Pete and I flew to New York from Washington and Charlotte respectively and met at JFK to board our Finnair flight to Helsinki. A bus took us to our hotel, where we were not met by a guide, but just given some packets of stuff. We had a welcoming dinner at the hotel, and that is when we began to get to know the rest of our group. Our half-day tour the next morning was with a larger group as part of a regular city tour. I think this was the farthest north I've ever been, even after later visits to Alaska and Sweden. If I ever get to Norway, I plan to visit Bergen, which is a little farther north, and head north to see some fjords. If that ever happens, you will see photos on my web site.
The Sibelius Monument and Park
Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) is considered Finland's greatest composer. His music inspired a sense of national identity among the Finns, who had long been ruled by Sweden and then by Russia. His native tongue was Swedish, and he didn't begin to learn Finnish until he was eight. He eventually adopted the French spelling of his first name after a seafaring relative, supposedly. He wrote symphonies and tone poems, many of which are still popular around the world today. The tone poem Finlandia is not the national anthem, but has patriotic status somewhat like "God Bless America" has for many of us. During Russian rule it was played under a variety of other names so as not to run afoul of the censors. He excepted the hymn section of the piece, and patriotic words were added. In the US many of us know it as the tune for "Be Still My Soul," and with the text "This is my song" it became a theme song for the United Methodist Women.
The monument in the park looks like organ pipes, but was intended to represent the pine forests of Finland.
Here are Pete and I with Sibelius.
Helsinki Harbor Area
We visited the main plaza near the harbor, just down the hill from the Senate Square. We took a boat ride where we had more views of the town. You can see the Lutheran cathedral towering above the whole area.
Main Square and Parliament Building
The statue is of Russian Czar Alexander II. He allowed the Finns somewhat more autonomy, and so he became a symbol and the statue was honored even more as his grandson Nicholas II tried to turn them into Russians. Laying flowers at the statue of the “good czar” was an act of protest. The statue faces the Senate building on the south side of the square. The Lutheran cathedral is to the north, and the university is to the west.
The Church in the Rock
The Temppeliaukio church was excavated and built into solid rock in 1968–69. We saw it as part of our city bus tour. In the first photo, Nori is taking a picture of his wife Nanne (if I remember the names right and maybe spell them correctly). In the final picture, Julie, the oldest member of our group, has climbed the rocks to the right of the entrance.
The Finnish Orthodox Cathedral
Uspenski Cathedral is the main Orthodox cathedral in Finland, as is said to be the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe. In 2007 the icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder Maker was stolen around lunch time with tourists present in the church. As far as I know, it has not been found since. I think it is the silvery looking icon behind the candle on the lower right of the last picture on the page and the one two before it. If I had know it would be stolen a few years later, I would have taken a better picture of it. Better still, I would have warned them to guard it better, too.