Sep 16, 2014

Baltic Cruise: Helsinki, Finland


Moving right along through Scandinavian waters, our next cruise port was the capital and largest city in Finland---Helsinki! You can go ahead and add this destination as another place I never thought I'd travel...and end up liking. Thanks to some travel-savvy friends (that was one awesome thing about living abroad with the military...we had lots of friends interested in the very same activities we were!), we teamed up and Google Mapped out a few of the must-see attractions in Helsinki. I'm less spontaneous when it comes to cruise travel, so having a plan to maximize our limited time in each port is crucial. With our map and plan in hand, we hopped a bus from the port to the city center and got exploring!

Wandering on foot is our ideal way to take in a new city, but I've got to say, Helsinki is a pretty big place. When we started our walk from where the bus dropped us off to our first sight, the Rock Church, we had no idea how far we would be walking. We wandered for what seemed like forever, finally reaching the Rock Church, sweat dripping off our foreheads. The weather was much warmer than we expected in Finland...you just don't think of the Baltic states being hot, even in July! But I digress. Upon arriving, you could tell Helsinki's Rock Church (Temppeliaukio Church) was quite unique. It's basically an entire church excavated into a mound of rock. The exterior was interesting, but it was the interior that really wowed. The ceiling skylight was made entirely out of copper and it shined as the sun blazed through its panels sending this ethereal glow throughout the church. I've really never seen anything like it. After spending some time in the church, we decided we couldn't hoof it to all the sights we wanted to see around Helsinki, so we snagged a ride on one of the city's many trams and made our way to another famous Helsinki church.


Helsinki Cathedral had a much more commanding exterior than the Rock Church...the white stone literally radiated down the alleyways. It stood perched atop a hill of stairs that overlooked the cutest square, complete with bubbling fountains and happy tourists. The interior, compared to the Rock Church, was nothing to write home about. In fact, it was modest compared to most cathedrals we'd visited around Europe, a testament to its neoclassical style and construction time period. After snapping a dozen photos and enjoying a rest on the steps, we decided lunch was in order. Enter, Bryggeri Helsinki!


It was here that we experienced local Helsinki brews (as well as their versions of world favorites) and tried one of Finland's traditional dishes, reindeer stew! I was a little hesitant at first, but when in Finland, right? The reindeer was surprisingly tender and not as gamey in flavor as I expected...in fact, it fell right off the bone. The price tag, however, was steep...so we ordered 2 dishes and shared it among the 8 of us. We all much rather spend our money on beer...and that we did!


With full bellies, we set out for some shopping and to find Helsinki harbor & Market Square (Kauppatori) where we knew a large market was held daily. There were stalls upon stalls of craftsmen selling their wares and even more food tents with traditional snacks to sample. We tried some of the fresh fish caught that morning and even sampled fried anchovies. Not too shabby!


While not my favorite of our stops along the Baltic Sea (not enough kitsch for me), any city you tour with friends becomes a city to remember. We had a lovely day and tried lots of new things, a cruise port nicely explored. :)

[Additional photos courtesy of our travel buddy's Helsinki album! Thanks for sharing, Jon!]

19 comments:

  1. Totally unrelated to your post but your hair looks amazing! What do you do to it? How do you style it?

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    1. You totally took the words right out of my head Jessica! Really hoping we can convince her to do a hair post!

      V
      Life+1

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  2. Okay, the scenery is cool and all, but I agree with Jessica...YOUR HAIR! It's gorgeous. A bit off topic...but what do you use for anti-frizz? Seriously Casey, you should do a hair post. We're all swooning over here...

    V
    Life+1

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  3. Traveling with friends can make even the suckiest place more fun :)

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  4. The rock church looks so cool! I'd love to see a sunrise there!

    Sara
    www.506miles.com

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  5. Casey, I've been following your blog for a couple of years now. Imagine my surprise when checking out your Helsinki pictures, I see friends Brian and Sarah from my church in Maryland...what a small world! My husband and I love cruising and were on the Vision for 11 nights in December 2012. While the décor was tired, we had a great time thanks to the wonderful staff! We've cruised with Royal 12 times and always had an amazing experience...I'm sorry yours was so crappy :) Here's to many great cruises from Florida!
    ~Jill

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  6. Wow, it looks amazing. I've never been to Finland but I have a friend who lived there for a year and now I am compelled to go at some point in the near future.

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  7. Beautiful place. I have had Finland on my list for a while now. How did you find costs. Is is as expensive as Norway?

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  8. love reading about your travel story's.

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  9. I am floored by how austere the interior or the cathedral is. I'm definitely used to seeing high gothic when in Europe. It reminds me of a New England meetinghouse from the Puritan days.

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  10. Another great post Casey. I agree with the above comments on how you kept your hair looking so nice on a hot day. May I add, Warren Beatty shot several scenes of his 1981 film REDS on the square of Helsinki Cathedral when Helsinki played the part of St. Petersburg, Russia in the movie.

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  11. Helsinki is the one Scandinavian capital I haven't visited yet and your post makes me realize I should! :) I don't think I had any idea what this place looks like! ;)

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  12. O yeah this July was hooooooot up here so I am sure it was brutal walking around a city. I also really like reindeer, it is fairly common meat here and we have it is sausages and cheese and all sorts!

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  13. If you ever have a chance, there are so many places to visit in Finland rather than Helsinki, in my honest opinion. Thousands of lakes and small island, cosy little towns on the west coast with wooden old towns, full of history and of course Lapland and Northern Lights... (don't forget to visit Santa Claus!)
    I just discovered your blog and I really like it, I will keep following!

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  14. Lovely pictures of Helsinki! I've heard of the Rock Church - love your photo of the interior. Looks so cool! I did a Scandinavia trip 2 summers ago but didn't get to Finland - would love to go sometime.

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  15. Lovely! It's definately on my list to visit :-)

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  16. Traveling with friends is always fun! And I'm going to have to tag along and add an additional unrelated comment...I'm loving that maxi skirt!

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  17. Helsinki looks great! Never actually considered visiting it, until now.

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I appreciate your feedback, friends! I read every comment and try my hardest to respond to each one, but if your email address isn't attached to your blogger profile, you might find my response in the comment thread instead. As always, thanks for reading!

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