a sauna that close to the sea you can go to sauna for a few minutes and then dip into the sea for a couple of minutes, and so on. It may sound crazy to us but it is really refreshing!
After the water tour Chris and I walked the city and visited Senate Square. The Cathedral in the center of the square is magnificent inside and out. We climbed the steps and went inside (we had to be silent while there - at the request of the church) to see the beautiful podeum, pews and decorative dome. It was really quiet and all you could hear was the clicks of the cameras and a few whispers here and there.
After that we walked back down to the shopping area, grabbed a bite to eat at Carrol's (the Finnish equivelant to McD's) and hopped on a sightseeing tram. Chris and I had an interesting experience on the tram ... since we are not familiar with the Finnish "rules" on public transportation we hopped on and grabbed the nearest pole since there was only standing room available. At the next stop many people got off the tram and Chris and I naturally took a seat. At the next stop Chris got a nudge on the shoulder from an older woman but didn't realize that she was asking us to move. Finally she glared at us and said "Are you an invalid?" and pointed up to a sign clearly demonstrating that those seats were to be given to pregnant, elderly or invalid people. Ooops. We apologized and hopped up out of the seats. The rest of our tram ride was smooth sailing and we didn't upset anyone else. I wonder if it would have sounded so snappy had she been able to talk to us in Finnish ... but, then-again, she wouldn't have had to point out the obvious if we were Finns! OK, so lessons learned :)
The tram was helpful in getting around to some of the tourist attractions that were a bit too far to walk to. Our first stop was the Church in the Rock. The church is built into a rock (duh) and the round dome is all you can see if you are looking at the church from a higher perch. When you walk into the church you can see the surrounding walls are rock and there are beautiful windows that allow sunshine in (when it's not raining or snowing ... but that would be beautiful too!) and casts amazing shadows inside. People were again respectful of the request for quiet viewing and we were able to climb the stairs into the balcony seating for a panoramic view of the main sanctuary. I wish that we would have been able to attend a service in the church because it was a beautiful, serene atmosphere.
Our next stop on the tram was Olympic Stadium. The 1952 Olympic games were hosted in Helsinki and the stadium remains in quite good shape. For a small fee (2,00 EUR) you can take a (not so comforting) ride in the one elevator to the top of the observation tower. The elevator ride was worth the views from atop the tower. We saw all of Helsinki and the entire Olympic sport complexes.
While we were in the observation tower Mette called to let us know she was in Helsinki and ready to see some sights with us -- although she has lived here her entire life, there were some places she had never been. Our last tourist attraction for the day was the Jean Sibelius Monument. Sibelius was a famous Finnish composer that the Finns are very proud of. Here is the shiny monument for all to see .... the silver pipes don't play music but are representative of Jean Sibelius' love of music.
Once we were done with the "touristy" stuff Mette took us to a park in Helsinki with great walking paths that follow along the water and have really good views of the city across the harbor ... the areas that we were not able to visit. :)
Since we still had sunlight left Mette took us to an old city outside of Helsinki called Porvoo. Many people come to see the old part of the city that looks similar to how it did years and years ... and years ago. The old city center and the neighborhoods surrounding it are connected with cobblestone roads and there is a very large church atop one of the hills. Unfortunately the church was burned down by a couple teenagers last year and so they are now rebuilding it. Church services and functions have been relocated to other places in Porvoo.
Our day was complete and we headed back to Karkkila. That night we grilled sausages and packed our bags because we were off to Paimio the next day.