Saturday 6 June 2015
I arrived in Helsinki from St Petersburg at around 8pm. A short 10 minute walk to Klaus K hotel, I was given the news that they had overbooked and I was being transferred to another hotel. Feeling really annoyed and disappointed that this could have happened considering that my accommodation was prepaid and booked 3 months ago, the only excuse I was given was that their system doesn’t allocate the rooms until that day. I was offered a night in a superior room at Hotel Kämp and then a room the following room at Klaus K. I didn’t feel this was acceptable as the manager was stood next to the receptionist dealing with the situation and didn’t get involved. In the end, I settled for a junior suite at Hotel Kämp and a taxi transfer at their expense.
Hotel Kämp was certainly a step up despite not being my first choice of hotels. In need of a brew, I headed over to Chaplins. On a weekend, most bars have a cover charge to enter which I felt was weird. 2.50EUR lighter, I had a bear beer for 5.30EUR. Welcome to Finland and Europe! After 70 days of travelling continuously, this was a slight shock to be paying so much for a drink.
Sunday 7 June 2015
Waking up in my upgraded “Hotel“, I was excited and keen to see what breakfast had to offer. It certainly didn’t disappoint as I had free rein over fresh prawns, smoked salmon, gravlax, trout and the usual cooked breakfast offerings of bacon, eggs etc. It made a refreshing change to see the food on my plate being a different colour other than beige. I think I definitely made my money back here!
With a belly full of food, I set off on my sightseeing tour at 11am. First on my self guided walking tour was Senate Square and Lutheran Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the 1800’s as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I and sits atop of some steep steps. The sky was a decidedly deep blue today which made the building really stand out.
I then had a walk over to the Orthodox Uspenskin Cathedral where it was free to enter. Being Orthodox, there was plenty of gold to be seen in the decor and icons gracing the front.
Next on the agenda was a stroll around Katajanokka peninsula where Uspenskin Cathedral was situated to work off some of my breakfast. It took about half an hour to walk around the peninsula before I ended up back at the Cathedral where I browsed the market stalls selling traditional Finnish clothing, cups and souvenirs. In the same market, there were food stalls. The smells were amazing as I passed by reindeer meatballs, fish from Lapland and the biggest salmon side I have seen being fried.
It was blowing a gale outside, so I had a walk inside a big department store called Stockmann’s. I’ve seen these dotted around Russia and was curious to see what the deal was. It was here, I finally found where I had parked my car before I left the UK.
Deciding to leave my parked Tesla behind, I found serenity in the Kamppi Chapel of Silence on Narinkkatori square. Made of wood, it looked like a huge Doner Kebab. Inside however, it was absolutely peaceful and relaxing. There was a hockey competition going on outside with cheering crowds and loud music coming from the outdoor speakers, but inside, not a decibel was heard. I would definitely recommend spending at least 5 minutes in here for the experience.
Feeling the “church vibe”, I walked over to the Church of the Rock which is also known as Temppeliaukio Church! Built out of solid rock, this again, provided peace and relaxation. So much so, I had a quick 30 minute power nap here whilst trying to ignore the bus load of tourists shipped in at 3:30pm when it opened for visitors.
Suitably rested, I then hiked over to the Olympic stadium where I took the lift up to level 11 of the viewing tower adjoining the arena. For 5EUR to ride the elevator, I was up and down in about 10 minutes. Being a blustery day, the visibility was perfect as I could see for miles over the capital. History time…The Olympic Stadium was inaugurated in 1939 and was used for the 1952 Summer Olympic Games. It was originally intended to be used to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, but a tiny little conflict called WW2 got in the way!
Descending, my next stop was to see the Sibelius Monument in Sibelius Park. Dedicated to the Finnish Composer, Jean Sibelius, it consists of about 600 steel pipes. I managed to get a rare picture with no one in sight, as usually, the bus tours stop here.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it in time to visit the Museum of Finland as it was closed at 6pm. I checked my watch and it read “beer o’clock”. Having walked a fair few miles today in this compact city, I grace a few bars and pubs before having an early-ish evening (1am!), although the sky didn’t really show it as being that late as I was still experiencing white nights…
Monday 8 June 2015
It was breakfast and time for me to over indulge on prawns, salmon, trout, bacon, eggs and mushrooms again. Truly a delicious meal, I will miss the choice I had.
With my 22 day consecutive Interrail pass, I used it to get a slight discount on the Tallink ferry from Helsinki to, you guessed it, Tallinn…