Thursday, July 7, 2016


Malachite Room, The Hermitage

Finally tore ourselves away from St. Petersburg after supper and sailed off to Finland, arriving about 0630 the next day.  Quick bite for breakfast then off on a rainy, whirlwind bus tour of the city, under the gun slightly, as the ship sailed at 1230 for Southampton, one day behind schedule.

Monument to famous Finnish composer, Sibelius. 

Managed to stop at the Sibelius Monument, the spartan Lutheran Cathedral and the Rock Church on the tour, before time ran out.  Helsinki, as is usually the case with Nordic cities is clean and upbeat.  The houses have 6-inch downspouts on their eaves-troughs though, a giveaway as to climate conditions.

Rock Church, hewn from in-situ granite

Finland is  another country demanding our respect for shear determination.  Only five million in population, one million of whom live in the Capital Region, it has been occupied by the Swedes for 650 years and by the Russians for 100, finally gaining independence in 1917 (next year is their centenary).  Throughout it all, they managed to maintain their language, culture and sense of humour.

Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral

They have enough private and public Sauna baths to enable the entire country to take one at the same time.  Their shipyards crank out cruise ships (including this one) and ice-breakers.  Street signs are in Finnish and Swedish, the two official languages.  They make excellent coffee and drink a lot of it, especially during the endless mid-summer days.  Helsinki has 450,000 visitors a year, just on cruise ships.  Free wi-fi is available throughout Helsinki and is probably better than the wonky, $12/day offering of our cruise ship.

Southampton in two days, then home.

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