Finland

P1010862IMG_34081.Senate Square, 2. Street off Senate Square

A brief history:

Like all countries, it would take hours to read and understand all of Finland’s past rivalries with neighbouring countries, so I have kindly pieced together a brief history of Finland’s most defining moments of the twentieth century. Beginning with 1902 when Finnish was made an official language. From 1906 Finnish women received the right to vote, and was the first European country and third in the world, after Australia and New Zealand, to allow women to vote in national elections. Following suite in 1907, Finnish women became the first in the world to win seats in a national parliament.

Further down the track in 1939, Stalin feared attack from the west and decided he wanted Finland to protect his country. Stalin offered to give Finland other territory in exchange but the Finnish government refused, thus, unfortunately, Stalin decided to use force and so the war began on 30 November 1939. The Fins fought hard, but on 14th February 1940 the Russians took over and Finland was forced to seek peace. The war ended with the treaty of Moscow on 12 March 1940.

Not long after, Finland joined with Germany in attacking Russia in June 1941. Britain joined and declared war on Finland in December 1941, and by 1943 Finland left the war. A cease fire with Russia was signed on 5 September 1944, to which they were forced to surrender large amounts of territory to Russia. Information gathered from here.

IMG_3416IMG_33993. The Government Palace, 4. Helsinki Railway Station

Things to do:

Soumenlinna- Soumenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands, which now form part of the city of Helsinki. The fortress can be reached by boat and depending on the season and the time of day  (I visited Helsinki in the summer), ferries run 1-4 times per hour from the morning until the night. It is a quick 15-20 minute boat ride. I recommend this as the best, easiest and cheapest way to travel, as you also get views looking back onto Helsinki as you pull away. A ticket will cost you anywhere from €2.70-€5 , depending on what ticket you purchase. Check the site out here. Make sure you purchase your ticket before you get on the boat as tickets are not sold on board. The ferry departs from Market Square, opposite the Presidential Palace. In Soumenlinna, the ferry arrives and departs from the main pier of Iso Mustasaari Island (just go back to where you got dropped off). Allow time for 2-4 hours here, so you’re looking at a half-day trip to enjoy the island comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes, as it is quite a long walk around the beautiful island.

Esplanade Park- is located in the heart of Helsinki, and serves as a place for both travellers and locals to relax. In July, the Jazz-Espa concert series performs here (unfortunately I missed this as I visited in June).

Temppeliaukio Church- better known as the “church in the rock”. The interior walls are created naturally by the rock. The church was designed by architects Timo and Tumo Soumalainen and opened in 1969. Located at Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki.

Senate Square- Senate Square hosts the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland all designed by Carl Ludvig Engel between 1922 and 1852. Located at Unioninkatu 29, 00170 Helsinki. This is free to enter.

Helsinki railway station- is a widely recognised landmark in central Helsinki. It was actually the first landmark I walked past at 6am after a long red-eye flight, struggling by as I pulled my suitcase across the cobbled stones, I still quickly stopped to take a photo. Located at Kaivokatu 1, 00100 Helsinki.

Porvoo-  is the second oldest city in Finland, founded nearly 800 years ago. It is located roughly 50 kilometres east from Helsinki. You can easily get to Porvoo by bus. I took it from centre of Helsinki in the bus terminal under the shopping centre called Kamppi and it took roughly 50 minutes by the motorway. Check out this site for prices to Porvoo from Helsinki. Once in Porvoo, you can hop on and off the free bus as many times as you like to view the town. Porvoo is known for its beautiful red, wooden houses on the water. It was possibly the quaintest little town I have ever visited and I was lucky enough to be gifted with the most perfect, sunny weather for my day trip in Porvoo.

IMG_3425IMG_3426IMG_3434P1010861P1010863P10108985. Soumenlinna, 6. Soumenlinna, 7. View of Helsinki from the ferry, 8. Helsinki Cathedral, 9. The Senate Building, 10. Building in Helsinki

Accommodation:

I stayed in two hotels during my stay in Helsinki, Finland. The Cumulus Kaisaniemi hotel when I first arrived in Finland and the Scandic Simonkenttä for my last night in Europe.  The Cumulus hotel had the most delectable breakfast. This was the first European country I had ever visited and nothing could have prepared me for the tastiness of the bread! (I am an avid bread lover, so this was basically heaven and I was forced to undo my pants by the end of the meal due to very limited self-control).  Unfortunately (and obviously), my parents had full reign over the comfier bed and I was subject to the extremely uncomfortable pull out bed and spent a night fighting with the springs that were relentlessly sticking into my ribs. Now, the second place had a much softer mattress, making for a far more pleasant sleep but the breakfast was not nearly as tasty. So, basically it comes down to your love of a good sleep or a love of good food in the battle of these two middle-of-the range hotels. A bonus for both of the hotels is the excellent, central location.
P1010901IMG_3400P103014111. Me, 12. Streets of Helsinki, 13. Temppeliaukio Church

Travel tips:

Getting from the airport- when you land in Helsinki airport find the terminals T2 and T1, the entrance to the train station is in the corridor between the terminals. This will get you into Helsinki Railway Station. Just before the Helsinki Airport train station, there are three VR ticket machines that sell tickets for Helsinki region public transport as well as tickets to long-distance trains. If you can’t find the machines, you can buy a Helsinki region public transport ticket form the conductor on the train. A single ticket will cost you 3.20 euro.

Helsinki as a base: An excellent place to fly into if you wish to do the Scandinavian or Baltic countries as this is the most direct country to fly into if you are flying from somewhere far away (like me who is based in Australia).

Time to spend here: Spending a day or two to explore Helsinki is more than enough to cover lots of ground.

P1030153P1030157IMG_519414-16. Porvoo

General cost:

Helsinki is a relatively costly country, but if you watch what you are doing as far as accommodation and what you eat, you can do it on a reasonable budget.

IMG_5217IMG_522717-18. Porvoo
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