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Friday, August 21, 2009

A Little Trip Across Another Pond: The Baltic

Tuesday we took the Silja Line Ferry to Helsinki, Finland. These ships run every day, overnight between the Finnish and Scandinavian capitals. It's a rather pleasant trip. You get a nice little cabin and you can leave your stuff on board while you tour the city the day you are in port. The ride out of Stockholm is simply gorgeous as you cruise through the entire archipelago, all 22,000 islands dotted with charming red stugas (summer houses) as well as some rather impressive properties as well. Just as we were departing Stockholm, the weather got threatening and we had to hustle inside. The upside was a lovely rainbow that appeared over the landscape. The wind was too cold to allow us to sit outside, but we found a nice perch behind a window and enjoyed the lovely landscape from behind glass.

The first night we decided to eat from the Swedish Smörgåsbord. Of course, there was loads of herring and caviar and salmon but we were also delighted to find other more yummy delicacies. Wine and beer were included in unlimited quantities so we made sure that we got our money's worth on that front. The best part of the meal when my dad discovered the candy on the dessert table. He returned to our table at one point with a plate that looked like a normal dinner plate. What we didn't realize at first was that he had candy buried underneath his regular food! That's the beauty of a Smörgåsbord buffet. Everyone can eat what they want, when they want!
We entertained ourselves that night by listening to some of the worst Karaoke ever and watched a mediocre at best show. But it was still relaxing and wonderful to be away for the evening.
We woke up to a beautiful morning as we pulled into Helsinki. We took the two hour bus tour that shows off the city highlights. It's a lovely little city, considerably smaller than Stockholm. Stockholm boasts a population of about 1.5 million while Helsinki is only 500,000 in the city and up towards a million including the surrounding areas. The city is populated with lovely green spaces and nice water front areas.

The major sites include the Protestant cathedral that sits in the center of the city as well as the Russian Orthodox cathedral that serves as a reminder of how far east we've traveled. The Rock Church is a beautiful church with rock walls and a copper ceiling. The International Church in Helsinki meets there on Sunday afternoons. The last major site is the Sibelius (famous Finnish composer) monument which is ambiguous in its meaning. Most think that it is clearly organ pipes being depicted and yet the artist adamantly claimed that it was absolutely not organ pipes. She never did explain what it was. I say it is organ pipes.

We had a beautiful afternoon departure with the sun shining brightly on the deck. As you depart from Helsinki you cruise past the fortress that was designed to make Helsinki invincible. Would've been fine except the water froze in the winter and the Russians were able to march right onto the island. Oops.

We cruised all night and woke up to the beauty of the Stockholm archipelago. The sun was shining and I enjoyed a quiet half hour on deck watching the islands go by as the sun slowly made its way onto the day. It was warm and mild as we pulled into port. Felt like summer which was such a gift given that autumn has really been bearing down on us.
The two night overnight to Helsinki is a nice, relaxing way to get out of town for a couple of days. And now my parents have added Finland to the many countries they've been able to visit during the time we've lived in Sweden. We've been living across the Atlantic pond for 11 years now. Hard to believe. I enjoyed Helsinki, but I have to admit...I am glad that we call Stockholm home.