July 22, 2009

Helsinki, Finland

We had about 7 hours to explore Helsinki. We set out on Rick Steves' self-guided walking tour. We cruised through parks, past ornate buildings, down busy streets. One of the most notable statues we saw: The 3 Ironworkers. These three men are at different points of hammering an anvil. Legend says that if a virgin walks by, one of the workers will strike the anvil. I guess there weren't any virgins around when we passed the statue. We continued on our way to the #1 site in Helsinki (according to Rick Steves, anyway). After a steep climb up a hill, we arrived at The Church of the Rock. The church was built by blasting a hole into a ginormous hunk of solid rock. The walls of the hole were heightened with big boulders, then glass windows were installed and a coiled copper roof. The church of the rock (beautifully photographed by Erica, thanks again), was a solmn experience. Not only was it a sacred church, but the magnitude or mother nature surrounding us was rather powerful.
We had two more churches to explore in Helsinki. We made our way to the Lutheran Cathedral. The outside was magnificent. The Cathedral stands ontop of a great hill, with a hundred or more steps leading up to it. The interior of the church was surprisingly modest. White domed ceilings, white marble lecturns, and an organ. It reminded me of an unfinished Catholic Cathedral, although significantly less ornate, very beautiful. Making our way through the open air market, where many locals were selling their wares, we sought out a noon-time meal. I opted for a simple feta and salami sandwich, which had no sauce on it, but was very delicious. After a bit of shopping (mostly jewelry and tourist items), we made our way to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which sits even higher on the hill, overlooking the Lutheran Cathedral and the city of Helsinki. The Russian Orthodox Cathedral is very ornate, it's shiny gold domes can be seen for miles throughout the city. The interior is filled with paintings, statues, and even ornate caskets of important church people. The architecture of this church was astounding.
Our Helsinki touring had come to a close. The 6 hours of touring we did was plenty of time to see what we wanted, even allowing for some souveneir shopping. I found a lovely hand-painted bell ornament to add to my travel-souvenier collection. We headed back to the ship for a little down-time before we set sail. We threw a mini-party in our cabin, ate a wonderful dinner, sang some karokie (which was interesting, given the multiple languages people were singing in) and then we tore up the dance floor. Helsinki was a perfect 2-day side-trip.

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