Sunday, July 28, 2013

Suomenlinna and Helsinki

We got up not tooo early, and caught the metro down to Helsinki. Our destination was Suomenlinna,  The Suomenlinna maritime fortress, is more than 260 years old,  is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most popular sights in Finland. The walls of the fortress can be seen all over Suomenlinna,

We met all met Sari at the ferry, got our tickets then hopped on the boat. It was only a short 5-10 minute ride to the island.

I will at this stage tell you that despite the blue skies, it was FREEZING. A bitterly cold wind, and I don't think it got above 6C all day. I was glad to borrow one of Jaana's coats.  

First stop off the boat was the Suomenlinna Church. It was originally was built as a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854. The original building had five steeples with onion domes. The appearance of the church – which dominates the southern horizon from Helsinki – was changed at the beginning of the Finnish era in the 1920s, when it was converted into an Evangelical-Lutheran church.

Inside was seating enough for 400 people. To be honest it didn't look that big.  I loved the simplicity inside, and the beautiful light hanging from the dome. The church steeple doubles as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic. The signal blink of the lighthouse is the Morse code for the letter “H” for Helsinki. This is something I noticed when I was in Tallinn two days earlier - as we docked I noticed all the churches had flashing lights - obviously doubling up as lighthouses.

After we had explored the church we set upon the rest of the island. Up this road then left through an arch in the building and we came across the Great Courtyard.

The courtyard was completed in the 1760s, designed by the architect Augustin Ehrensvärd, and served as the main square of the fortress. The houses surrounding the courtyard included the fortress commandant’s house and the main guard house.

The Great Courtyard was badly damaged during the Crimean War in 1855, but it is still an impressive sight. The grave of Augustin Ehrensvärd lies in the courtyard (below), surrounded today by the Ehrensvärd museum and some residential buildings.

This is what the stone buildings looked like inside. I imagine they would have been used for storage of armaments.

On our walk we came across a couple of canons and we had a bit of fun with them...

Barracks - bright yellow and wooden.

A few locals were checking us out. In case you didn't know, these are Egyptian Geese.

Anne waited for me to catch up to everyone as I had got behind photographing the birds. It was cold, but at least here she would have been out of the terrible wind.

To give you an idea how cold it was - that is S N O W! Note how rocky the coast is. I noticed that Finland itself was very rocky, and lots of little islands - all quite flat - nothing very high above sea level.

 We climbed up to the canons for a look...

Took a couple of photos...

But didn't hang around for long up there, once again because of the cold. Also - although the sky was blue in that direction, a huge rain/storm cloud was following behind us!

Sari the photographer extraordinaire...

In front of a store house... These are just built into the hillsides.

We wonder if this was a swimming pool, or a water reservoir.  We never did find out.

Another storage facility built into the hillside.

At this stage it was so cold, we found a pizza place an stopped in for some hot drinks and to thaw out. We had a great time and I later found out that Pizza place was world famous. Had I known, I would have tried some food! I was very reluctant to get back out in the cold again!

This is the Kings Gate and the symbol of Suomenlinna. It was built between 1753 and 1754 as the entrance gateway to the fortress. The gate was built on the site where the ship carrying the founder of the fortress, King Adolf Frederick of Sweden, was anchored while he inspected the construction of the fortress in 1752. It too was damaged in the Crimean war, and has been refurbished a few times since.

Sari - the Pro Photographer...

We decided it was too cold to hang around much longer, so headed back through the tunnel and back to the ferry.

We could see Helsinki in the distance, and could see the Cathedral clearly.

Back on dry land, we met another of Jaana's friends - also called Sari. We are wondering if Jaana makes friends with all the same name, to make it easier for her to remember names!  Sari was a specialist in Finnish History so was an excellent companion in our sightseeing.  She talked about the architecture around Helsinki and told us the architects were Russian.  It was really interesting.  I wish I had taken notes! These next two images show the houses along the waterfront and docks, and these were originally the first houses of wealthy merchants.

You can see the Greek Orthodox Church in the distance which we visited the day before..

Sari holding the history book, while Sari points out the buildings.

Sari makes an excellent bookstand - a woman of many talents - photographer - bookstand....

We then stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant - again a nice warm up with good food. By now the day was nearly over - so we jumped on a tram afterwards and was taken to The Church in the Rock. While on the Tram we looked out the window to see a guy peeing in the middle of the street. Jaana explained that drinking problems are rampant in Finland. Very sad.

The Church in the Rock was amazing. The Architecture incredible. The entrance was quite ordinary, but once through it was amazing...

Temppeliaukio Church or Temppeliaukion kirkko, is a Lutheran church in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki. The church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. It is also known as the Church of the Rock.

The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock and is bathed in natural light which enters through the glazed dome. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics. The acoustic quality is created by the rough, virtually unworked rock surfaces.

The ceiling is beautiful copper - must be worth a lot of money!

The Altar - simple and beautiful with bare rock.

Pretty amazing architecture, and I loved it. So different to what I had seen before. The Temppeliaukio church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city; half a million people visit it annually and the idiosyncratic choice of form has made it a favorite with professionals and aficionados of architecture. Great for photographers too !

We headed back to Jaana's, stopping at the supermarket first to pick-up 20 euros worth of Finnish Chocolate - the best in the world. I miss it, wish I could get a good supply over here. We said goodbye to Sari - as we had an early start the next morning to get to the airport - Anne was flying back to the Netherlands, and I to Munich. Sari was so concerned we wouldn't make it to the airport in time, that she decided to come back and stay the night, and take Anne and I out there herself. We can't thank Jaana enough for her hospitality, and Sari enough for her generosity. We enjoyed our days immensely with both.

I learnt that there are no language barriers between friends.


Caysa said...

Dear Robyn,

Do not despare - you can buy Fazer chocolate in NZ too - there is an online store:

Best Regards,
Caysa from Finland

Anonymous said...

Caysa - Thank you sooooo much - going there now :)

Anonymous said...

Only a 100g block - I want some BIG blocks - but will look again tomorrow :)

Wayne Gallasch said...

This is a wonderful blog, well written on one of my favourite countries, and also superbly illustrated with your photos.

Jacob Marlfoyle said...

I think Finland is very under-rated. I’m hopefully we’ll have a chance to go back soon. I feel the same way as you – the more I travel, the more places I want to visit

Anonymous said...

Tahnks for the comment Jacob. yes - everytime I go to one place, I want to see more and more.