|Saturday, July 30, Helsinki
We slept well and slept in till about 8 am. It felt good to get so much sleep. We had a very large European breakfast and embarked on a walking tour outlined in Rick Steves' guide.
Helsinki is a fairly new city, established very early in the 19th century, soon after Russia took over this country. They hired a German architect, Carl Engel, to build this city in the style of St Petersburg. The area of the market square and Senate Square do look much like areas of St Petersburg. There is much fine neo-classical and some Art Nouveau architecture.
We started in Market Square down by the docks where multiple cruise ships make their stops and strolled up the Esplanade, a lovely park-like area lined with shops on either side. We stopped and listened to a Finnish group playing Gypsy music together with Gypsy dancing. We then walked up to Senate Square, described by Rick Steves as the finest neo-classical square in Europe. It is capped by the Lutheran Cathedral, a grand neo-classical church also designed by Engel. The church is quite simple on the inside compared with Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches and cathedrals. It has a large central dome and 4 subsidiary domes, a large and beautiful organ, a prominent pulpit, and to quote Rick Steves "statuary is limited to several Protestant big-shots." Among others there is a statue of Martin Luther, of course, but also Michael Agricola, a leading Finnish reformer. He translated the Bible into Finnish and is considered the father of the modern Finnish language. His Bible is to the Finns what the King James Version is to English speakers.
We walked past the train station, through many shopping areas, through a large park, past Finlandia Hall, and then visited the modern Temppeliaukio Church, a Lutheran Church, blasted out of the granite and capped with a shallow copper dome. There is a nice pipe organ, and water running down some of the granite walls creating very lovely textures and colors. Towards the end of the afternoon we settled down in a park near our hotel and worked at weeding out our pictures.
We had a good Italian dinner at a local cafe and then returned to our hotel so I could work on pictures and this blog.