Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday September 1, 2015

Helsinki today. Weather was cool and cloudy but fortunately no rain. Went on a group walking tour. It started with a bus ride?! To the city center. Then, we started walking. I can't really say where we walked not knowing the street names and having very quickly lost my bearings  but I can tell you some of the things that we saw: Senate Square, Lutheran Cathedral (1852), Museum of Contemporary Art (2012), Central Train Station (Eliel Saarinen), Finlandia Hall (Alvar Aalto), Finnish National Opera, Toolonlahti (a lovely public park) and the 1952 Olympic Stadium (from a distance). Along the way, we stopped for a roll and coffee at a restaurant.

Uspenski Orthodox Church (taken from bus -- excuse the reflection)
Lutheran Cathedral
Neo-Classical buildings on Senate Square

The highlight of the tour was our visit to the "Rock Church". This is a church that was built mostly underground. They excavated an area of rock large enough for the sanctuary but rock still covers most of the exterior of the church. And I am not talking about little rocks arranged into tidy walls but rather big, honkin' pieces of bedrock that were simply left in place. The church does however have skylights and therefore natural illumination so it does not at all feel dark or gloomy despite being mostly underground. Our guide said as we were walking to the church that we might get lucky and hear some music being played inside the church -- a treat because the acoustics are very good. Since it was Tuesday at approximately 11:30 am this prospect did not at all appear likely to either Russell or myself. But, lo and behold, there was an orchestra rehearsing a wonderful piece of music. And they (whoever they are) are right -- the acoustics are phenomenal and the whole experience was just one of those "peak experiences" when life feels so right, like you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are meant to do. Amazing.

Ateneum Art Museum (I think/am pretty sure/but not positive)
Central Train Station
Finlandia Hall
Rock Church

After the Rock Church, Russell and I walked to the Design Museum. R was feeling a little peckish so I decided to limit myself to the gift shop where I picked up some interesting books (gee, surprise) before we walked (a long way) back to the ship.

Design Museum 
On the walk back to the ship

Impressions? First off, let me just say that Helsinki was nothing like I had envisioned that it would be. I was thinking sleek, contemporary skyscrapers and modernist/minimalist stores. Wrong on both counts. It's a low-rise city with nary a skyscraper in sight. And smaller than I had imagined. Also, the stores were not glossy or ostentatious. In fact the place was very nearly the opposite. The whole place had a home-y feel to me. That could be because many of the people I saw looked vaguely related to one another. Or perhaps it was the lack of flashy cars and ostentatiously dressed individuals. Even the architecture was for the most part quiet and unassuming. It was just a quiet, calm, very human place that I liked very much and can't wait to return to.

Central Train Station
Design Museum 

No comments:

Post a Comment