The post title comes from the two million saunas in Finland; enough to house the 5.1 million Finns simultaneously, with room to spare.]
July 2, 2011: Helsinki
|♫ One of these things is not like the others ♪|
Hakaniemi Market Hall, built in 1914. It sold all sorts of food -- including amazing fish, of course -- and I loved all the old photographs of its early days, displayed throughout. Then we took in the nearby, open-air kauppatori (market square). There were all sorts of vendors again, including fishmongers selling their catch right from their boats, those selling all manner of woollen garments -- later, I picked up a pair of wool socks from a woman who spoke very little English; a rarity, I can assure you (at least in Helsinki, despite the two official languages being Finnish and Swedish) -- florists, painters, jewellers, and many, many food stands. We made a note to come back for lunch.
We could feel the energy building as we made our way to one final church, and the last sight on our list: the famous Rock (Temppeliaukio) Church. (Unfortunately, it was closed for a wedding; scrap that tourism trumps all bit.) This energy reached Notting Hill Festival proportions as we headed back to the kauppatori. All the city's green space -- plenty enough to rival Stockholm, incidentally, which has been widely lauded on that point throughout our cruise -- was lined with picnickers, out to show their support, enjoy the sun, have fun, or all of the above.
Everywhere you turned, people were out enjoying themselves, in groups big and small. After seeing a few hen dos in full swing mid afternoon, it came to us that the seasons may have a lot to do with this: in the winter, parts of northern Finland never see the sun, and even Helsinki is limited to three or four hours of daylight for long stretches. Best get out and enjoy that (almost endless, at times) sunlight when it comes then!
I'm forever relating new places to those I've seen. With Helsinki, I struggled. Much of it reminded me of what I'd imagine the southern USA is like, along the coast. (But I'm relying on television for much of that, I hasten to qualify.) The public transportation is all European, though, even if the street cars hint at San Francisco. We really enjoyed Stockholm, but, particularly for a short stay, you can't beat Helsinki's accessibility; it's a walker's city. (I do see a long weekend in Sweden in our future, however, when we have the time to explore.)
I met two lost ladies from St. Petersburg earlier in the day -- they were looking for the bus terminal; luckily a passer-by spoke Russian and was able to direct them -- and tomorrow I get to see it. Can hardly wait!
Up next: St. Petersburg, Russia
There are more pictures from the amazing day in our Picasa album, as usual.