Finland (June 19 – July 17, 2008)

(There is a second log file with our cruise in the Finnish and Alands archipelagos that will be added to the website in late August)


We entered Finland with a bang, literally.  Because our engine was disabled and we had no reverse gear, we were being assisted to our mooring in Helinki, but did not stop before nudging an illegally parked car on the edge of the quay with our anchor.  The boat was moored at Helsingfors Segelklubb (HSK) on Lauttasaari, an island just west of downtown Helsinki.  Much of our time in Helsinki was focused on repairing our engine transmission (see separate log file Engine Saga).  However, during the long waiting periods, we were tourists.


A Jane’s eye view of our parking spot at HSK from the top of the main mast… a tight fit …


The most important holiday in Finland is Midsummer celebrated on the weekend close to June 21.  The entire country closes down for Midsummer, and we arrived the day before Midsummer’s Eve.  Unfortunately, it poured rain on Midsummer’ Eve, which put a damper on the traditional bonfires. 


The People

Finland … observations by Brian (I can speak and read the language at a grade school level … functional but not literate.)


1. Territorial to a fault (like the USA except they don’t shoot trespassers they just call the police)

2. Family focus but no special concessions to the elderly … discounts for seniors-65 are about 10% if any exist)

3. Tolerant of foreigners but not welcoming

4. Disinterested in returning ex-pats regardless of generation

5. Intolerant of people trying to speak the language, they prefer to practice their English.

6. Expensive … very expensive … outrageously expensive

7. If you don’t speak/understand the language or Swedish there is little else spoken outside of Helsinki … go on a guided tour.

8. You can’t fish except with a finger line and bobber unless you get a high price license

9. Did I mention expensive … buy what you need in Germany


The Environment

The birds and plants in Finland are mostly familiar to Canadians.  The newcomer to us was the Barnacle Geese, smaller but similar to Canada Geese (which we saw only on Seurasaari). 


Barnacle Geese … quiet birds that seem to communicate with head movements and are very territorial


The swans seem much larger than those in England, Holland and Germany. 



But ma … I saw something really neat over here to eat


We saw one Double-Crested Grebe on Seurasaari that had just caught a fish and a number of Goosanders.




Greate-Crested Grebe on a lunch break … sushi time


 A variety of seagulls and terns abound. 


The gulls follow the ferries back and forth eating whatever the tourists throw over the side … who trained who?


The only bird of prey we saw was a hooded crow;



The noisiest and most aggressive bird we have met to date … aside from the gulls of course

A Hare … lives at the marina … loves the grass on the other side of the parking lot … can outrun a car


The Rhodendrons were just in their prime when we arrived the 3rd week of June and the hedge roses were in full bloom. 


Just watch out for the bees


Wild and cultivated strawberries were ripe. 


Strawberries were ripe and widely available. Blueberries were scarce …no pies


Clover, thistles and rose hedges perfumed the air.  Cedar, Birch, Basswood and Cottonwood trees abound; the latter tossed their cotton tufts into the air, making it look as if we had snow in July.


Cottonwood snow


 The tiniest lilies Jane has ever seen were growing in a garden at the folklore centre near Seurasaari. 


Small Lilly (about 1.5 inch / 4 cm in diameter) that grows in abundance at the Folklore Centre


Jane in a traditional garden swing called a keikku



Once the engine was out of the boat and the transmission sent to Turku for problem determination, we went to downtown Helsinki.  We spent a couple of hours in the Sibelius Park, where there is a dramatic monument to the composer. It resembles a mass of organ pipes with etched designs.  The park itself reminded us of the North Channel Islands except there were no wild blueberry bushes on the rocks.  The park was a combination of groomed gardens and wild bush and grasses left on their own.  Despite the masses of tour buses, the entire setting was moving.

The wilder part of the park … looks just like Northern Ontario … we have been saying that a lot in Finland

The touristy side of the park …looks like any tourist attraction in any big city … we say that a lot


The actual sculpture is quite magnificent

Then we walked to the Temppeliaukio Church.  It was quarried out of the natural granite bedrock in 1969.  It is almost invisible as you approach it, since it really is a granite rock hill.  The lower 2/3 of the walls are hewn granite with the top 1/3 large granite boulders. 


The dome is visible above the stone wall … the church is inside the granite rock face

The roof is a copper dome surrounded by glass and supported on rafters that radiate out from the dome.  The acoustics are superb. 


The dome from the inside


 A student was playing the grand piano ("tourist music"... Chopin and other romantic composers) and had a basket for donations. 


The lower walls were blasted from granite; the removed rock forms the upper walls


We climbed up the rock hill out of which the church was built...quite an amazing experience.  It was almost like climbing the hill on South Benjamin Island in the North Channel, Ontario.


The exterior walls of the church … lets just call it low maintenance

We were very disappointed in the open-air market.  It is a tourist attraction more than a market.  The produce was Finish-grown for the most part, but was quite expensive.  The old Market Hall was filled with interesting booths, but was very expensive.  A loaf of coffee bread cost €5 ... about $7.50.  Most of the fish is salmon from Norway, and expensive.  It is cheaper to go to the supermarket near the marina, but we notice that there is little Finish produce in the supermarket ... much like in Toronto where it is hard to find Ontario apples even at the height of the harvest. 


The stalls are both land and sea based … the fellow in the boat was selling produce not fish


There are open-air booths outside the supermarkets selling fresh garden peas, strawberries, spring onions, new potatoes, and cherries (from Turkey!). 

Half the market was filled with overpriced produce that seemed to all come from the same supplier … the rest of the space was dedicated to souvenir stands some stuff was even made in Finland


Gee …  look at all the real wood key rings   Guess who modeled for the bear sculptures


We walked around the downtown area admiring the very large neo-classical Helsinki Cathedral (Lutheran) completed in 1852 and the Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral completed in 1868.  It is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe.  Its golden cupolas and red brick façade are an indication of the Russian impact on Finnish history. 


Helsinki Cathedral (Lutheran)

Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral


The Central Railway Station built in 1914 is an example of Finnish-style Art Nouveau/ Jugend architecture. 


Lamp stands at the railway station … Interesting to note these fellas play a leading role in the Railway advertising


The Esplanade is a 3-block long promenade that was a popular walk for the gentry in the 19th century and has a popular park in the middle of the city.  The Kappeli restaurant was built in the 1860’s at the east end of the park.  There is a band shell  for free musical performances near the Kappeli. 


Kappeli restaurant was built in the 1860’s … was full whenever we walked by

The old market building exterior and interior … sold everything from sushi to reindeer meat, to eat in or takeout



One of our tourist days we spent at Suomenlinna (or Sveaborg, in Swedish).  It is a sea fortress founded on a group of islands off Helsinki in 1748. 


Exterior fortification and one of the few entries into the site  … a continuous stream of tourists and picnickers


The Swedes established the fortress to guard against a Russian invasion, the Russians took it over in 1809 and expanded it changing the defense works from the east to west, and then the Finns took it over from the Russians when they gained independence in 1917 and maintained it until the 1970’s.  Today Suomenlinna is a city district with 900 residents, beautiful parkland, and old fortresses / museums.  We took the local transit ferry to the islands with Finnish families going to the island for an outing and picnic. 


The ferries seem to run every 15 minutes and were filled to capacity


Most of the tourists take a package tour as part of the Helsinki Card (which we thought a bit pricey for the two of us).  We were glad to be part of the local travelers, both people and seagulls. 


Gulls looking for a handout


While waiting for the ferry, we spotted a mega-yacht, Turmoil, registered in the Caymen Islands.  We saw this oversized boat in Charleston, SC just before we left to cross the Atlantic in April 2007. 


It was interesting to see the Turmoil again … wonder if it was shipped or actually made the crossing?


A great deal of restoration work continues on the islands, not only for the stone fortresses, but the old wooden and stucco buildings used for dwelling and civilians. 



Windows have been bricked over with gun ports added … Soviet era modification

The attitude seemed to be … break your neck … your problem … there were no signs about climbing walls


The Russians constructed the garrison church as an Eastern Orthodox Church with the characteristic 5 onion domes.  When the Finns took over the island, they changed the church to Lutheran, took down 4 of the domes and hid the bases under the new roof, and extended the centre dome to be a tower with a gas light as a navigation aid.  Although the gas light has been replaced by an electric one, the church tower is still an official navigation aid.  The church has very little colour:  it is painted white with large clear glass windows, and is beautiful in its simplicity.  It has a separate bell tower (under reconstruction) and is surrounded by a fence made of anchor chain and cannons that were used (according to the literature) to defend the island from attack. 


Spotless … not even a hymnal out of place … there were none … anyone use this church?

Interesting mix of attitude and attire … wonder what they are like in a playground


Surrounding the church were officers’ quarters from the Russian era.  These are slowly being restored and used as modern housing. 


Conversions to family dwellings are increasing the number of permanent residents … bikes abound


Some of the buildings have been taken over by art schools; pupils and artists abound on the island sketching and painting.

Watercolours by the waterside


The fortress buildings have undergone many architectural changes over the years, and have very thick walls.  Experienced visitors bring flashlights/torches with them to explore the extensive underground passages.  The administrative and living buildings are a mixture of many different styles and colours. 


We wondered why most of the kids on the ferry had flashlights… they were for the tunnels and ghost hunting


There is a small, protected beach on the south end of the southernmost island, Kusataanmiekka.  It was cool, and no swimmers were in sight, but Helsinki could be seen in the background.  This southern tip is also the sight of the western-facing cannons erected by the Russians to defend against the Swedes. 

Breech loaders finally serving a useful purpose


A rail track led from the munitions storehouse to the cannons. 


The ammo dumps have cavernous spaces, damp, cold, full of rotting wood perfect for kids to explore

The “root cellar” was a gunpowder storage area under a large sand dune.


Somehow I felt like Gandalf pounding at Frodo’s door … a little bigger scale perhaps


We were fascinated, and somewhat confused by the very large dry dock.  It is still in use today, but we could not figure out how the area could be flooded to float in the boats without unsettling boats already in the dry dock.  There were outside and inside locks between the sea and the dry dock, but no explanation as to how individual boats could be moved in and out of the yard.  The dockyards are still in use, and huge timbers were drying in a shed for use in boat reconstruction.


A very large, very empty drydock … there was no visible means of getting the boats in or out without flooding the whole dock


We had lunch at an outdoor café.  The sparrows had a feast of one family’s leftovers.


It took this little sparrow less than 10 seconds to discover the vacated plate and to stuff itself with rice


On the southeast side of one island, Iso Mustasaari, there is an Open Prison in operation today.  There is also a school and playground for the island resident children.


The sign says NO ENTRY … it’s a prison … things must be so good inside they have to keep people out


Suomenlinna is not just a museum.  It is a parkland where families come for picnics, swimming, sunning and having fun.


Time for a nice COLD dip … only thing missing is the nice hot sauna

Summer time and the livin’ is easy


Might be a little worried about the kids falling into the tree trunks … who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of trees 


Turns out Mom didn’t bring a change of clothes of these gals … a soggy trip home on the ferry


The ferry ride to Suomenlinna gave us a feel for the many islands and rock outcroppings around Helsinki. 


Helsinki southern approach … a subdued skyline 



We spent another day in Seurasaari, an open-air museum and park on an island northwest of downtown Helsinki.  Buildings for entire farmsteads have been moved to the island and reconstructed as they appeared in their native locale. 


The bridge to the island is a great place to observe (and feed) the birds.


The Midsummer Pole, decorated with dried herbs, stands at the entrance to the park


Most of the museum consisted of buildings, but there were two examples of boats:  Tar boats hauled tar that was obtained by the process of dry distillation from the pitch of pine trees and used for waterproofing timber.  During the era of sail tar was in high demand and accounted for 99% of Finland’s exports close to the end of the 18th century. 


Tar boats from Paltamo were 14 meters and could contain up to 25 barrels of tar


The other boats were called Church Boats.  In the summer the jointly owned Church Boats would carry parishioners to church.  The trip home would often be a race between the boats. 

Church boats were 16-21 meters long, had 9-14 pairs of ore locks and could carry up to 100 people 



The Granary from Paltamo is above ground to prevent rodents from getting in and eating the grain

The Gatehouse building of the Kurssi farmstead from Southern Ostrobothnia, 1825 provided access to the farmyard


In the summer the daughters, maids and farmhands slept on the 2nd floor

The main hearth in the Kurssi farmstead


Curtained bunk beds, a baby’s chair hung from the ceiling, cupboard and spinning wheel in the main room

Another set of curtained bunk beds in the  main room


A bedroom with an enclosed fireplace and rocking chair

Ivars farmstead was built in 1747.  In the 19th century is was an inn.  Tsar Alexander I stopped to rest and a room was converted into the “Imperial Chamber.” The Empire-style frieze design was added then.

A corner cupboard used for dishes and benches along the walls were typical

Cooking shelter for summertime from the Niemelä Farmstead in Central Finland

Most houses had ladders for access to the roof.  Note the pointed roof logs … to keep animals off the roof?  Nobody could explain why.   Niemelä Farmstead

The still from the Niemelä Farmstead

Niemelä Farmstead hearth in the main room in the house

One of the student guides working on knotted string lace

Storehouse from Western Finland

The Yusupoff Stable, 1842.  It is wooden and painted to look like it is made from bricks

Jane and a student guide at Antti Farmstead:  25 buildings were connected in a large rectangle enclosing the barnyard


Typical wooden roofing for sheds that need ventilation but protection from the rain

Another twist on the “can you lend me a hand” tale; candlestick holder in the Karuna Church, 1685

A parishioner who was “saved” donated the ship

In Scandinavia the bell tower is often a separate building near the church

Pews had doors and were reserved for families. Baron Avrid Horn privately built this church when he was denied entrance in his family pew because he married his cousin


When the pews are full never fear we have isle seating

Local inhabitant on Seurasaari. This is supposed to be a red tufted-ear squirrel … somehow missing the ear tuffs

Cowherd’s cottage (1820).  In the summer cows were taken to far-off pastures usually tended  by young women

Interior of cowherd’s cottage.  There were few amenities.  Most equipment for was for tending the cows

Iisalmi Parsonage, built in 1755 and furnished in the style of 19th century parsonages

Tree storehouse from Lapland built in the 19th century on top of a sawn-off tree

The Halla farmstead, built in the 19th century and inhabited until 1958.  The work (main) room covered 100 sq meters, included a very large fireplace/oven and a large loom


Brian discovered his second cousin lived near Helsinki.  She and her friend came for a visit on Pilgrim while we were waiting delivery of a new transmission.

Orvokki, Brian and second cousin Anja