Wednesday, May 7, 2014


It was a relief to get to Helsinki on the Tuesday. On Wednesday I was due to head off to St Petersburg and I wanted to cross the border into Russia on the day that my visa indicated.

Fortunately my Airbnb was reasonably close to the station so I was there in plenty of time for my host Paula to show me around the apartment before she was due to leave at 8 am. These are the stairs leading up.

A knob on my camera was set incorrectly and many of the photos I took have these curious sparkles. The air was very clear since it had rained the day before and the sun was really bright.

After a cup of coffee and some toast / bun thing that Paula made for me, I headed out to explore. Paula's place is east of the train station and fairly close to the water.

Helsinki is famous for its buildings and I would have to agree. It all seems to be very well cared for here.

Part of the harbour.

It was chilly by the water so I did not linger.

The spires of the Upenski Orthodox Cathedral.  

It sits on top of a hill but it looked so interesting I decided to take a look.

The view from the orthodox cathedral across to the main cathedral.

Looking down on where I had been walking.

It was not obvious where you entered and the bloke entering the door managed to find it. His wife accompanied me inside and they asked me where I was from. When I told them, they laughed and said they lived in Brisbane. It turns out that he lectured in music in higher education. I asked him if he ever came across a Rebecca Moore and he remembered teaching her. We were all amused to think that across the world in Helsinki, we would both know the same young lady.

He knew Maryborough well because he would go there for the Music Teachers Conference.

He now conducts one of the orchestras in Brisbane but he formerly played clarinet for the New Philharmonia Orchestra in London when the conductor was Riccardo Muti. He really liked Muti as a conductor. I asked him why and he mentioned that he was always well prepared, obviously knew the score and most importantly respected the musicians. When Muti was the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, when he finished a piece and the audience started to clap, he would first step down from the podium, invite the musicians to stand and then he would turn to bow to the audience.  I remember Roger Norrington conducting in Philly where he somehow managed to finish a piece with a grand flourish which had him spinning around bowing to the audience while still on the podium. He hasn't been invited back.

Inside the church was breath taking.

This church will encourage me to visit a few of these orthodox churches when I am in St Petersburg and Moscow.

I continued to walk with the couple from Brisbane. The wife is of Swedish descent and she speaks Swedish and she has some friends in Finland. They lived in Oulu in northern Finland for a couple of years. They had heard about a display about the bombing of Helsinki in WWII and so I went with them.

Finland was the meat in the sandwich between Russia and Germany and fought battles against both sides. In 1994, Russia bombed Helsinki but the effectiveness of the raids was limited because of the Finnish air defence system which used German weapons.

The Finns are still very wary of the Russians. I can understand why.

Your task, Geoff, is to ask Rebecca to take a look at this photo and identify her former teacher so that I find out more about him. I forgot his name.

Geoff and Rebecca have come through with the answer. Antoni Bonneti was Rebecca's lecturer in conducting at Uni Q and Ruth Bonneti plays the clarinet and lectures at the Queensland Conservatorium and Griffiths University. One of her specialties is teaching musicians how to get over their fear of playing in public.

Interesting sculpture which has stands on a mirror with a matching mirror on the top. When you look down into the mirror you see endless reflections.

We continued to walk along together.

The City Museum was small but with not too many exhibits. Somehow, I got separated from the Brisbane couple so I headed out to explore some more.

At the end of the street was the Cathedral which dominates the skyline.

The square below the Cathedral is bounded by these buildings. When demonstrations occur in Helsinki, this is the place.

The steps leading to the Cathedral. 

For some reason or other, many of the footpaths in Helsinki are lined with bricks and cobbles. It makes wheeling a suitcase very difficult. I ended up carrying mine.

I climbed up the stairs. With all of my three mile walk training, it was easy.

View of the square.

Inside the Cathedral which was very light and airy, quite a contrast to the Orthodox Church on the other hill.

The ceiling.


I turned around and was duly impressed by this organ.

Another church behind the Cathedral. 

I continued to explore and found myself on a street lined with expensive shops. Helsinki has an extensive tram network.

Another large street with a park in the middle.

An ornate tea house / cafe. If Marianne had been with me, I would have suggested that we stop for a cup of tea. I can imagine some of you sniggering, but yes, I have reformed and will occasionally lash out, shoot the wad, and go into these establishments now.

I continued down to the harbour where orange tents had been set up as a market since the old market building was closed for renovations.

Mnay of the tents sold food such as these smelt and potatoes,

However, I had a bowl of creamy salmon soup that was delicious and quite warming.

The old market building, closed for renovations.

Thew sparkles really turned out well with this photo.

I continued strolling south and came across this park. The blue flowers reminded me of our recent visit to Longwood Gardens.

I have been very impressed by Helsinki's apartment buildings. No doubt it helps that so many survived the bombing raids intact, but they are obviously well cared for.

Another set of gardens.

Finland was part of Sweden from the 12th through 19th centuries and there still is a strong Swedish influence on Finland. All street signs are in the two languages.

I had been told about the Rock Church so I headed up a long street to find it.

Unfortunately I arrived when it was closed for lunch and would not open for another 45 minutes. I was getting cold and tired having been wandering around for over four hours, so I decided to head back to the apartment. You can read about it here.

There are always sites that you want to see but they are closed . If I were going to be in Helsinki for two days as planned, I would go back tomorrow. As I say, there is always next time. 

Fosters with lemons or oranges. Any decent Aussie would be revolted by the thought. I tried Radler in Germany and it is awful.

When I was talking to Carl in Sweden, he said that Swedes were very reserved. Paula said that Finns are even more reserved. In her instructions for the apartment she makes this comment:

Please notice Finnish (and our house) culture is focused on respecting other people's personal space and making sure everyone feels comfortable. In Finland it is actually considered polite, not impolite, to let people go around their daily business without for example extensive small talk. So if people don't really talk with you, please don't be offended!

Carl also recommended that I visit the Arla Sauna in Helsinki. When I go back to the apartment after the long walk, I thought about it but I was too tired to go there. Next time.

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving your trip vicariously! what an awesome journey.