Helsinki

We're finishing up three nights in Helsinki. It's been a really nice break in the trip after our rapid spin through Sweden, Norway, and Denmark over the last ~3 weeks. All of our clothes are now fully cleaned (machines work much better than sinks!) and we've even shipped home about 7 pounds of heavier clothes as we're through with the cooler portion of our journey. We are in another Airbnb rental and this one is significantly nicer than our stay in Oslo. The owners have taken care of all the small details here, from meeting us at arrival to providing dish/washer/bath soap, etc.

Happily not getting ripped off ;)

The city itself has probably been our favorite so far. While the diversity of food options is not nearly as large as the other Scandanavian capitals, the streets are clean, public transportation is ubiquitous, and the city generally feel like a Western European capital but with significant Russian influence. Ironically, it feels very historic despite being the most recently established of the cities we've visited (founded in 1550, but there was not significant development until the mid-1700's ). It also feels less touristy. For example, when visiting the fish market by the harbor you don't feel like you're getting overcharged for being a tourist the same way you do in Bergen.

While here we managed to take in many of the popular sites: Suomenlinna Island/Fortress, a trio of churches (Church of the Rock, the Lutheran Cathedral and the Finnish Orthodox Cathedral), the amusement park, and of course the harbor area. Suomenlinna island was a lot of fun to hike around and wade into the freezing cold Baltic Sea. And back in the city it was really neat to be able show Walter the Lutheran Cathedral with it's very plain interior (and statue of Martin Luther) and then walk right over to the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral with it's abundant iconography, so he can see one very tangible difference between Christian denominations. (Sadly, I did not get any good photos of the interior of the Orthodox Cathedral.) Regardless of one's position on religion I think it's interesting in a cultural and historical context to see how differently they build and decorate their places of worship. Made me want to show him the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul with its Islamic decor and older Christian decor present in the same building.

Finally, we squeezed in some real life into this stay as well: two "home"-cooked dinners and a visit to the theater to see Ant-Man in 3D, complete with Finnish and Swedish subtitles.

Oh, and a funny coincidence. We ran into the cruise ship that we will be boarding in Valparaiso, Chile for our trip to Antarctica, the Seabourn Quest. It was in port for the day today in Helsinki! We'll see it again on December 20th!

That's the Quest there on the left. Our future room is somewhere on the starboard side.