On Helsinki

Note: Whether you watch this video or not, at least have the beautiful strains of “Finlandia” playing in the background as you are going through the post.

From St. Petersburg, Russia the day after, the next day gave us Helsinki, Finland. Because Helsinki is a relatively new city compared to other cities in the region (founded in 1550), I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, I picture Europe as old, but Helsinki has no medieval past.

Our port was in the city’s west docks, which is a long (but walkable) journey to the city center. If you ever get there, remember that a city bus route is available at this point.

Helsinki is a modern, vibrant city with a variety of architecture – but its layout turned out to be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, the weather was great, so enjoy your tour.

Not far from port, we discover some Finns enjoying a morning dip in the Baltic

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The Esplanade, the main shopping street with a park down the middle
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The Lutheran Cathedral, a beacon in the sky atop Senate Square – the inside may be sparse, but the pipe organ is grand


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Uspenski Cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox and its interior is not sparse

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The very modern Church in the Rock

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The monument to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the creator of Finlandia

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A classic car for car enthusiasts to admire

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It’s all-aboard the Celebrity Constellation as we are bound for Stockholm. Good news is that another time change works in our favor – and we’ll need it because the ship enters the Stockholm archipelago around 4 am. Meanwhile, four time changes in five days have been interesting. (Click here to join us in Stockholm)

As we depart Helsinki, enjoy these two short videos about Finland’s main city.

On Tallinn

We started in Amsterdam, and after a stop in Warnemunde, Germany along with an hour time change ahead, we arrived in Tallinn, Estonia.

Tallinn, Estonia was one of the ports we were very anxious to visit. My wife had an uncle who fled Estonia with his family, and never returned. Just 59 miles across the water from Helsinki, Finland, travel guru Rick Steves called Tallinn with its intact medieval sector, “The most interesting city in that corner of Europe.”

From the port (our ship is on the right), it was an easy 10-minute walk to the Old City.

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Enter the Gates at the Fat Margaret Tower

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To stroll their the medieval streets and the bountiful offering of shops

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To discover some of the inner passages

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Along the inner walls where we would find unexpected visitors, possibly from the other cruise ship

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Finding signs along the way for guidance

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To a town square with outdoor cafes

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To the splendor of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral

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To the sparse, but beautiful St.Olaf’s (now a Baptist church)

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To outside the walls into the modern city searching for the one location where we would exchange old Estonian money for Euros

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So why not lunch at an outdoor café

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With an Estonian beer

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The intriguing Freedom Square on our return walk to the Old City.

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Who would have imagined a Marzipan Museum

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As we sail away from this Baltic gem with its medieval structures, we were given a sight similar to that my wife’s uncle painted of his final image. We smiled … and then wondered about the next two days in St. Petersburg, Russia – and another jump-ahead time change. (Direct link to St. Petersburg post)

Meanwhile, below the last picture is a delightful 2-minute video tour of Tallinn.

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On a Safe Return

Greetings! I’ve missed my regular encounters with the friendly bloggers who visit my humble little site, and visiting your sites as well. Consider this as the start of me easing back into a regular routine. Then again, because of the side effect I have from the motion meds, I must limit my computer time for a few days as part of my plan of avoiding a very disturbing case of motion sickness.

We recently returned home from our belated (April) 35th anniversary celebration cruise of northern Europe on the Celebrity Constellation. Interestingly, this trip has been ten years in the making because we originally planned a similar trip for our 25th anniversary, but 9-11 caused a change in plans.

Besides the 2 ½ days we had in Amsterdam before departing on the 12-night adventure, our wonderful journey involved smooth sailing on a beautiful ship with good food, entertainment, dancing, activities, and glorious ports. The icing on the cake was being way from the political ads, conventions, and the accompanying crap of this election season.

Below is a snapshot of our ports. The interesting animation in the video uses the 2009 route that had the same stops but in different order and a route through the canal in Denmark instead of going around it.

Amsterdam – Bikes everywhere in this vibrant city with bountiful offerings. Wish I had worn a pedometer.

Warnemunde – A vacation town on Germany’s Baltic coast. Interestingly, this region was part of East Germany, so good English wasn’t common.

Tallinn – The capital of Estonia with its charming medieval sector is a treat.

St. Petersburg – As Russia’s second largest city, it was interesting to see how far they’ve come since the Soviet era, but with still a way to go. We had two great days here.

Helsinki – The youngest of the cities we visited. The Finnish language is supposedly one of the most difficult to learn, thus their long street names made self-navigation a bit of a challenge.

Stockholm – Passing through the 24,000-island archipelago was the biggest surprise of the trip. The city itself was awesome, and is the one we to return to the most.

Copenhagen – A beautiful city filled with friendly people who enjoy life. Interestingly, we spent time with a young man we know from our church.

Meanwhile, I look forward to reconnecting. Besides, I have a celebratory announcement to make soon. Have a good weekend.