A Day in Helsinki

As you read this, Royal Caribbean Serenade is docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. Thank you RCCL for three, full days to explore this unusual city!_____________________________________________________________

Wide canals allow visitors to see the city from water.

Wide canals allow visitors to see the city from water.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised on this trip that the ports have been so captivating and varied and Helsinki was no exception. Helsinki has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a small town feel. The old, established city has everything you would want or need and the people who live here are surprisingly friendly and down-to-earth.

Like most places we visited on this trip, we feared there might be a language barrier. Between us, we know enough German, French and Spanish to get by in most places in the world. But in a region where a variety of languages are spoken: Finnish, Danish, Swedish and the like, nothing will help you. We haven’t run across anyone who hasn’t spoken at least some English and fortunately for us, they’ve been excited about ‘practicing’ with us.

This was a good thing in Helsinki. We had to take a bus from the port – apparently it’s two

Love the architecture!

Love the architecture!

winding miles out of there and the powers that be feared we would be forever lost – and we ended up smack in the center of town. With map in hand, I’m sure we looked as confused as we were. We didn’t have a clue as to which way to go and street names here are not as easy or memorable as say, ‘Main Street’. I mean, does every street name need to have a dozen or more letters in no particular order? So an older, well-dressed woman is walking by and offers to help. She orients our map and gives us precise directions to the tourist office, where we hope to get a better map. And it was like that all over the city.

It was overcast, but slightly warmer than previous days – I think it was in the low 60’s – and I’m sure to locals it was a heat wave. So we stopped at a little ice cream cart and picked up a couple of cones. A few minutes later the owner stepped out of the cart and welcomed us to Finland, asked about how we got here and assured us that as cloudy and breezy as it was, it was much improved over the summer ‘norm’.

There were plenty of fresh veggies at the waterfront marketplace.

There were plenty of fresh veggies at the waterfront marketplace.

Trying the local foods and finding unusual souvenirs is something we do in every port and this was no exception. There is a giant marketplace here, brimming with some very different tourist items. There was a variety of knives, presumably for gutting animals. I could see us trying to explain this souvenir to customs. And there were lots of things made of bone – reindeer bone, to be more precise. And if bone wasn’t enough, there were antlers with a little pat of fur attached that you could take home. I decided to skip the souvenirs.

There were a number of dining spots as well, most passing out

Tiny fish that looks back at you and  something that might have been Rudolph.

Tiny fish that looks back at you and something that might have been Rudolph.

samples of their offerings which is how I ended up with two local favorites for lunch: Reindeer meatballs and fried Lake Fish. For the record, the meatballs were tasty, but dry and the fish was pretty good- like eating a fishy version of potato chips. We spent several hours in the city, walking the streets and admiring the architecture. It was a whirlwind visit, but another memorable city.

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