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Destinations Abroad

Helsinki, Finland

The Visitor arrived with a ferry (Viking line) to Helsinki from Stockholm. The journey lasted overnight from 16.30 PM to 10.00 AM or about 17 hours. It was a nice though a very different experience to sail this route. Although the ferry was not too fancy or modern, the cabin was clean and the sea rather steady. The first impression of Helsinki compared to Stockholm was that it is pretty smaller than Stockholm and even cleaner though Stockholm is very clean compared to most cities I’ve visited before. It also seems less international than other Scandinavian capitals. The people were generally nice, helpful and friendly. They could be described as less trendy but less “uptight/stiff” than the crowd in Stockholm (same comment other Swedes give their habitants in the capital).  And in my view they are also more versatile in looks and choice of clothes than the people in Stockholm, who are all similar or as one might say “spick and span”.

Having more than 1000 km long border with Russia and being under their rule for a long time, there are some Russian influences in Finland, and issues of love and hate as one local described it. Also some Swedish influence as the Swedes used to rule Finland for 600 years. Around 5% of the inhabitants have Swedish as their mother tongue. Therefore all the street names are for example both in Finnish and Swedish.

We stayed at the centrally located hotel Arthur which is an old family hotel from 1907. The hotel was quite good especially due to good location, nice staff and general cleanliness. The upgrade to a better room on the 9th and top floor also helped, as the standard room were quite plane. Most things in the city centre were within walking range and 2 excellent routes with hop-on hop-off bus took only about an hour each. Although there where rather few attractions worth stopping on the route, this is the best way to get to know the city in a short time, just as it is in other Nordic capitals. Among the main attractions we saw some nice old buildings, the Senate square and a church built into a cliff.

There are many restaurants cafés and bars in the city, both local and international ones. The price is usually not low but affordable. The one we tried is called Savu and is one of the places in a five restaurants’ chain. Savu has a Finnish cuisine and we had some elk, duck and arctic char from Iceland! Also some very good traditional Finnish pancakes. The service was good and friendly. We were satisfied with the prices but not the surroundings which we found a little dark and old fashioned. This place has a good choice of some traditional food and experience but less for those seeking something fun and trendy. We didn’t explore the nightlife scene much this time, except for dropping in at two bars Saturday evening, which was just fine but not too impressive.

We took a ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia which was a little more than 1.5 hours sailing. This is a perfect tour if you only are in Helsinki for a few days and want to experience something different. The city of Tallinn has a very nice old town, with various shops and restaurants and the price there is generally lower than in Finland.

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