Day 2 should have included a visit to a national park on the outskirts of Finlands second largest city (Esboo) but instead the morning was spent shopping for essentials thanks to an email from KLM advising that the missing luggage had arrived at Helsinki airport just after midnight but had then sat in storage until just after 9am this morning when it was handed to a courier for delivery “sometime in the next 24hrs”.
The prospect of another day without essentials meant a reshuffle of plans.
It may now mean that the photo trip to the national park will have to be dropped from the schedule, which will be disappointing.
After shopping, it was time to explore the city centre and we began with a brief walk to the Kamppi Chapel, or as it’s also known, the Chapel of Silence, a Lutheran chapel intended as a quiet place in one of the busiest parts of the city.
The Chapel has won lots of awards for its design and is popular with visitors and locals alike.
It’s situated on a busy square which has lots of popular clubs, bars and restaurants nearby and worth a visit if you’re in the area.
From Kamppi it was a short stroll down to a lake past Musiikkitalo, a music venue close to the Parliament buildings. The views out over the lake towards the Linnanmaki amusement park overlook some lovely old buildings, including the stunning Kivi-talo Säätiö banqueting Hall.
After some photography at the lake it was back towards the train station for the walk to one of Helsinki’s best known sightseeing spots, Helsinki Cathedral.
Situated in Senate Square, the cathedral and surrounding buildings were all designed by Carl Ludwig Engel and form part of the oldest districts in central Helsinki
Like the exterior, the inside of the cathedral is white and laid out in the form of a Greek cross. Thankfully photography is allowed and I managed to grab some shots of both the interior and exterior which I’ll post on my instagram and Facebook pages when I return home.
The exterior of the cathedral is illuminated after dark so it was decided that a return trip later, weather permitting, was a good idea.
A short walk from Senate Square brings you to Kauppatori, or Market Square, a popular street market full of eating places, craft stalls and souvenir markets. Apparently very busy in summer, the square was relatively quiet today so we settled down in one of the heated cafe tents for some lunch (I tried the Finnish classic – Reindeer – which was very nice and I thought tasted surprisingly like traditional Scottish haggis!)
After lunch a brief walk took us past the ferry terminal for connections to Suomenlinna, an inhabited sea fortress built over 6 islands and now a World Heritage Site.
I hope to visit Suomenlinna later in the trip so I’ll leave any further descriptions until then.
The next stop was the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral, a lovely building set on a hill overlooking the city.
The interior of the cathedral is elaborately decorated and a stark contrast to the Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral. Russian icons of saints and biblical figures cover the walls and ceilings of the cathedral.
Again, photography was allowed (with a restriction on the use of flash to protect the paintings) so I hope to have some nice shots from inside to share when I get home.
From the cathedral it was a 15 minute walk back through market square, along the Esplanadi (a lovely little park which has several restaurants and is used as an open air music venue in summer) towards the hotel in the hope of finding the luggage had arrived…
Thankfully it had! So following a quick shower and change of clothes it was back out into a now bustling Friday evening to try out a few local bars.
First stop was a little wine bar near to the hotel. Despite the fact it was snowing heavily less than 24hrs ago the tables outside the bar were almost full so we settled down in the warm evening sun with a glass of wine to watch the world go by for a while.
From the wine bar we walked back to the square near the silent chapel which was now full of tables, busy with locals and tourists enjoying a drink in the sun. Finding a table outside a popular bar we did a spot of people watching for a while. As the sun slipped behind the tall buildings surrounding the plaza, the temperature dropped suddenly, a sign that it was time to find a warmer spot to sit!
We wandered past the railway station, pausing for a few photographs, then headed for a bar we had passed last night and which seemed quite popular with the locals. A beer by the window allowed us to gaze out at the Helsinki streets as trams trundled past and the streets grew busier, and darker.
When it was dark enough, it was time to return to Helsinki Cathedral for some shots of the illuminated square.
The return walk to the hotel via the Esplanadi rounded off a lovely day.
Tomorrow had been pencilled in for a day trip to Tallinn in Estonia, a 2hr sailing away, but with the rescheduling thanks to the luggage fiasco, and with the uncertainty regarding that “sometime in the next 24hrs” email it was decided prudent not to pre-book the tickets just in case we had to cancel.
Depending on the weather in the morning it could mean an early dash to see if there are any same-day tickets available for the crossing to Estonia, or perhaps just a trip over to Suomenlinna. There’s also a lot more of Helsinki to see so it could just turn out to be another day of sightseeing.
Find out what we decide in tomorrow’s blog!