Helsinki Hijinx (July 17th, 2011)

July 17th, 2011
Helsinki could have been an expensive port, but we decided to take the cheap way out. Instead of spending buckets of money on an excursion or transportation, we did as the locals do...we took the public bus. Terri was completely freaked out by this arrangement, but the Finnish bus driver (who at first yelled at Kris for getting on the bus since it was going the wrong direction at the time) was quite helpful (even with his thick accent).
Terri and Kris at the bus stop
Terri was a bit nervous that we weren't going to the right place.
***It was pretty funny...Kris gets on a bus and the driver starts yelling, "No! No! No!" He wanted Kris to get out of the bus. We had to cross the street to get on the bus. So we cross the street, and, not even five minutes later, here comes the same bus and bus driver. In fact, it never left our sight.***
Anyone know what this says?  Our fare was 2.5 Euros.  I guess they were saying Terri is only 9% Mom?

The ship offers a shuttle for $10 per person that takes you from the ship to the center of town, but, if you walk a few hundred feet (less than 2 minutes) past where the hop on hop off bus tours are, you find a public bus stop. The initial fare is 2.5 euros per person for an hour. It takes you to the centrum (Market Square), and you can go get an all day public transportation pass good for trolleys, trams, buses, and ferries for 7 euros from the visitor's information center. They also give out a few free postcards, although you still need to buy stamps.

While at the tourist information center, we ran into Carol, Clark, Lisa, Brad, Kris, Troy, Spencer, Jane, and Sharon. We all took the ferry to Suomenlinna, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Suomenlinna is a historical maritime fortress built in 1748 to fortify defenses at the eastern part of the Swedish Empire. It was called Sveaborg. After the fortress fell under Russian rule at the start of the 19th century, its role was to guard the shipping channels to St. Petersburg. It wasn't until 1973 that military occupation of the fortress ended.

We toured Suomenlinna for quite some time seeing walls, cannons, tunnels, and more. We stayed longer than everyone else, so we parted ways as we walked the ocean walls. We caught up just in time to capture a few photos of the rest of the group getting on the ferry by King's Gate and leaving for the mainland. (King's Gate is the symbol of the island and was built in 1754.)
Kris at King's Gate
While at King's Gate, we ran into an American foreign exchange university traveling abroad.  He asked for me to take the exact same photo I'd taken of Kris.  I spoke to him a bit as we continued down the trail.  Interesting fellow.  I admire those willing to travel abroad alone.
The gang waves goodbye

We saw the Suomenlinna Church (which was built as a Russian Orthodox church and later altered to remove the domes). The steeple doubles as a lighthouse.
Suomenlinna Church
We also saw the courtyard with a tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard.
Tomb of Augustin Ehrensvard
We viewed the Suomenlinna Dry Dock, which is one of the world's oldest dry docks still in use.
Suomenlinna Dry Dock
We made it to Kustaanmiekka for a view of the bastion fortress and coastal defense line and Zander flag.

And we just explored this island of hidden treasures.
Can you spot the fake windows?
Kris, Kristy, and Terri

Troy and Spencer witness insect mating rituals
I adored this window.

Island native hard at work.

The bathroom was nice.
After taking the ferry back to Helsinki, we decided to eat at the Market Square. Terri and Kris had reindeer for lunch. Actually...Kris had the reindeer mixed plate with reindeer sausage, reindeer cube steak, reindeer bratwurst, and reindeer steak. Terri just had reindeer bratwurst. I had a vanilla pastry and a nutella and banana crepe.
Pelts in the open air market
Open air market
After eating, we walked through the market to find Terri and charm and take in the local flavor. While Terri was getting some charms hand-carved from coins, Kris and I were accused by a fat Finnish guy with ice cream dribbling down the front of his shirt of being members of the KKK. Actually, he said, "why do you Americans kill black people? They cook for us, and they are doctors and nurses. It is wrong to kill them." I tried to reason with him explaining that only a very small percentage of the population is bad, and we don't really have many racial killings anymore - although it was prevalent in the 1960s. I also tried to offer an analogy of "saying all Americans kill black people is like saying all Germans are Nazis who kill Jewish people". It was lost on him though.
One of the food booths at the open air market
Before leaving the market area, I grabbed some vanilla soft serve. It was massive. Almost immediately, a seagull tried to dive bomb me and steal my ice cream. The entire ice cream fell off into my hand. I pushed it back onto the cone while Kris ran off to get me a napkin.
You should try the ice cream...but mind the seagulls.
We walked past the Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral and headed to Senate Square. The Senate building was beautiful.
Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral
From this area of town, we caught the 4 tram to the Sibelius Monument. It was built like giant wind chimes, and, when the area is quiet, the wind makes the monument make music.
Sibelius Monument
Sibelius Monument
From the Sibelius Monument, we got on the 3T tram to the Church in the Rock.
Church in the Rock
Inside of the Church in the Rock

After the Church in the Rock, we grabbed the 3T again until we reached the Esplanade.
Skitler and a buddy near the Church in the Rock
The Esplanade is a ritzy shopping center in Helsinki great for shopping and people watching...and grabbing free wifi.

We grabbed the 16 bus from the Esplanade back to the ship, and, before boarding, we hung out at the dock a bit to enjoy the beautiful breeze and view.

I quite enjoyed Helsinki!

To be continued...

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