We spent the next couple of days around Helsinki. What we didn’t know was this time of year was holidays and a lot of things were closed. Dad had bookmarked a few museums to go to, but even these were closed. I was desperately trying to find a place to fix my laptop, but most of the shops were closed.
In the morning we walked down to the tram at the end of the street, there was a tram waiting and we go on. 2 x 24hr tickets and we were right to go. It was a fairly quick 15-20min ride in. We got off near the central train station and started looking for somewhere for lunch. All of the stores were closed. Most of the bars were even closed. After a lap of railway square and the station we settled on a Spanish restaurant, its main feature was it was open. We weren’t the only ones who had made this discovery, and had a wait for a table.
After lunch we went wondering off towards the docks in search of a museum (that was closed) and a Russian church (that had a wedding going on in it). The church knows it is a tourist stop, the inside is covered in gold and paintings etc. so even though there was a wedding on, there was a little alcove at the side where people could see the church (and the goings on inside). There was a sign saying no photography and no talking. This didn’t seem to perturb some who realised there was a wedding, squealed, and started taking photos.
From here we ventured back into town looking for the Lutheran cathedral. Which we found was the giant building in Senate Square we had seen earlier, but had assumed to be something to do with parliament. As a contrast to the Russian church it was positively austere. Grey concrete, whitewashed walls. No gold (or very little), no paintings. A few plain statues and a massive pulpit. The Russian church had no pulpit.
An ice cream break for dad and we got on a number 3 tram that does a lap of Helsinki. Partway through the circuit it stopped and the diver said something in Finnish. Everyone got off, well most. By my guessing I would say all those that stayed on the tram didn’t speak Finnish. We looked up and saw a tram in front, so we figured this was some kind of terminus, and we should change trams. After us the rest of the non-Finnish speakers joined us on the other tram, and we headed off again.
The next day we used our 24hr tram tickets to go to the island of Suomenlinna. The ferry is just public transport and runs every 30min or so. We discovered again that a lot of places were still closed for the midsummer break. With only one place on the entire island seeming to serve food.
Suomenlinna is an interesting place. A fortress originally built by the Swedish to limit the expansion of Russia. There was a film that went through the history of the place, but I didn’t know enough about Finnish history to really get the out of it. It had great sentences like “Then, after the Finnish Civil war …” and the locals seemed to know what was going on, meanwhile, there was a Finnish Civil war?
The next day we had a quick taxi ride to the train station for the Allegro to Saint Petersburg (I think my dad only called in Leningrad twice the whole time we were there).