Helsinki, Finland – day 3

Suomenlinna and multiple seasons in one day

Day 3 began with a stroll to Market Square to catch the ferry across to Suomenlinna. 

It’s a short sailing but an enjoyable one as the ferry weaves between little islands, some of which seem to be just a little larger than the buildings built on them! 

It had rained earlier this morning but by the time we set foot on Suomenlinna the rain had stopped and the the sun was breaking through.  It felt like a pleasant spring morning as we wandered from the main Quay on the island of Iso Mustasaari, the largest of the six islands which make up the fortress. 

Suomenlinna sea fortress was founded in 1748 on a cluster of islands off the coast of Helsinki at a time when Finland was still part of the Kingdom of Sweden. 

The islands, which once housed quays for warships, heavy gun artillery batteries and barracks for troops and sailors throughout periods of Swedish then later Russian rule has become home to around 800 locals, arts and crafts shops, an art school, museums and cafes. Rather than remove the weapons, the former machines of war have been adapted to more peaceful uses.  For instance, there is a children’s play park where a nearby entrance is formed by huge artillery shell casings and Suomenlinna Church, which stands on a raised point just inside the fortress walls, has a boundary fence made from huge cannons and heavy duty chains.

This idea of adapting the past rather than attempt to erase it or pretend it didn’t happen gives the whole island fortress an optimistic feel. Children playing in former weapons bunkers and people picnicking beneath the huge artillery guns which permanently point West thanks to the period of anti-western Russian rule seems like a much more fitting legacy for the now silent weapons. 

Spring turned to summer as we crossed the little white bridge to the island of Susisaari and continued along the waymarked route to the southern Kings Gate Quay on the island of Kustaanmiekka. 

We stopped for a while to sit in the sun on a lovely little beach which sits in a cove just beneath the gunpowder magazines…

Apparently popular in the summer as a great swimming spot, we only saw ducks and a flock of geese braving the waves today. 

After a short break we continued to the King’s Gate, in summer a second ferry connection point to the mainland, before returning back along the coast towards the museums and cafes. 

After a short walk back we decided to take the ferry back to the mainland and grab some lunch as some very dark clouds were gathering above Helsinki. 

We arrived back in Market Square and spent some time buying gifts and souvenirs before strolling back to the cathedral square to shoot some photos of the white cathedral now starkly contrasted against the almost jet black sky.

After a little more shopping we stopped for some lunch (Finnish beer and Mexican Burrito). Almost as soon as we sat down the heavens opened at snow fell heavily for a while before turning to sleet then rain.  By the time we’d finished lunch, the sun had returned and the snow was melting. 

This evening was spent doing a little more shopping before settling down in a “London themed bar” for a few beers. The bar was having a “weisse beer week” promotion so we tried a local beer then an old German favourite. 

While in the bar the weather outside the window decided to run through the seasons once more as the late afternoon spring sun turned once more to snow, whipped up by sudden gusts of wind into almost blizzard conditions before a temperature drop turned the snow to heavy hailstones which rattled the bar windows and threatened to crack car windscreens. By the second beer the hail had subsided, giving way to some overcast skies which by the time we were leaving had once more turned blue. 

The weather for tomorrow isn’t looking great but the forecast for Monday is good, so tonight we booked our tickets to cross to Tallinn in Estonia on Monday.  We don’t have long (around 4hrs) in Tallinn but I’m looking forward to photographing the medieval streets of what is supposed to be a beautiful little city.

Tomorrow has been left free. There’s still lots to see in Helsinki and theres still the possibility of a day trip out of the city, weather permitting…

Hope you’re all enjoying the trip as much as we are! 🙂 

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