Monday, August 31, 2009


Next up, Finland - Hello Helsinki!!! It is funny to me because as we are waiting to depart the ship everyone mingles and small talks and asks, "So what are you doing?" - as if to compare and be sure we are in the know about all there is to see and do. In Helsinki the uniform answer was, "Gotta see those three churches!" And the highlight of the Helsinki day was indeed the "Three Churches!"While we were on a mission to see the three churches, we detoured for our first stop to the Sibelius Monument in a park on the perimeter of town. The day was blue, blue, blue so we didn't want to waste the weather with immediately ducking inside. This monument of six hundred stainless-steel pipes honors Finland's greatest composer, Jean Sibelius.Then we walked to Church #1 - "the rock church" as we called it, officially named Temppeliakio Church and a part of the Lutheran denomination - Lutheran is the national religion.I know it doesn't look like much from the outside, but when we walked inside "the rock church" was surprising and made us gasp. The interior was blasted out of solid rock. The way the light streams into the church is peaceful, calming and very special.And the dome top is a coil of 13 miles of copper.We grabbed lunch at McDonald's and checked in online. All McDonald's in Europe have free wifi making them more coffee house-like and trendy. Plus our Connor just loves them. Here she is showing off her Balu toy in a McD's cup!Church #2 was the Lutheran Cathedral smack in the middle of town. We hiked the stairs with a sleeping Connor in tow. And pulled up a pew. Rick describes this church as "Neoclassical nirvana. Physically, this church is perfectly Protestant - austere and unadorned - with the emphasis on preaching (prominent pulpit) and music (huge organ)."After the ornate masterpieces of Europe, I have to say this simple church style seemed to stick out. I felt like I was back at home with the plain walls and clean architectural lines. Thankfully though they still had candles to light. Connor awoke in time to make her prayer! And she must have woken up on the "right side of the stroller" because she let me snap these cute shots just outside the church. They just melt my heart.Church #3 was the Uspenski Cathedral, which is Orthodox. It was a stone's throw from the Lutheran Cathedral and a reminder how different our religious styles can be.
On the exterior the uppermost "onion dome" represents the "sacred heart of Jesus," while the smaller ones represent the hearts of the 12 apostles. The cathedral's interior is a potentially emotional icon experience. Its rich images are a stark contrast to the sober Lutheran Cathedral.
We dodged the rain drops and headed to Helsinki's Market Square. There was a mish-mash of all things Finnish being sold. But the one that stuck out the most were these pea pods. They were on every corner, sold by the handful and eaten raw. Helsinki and all of Finland was taken over by the Russians in 1809. They moved Finland's capital from Turku to Helsinki in order to shift things closer to St. Petersburg. The oldest parts of Helsinki feel very Russian - stone buildings in yellow and blue pastels with white trim and columns. In fact Hollywood used Helsinki for the film Dr. Zhivago because filming in Russia was not possible during the Cold War. You know, I still haven't seen Dr. Zhivago all the way through - Mom tried to get me to watch it when I was little, but I didn't retain. Maybe I will have to try again now that these places are familiar!
Our very last tourist check in Finland was to ride the 3T tram loop around the entire city. We repeated some of the spots we had traveled on foot and also caught a glimpse of the Olympic Park. This complex was built originally for the 1940 Summer Olympics which were cancelled due to WWII. So instead the space was used to host the 1952 Summer Games. Surprising that it was a Summer Olympic host country when you so naturally think Winter when picturing Finland. Connor thought the tram loop was a fun time to make faces and play games with her parents!

No comments: