June 25,26 - Andrew Fernando
It was time for us to leave Stockholm. Our lost luggage was delivered to our hotel . We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and came back to our room to find the baggage in the room. It has got dirty and marked from outside, but nothing was lost. I felt happy to have my regular clothes back and Mala was happy to get her Sketchers shoes back. They are her walking shoes. We looked for Sketchers shoes in Stockholm. They are unknown in Stockholm.
Stockholm is a big city with many historical buildings. It is a relatively quiet city. We were expecting Stockholm to be very cold. Surprisingly, we experienced very good weather through out our stay, day time temperature going up to 24 °C. We are hoping that our next destination Helsinki will have similar weather conditions to Stockholm.
We took the same express bus from the Central station to the airport. There was hardly any traffic on the road. One reason could be that it was the long week-end. We heard that driving in Stockholm is very easy and the drivers are very polite and patient. Road rage is something unheard of in Stockholm. We will find out when we get the vehicle after our cruise to St Petersburg.
We were flying to Helsinki to join the five day cruise to St Petersburg. The cruise starts from Helsinki and comes back to Helsinki. After the cruise , we would fly back to Stockholm Arlanda airport and collect our vehicle from the airport to start our driving tour. We had booked our air tickets on Finnair. It was a very short flight less than one hour. It was more like a domestic flight. There was no Immigration counter when we landed in Helsinki. We just collected our luggage and walked out of the " Nothing to Declare" exit. We only had to stay behind to collect the Helsinki cards from a customer Service counter, which we booked on line. The Helsinki card allows us to visit all the tourist attractions and also use all the public transport within city limits. That includes Hop-on-hop-off-bus and the tram. Finnair has a bus service to take passengers from the airport to the city. We have decided to avoid taking taxis and use public transport when we could. Helsinki card did not allow free bus travel from the airport to the city. We had to buy bus tickets, but we got a 30% discount for our Helsinki card.
Our hotel, Crown Plaza was not in the city centre. We arrived at the hotel after 8:00 PM and found that most restaurants in the area were already closed due to their Mid Summer holiday. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant. They had a limited menu, but the food was tasty. We asked the chef whether they had any local food dishes. They had grilled Salmon. But when I asked him whether it is wild Salmon or farmed Salmon, he was not sure. I tend to avoid farmed Salmon. So I ordered a grilled beef main dish .
Mala ordered a Finnish Burger with chips. The burger had a touch of chilli. My wife and I normally order different dishes and share them. That way we get the opportunity to taste two different main dishes. The food preparation was excellent and we enjoyed the food. When we finished dinner and went to bed, it was about 11:00 PM. Still there was still day light. We had to close the room curtains to be able to make the room dark enough to sleep.
The next day, June 26 was a Sunday, another public holiday. We had breakfast in the hotel and took a tram ride to the city centre. Helsinki city is fairly compact with all the attractions concentrated in a small area. Helsinki is the capital of Finland, but the total population in the city is less than 600,000. We decided to take a city tour which is the easiest way to see all the attractions when you have limited time. The city tour started at a point near the Esplanade park. The park itself is a major tourist attraction. It is just a long narrow park, but the locals and the tourists frequent this park and the adjoining coffee shops specially during week-ends and holidays. At one end of the narrow park is the Market square whilev the other end is closer to the Stockman department store.
Our city tour, took nearly two hours going through all the major tourist attractions. Helsinki Cathedral is one of the major tourist attractions in
Helsinki. This is a Lutheran Cathedral designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and built from 1830 to 1840.
The next main attraction Market Square was also designed by Engel. The Market Square is a very live place with fruit sellers and food stalls on all seven days of the week. After the bus tour we stopped at this place and bought fresh Blue berries and Cherries. We had lunch from one of the food stalls. They have tiny areas with small tables to sit and have your lunch. The sea food is mainly anchovy like small fried fish and Salmon. There were other selections, but we opted for Salmon and small fish.
During the bus tour, we stopped at the Rock Church which is an unusual building. It is a church built to look like a cave church. This has become one of the most visited building in Helsinki. We had fifteen minutes to look around and come back to the bus. The bus started sharp in fifteen minutes. We saw a few people who took a long time to come back, missing the bus.
Another important building in Helsinki is the Olympic building. There is a status of Paavo Nurmi nicknamed the Flying Fin. He was a middle distance runner and won nine gold medals and three silver medals during his Olympic career.
Helsinki Central Railway Station is another important building in Helsinki. The unique feature of this building is the two pair of statues on either side of the building carrying Spherical lamps.
After the bus tour, we took the free boat ride. Our Helsinki card allowed us to do a free boat ride. There are different boat rides and run by different groups. We had to ask people and find the right one which was free for the Helsinki card. The boat trip took us near some islands and beaches which are very popular in Helsinki. There were exclusive holiday houses owned by companies and rich individuals. These are mainly used in Summer holidays. In Winter, the temperature can go down to -25 C. The boats have to be preserved carefully to avoid snow damage.
We got out of the boat and walked along the Esplanade park up to the Stockman Department store. We spent about one hour in the department store and took a tram back to our hotel.
Tomorrow we would leave Helsinki to join the cruise.