Saturday, 5 September 2015

Seeing Helsinki - at Last

I had been in Helsinki before, but a long time ago and on business. I was to sail out on a new ship so my only views of the city were from taxi windows on the drive between the hotel and the docks. Consequently I had long wanted to return to see the city at my leisure.

Although I would have liked a few days in which to explore, I did, on my coach trip from the Arcadia see much more of Helsinki.

As well as busy streets of shops, offices and museums, we saw the Uspenski Cathedral, the Opera House and the Railway Station. The red-brick Cathedral is Eastern Orthodox and looks Russian with its green domes and gold cupolas.

And parks - great open green spaces. Although we drove past most of the sights, including the 1930s-built Olympic Stadium. It was used for the 1952 Olympics and has a stark white viewing tower. We did eventually make a photo stop. As it was at the Sibelius Park I was thrilled. Even if you have only heard 'Finlandia' you have heard music by Jean Sibelius, Finland's greatest composer. And here in the park is the Sibelius Monument called 'Passio Musicae', a stainless steel construction that resembles organ pipes. It was designed by architect Eila Hitunen and unveiled in 1967. Apparently there was a bit of an outcry over its design and there is now, alongside the memorial, a face of the great man also cast in stainless steel.

Eventually we returned to the city centre and Senate Square where the offices of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are located and across from them is the main University building. But it is dominated by the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas. This is very imposingly set at the top of a flight of steps - all glittering white and green domes. In the centre of the square is a statue of Alexander II with, around the plinth, representations of the law, culture and peasants. Many coachloads of tourists were milling about and getting in each other's way. (There were several cruise ships in). This was also, of course, the stop to let us buy souvenirs.

Later in the day I learned from some of my fellow cruisers who had 'done-it-themselves' that they had seen a band playing in the square. I would have loved to have seen that but I bet the band waited until the tour coaches had left.

For many of us, the shopping was left until the end of the tour when we strolled from the ship to the nearby very colourful market. Much more interesting to browse through and mingle with the locals.

'Passio Musicae

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