Last stop on our travels was Helsinki, Finland. We rose at a respectable time and headed the short distance to our 10:00 a.m. Tallinn-Helsinki ferry. The Baltic Sea ferries are nothing like the smaller scale Washington State Ferries of home. These are made for the open sea. Our ferry, the Tallink “Star” was not the biggest we saw but was still impressive with seven decks and space for 2000 passengers and 450 cars. At 24 knots it made the crossing in just two hours.
We noticed many Finns returning from a weekend in Estonia ladened with liquor. We were told prices are so high in Finland that it pays to make the trip just to stock your liquor cabinet. (Later, in Helsinki we paid 19 Euro for a beer and a glass of wine!)
After settling into the Scandic Grand Marina Hotel, right on the waterfront, we boarded a bus for a quick orientation of the city of Helsinki and Finland, in general.
The official languages are Finnish and Swedish though most speak good English. Our guide claims the Finns are quiet and reserved.
• A Finnish bride will hear “I love you” just once. After that the husband will let her know only if there is a change of status.
• Finns can be silent in at least two languages.
O.K. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate the story.
About 10% of the five million Finns live in Helsinki. Commercially they are perhaps best known as the home of Nokia and Angry Birds.
Sweden ruled Finland for nearly 400 years. Russia kicked them out in 1809 and loosely controlled the country for the next 100 years. When the 1917 Russian revolution came about the Finns negotiated their freedom from the new government. Later, in 1939, Stalin decided to get Finland back and invaded. The Finns stopped them cold but, after four months with no international support, had to accept a cease fire and give up some territory. A year later, when Germany invaded Russia, the Finns joined in to get their lost territory back. When World War II ended they had to again give up territory to the Russians but kept their independence which they enjoy today.
Armed with a tram pass we spent the next day walking and riding in the Finnish sunshine. It is a most enjoyable city and the hotel was close to the outdoor market, good shopping and good wandering space. The pass was also good for a water taxi to Suomenlinna Sveaborg, a two hundred year old fortress guarding the entrance to Helsenki harbor. A World Heritage Site the fort offers visitors a view of history and of Helsinki in the distance. It was worth the trip.
Our stay in Finland was short but most enjoyable and educational.