Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Rainy Wednesday in Helsinki


Last night, we decided to try typical Finnish food at the Melka Hotel Restaurant. My moosemeat starter was lean and delicious, and was served with mushrooms,parsnip, and carrots. Pat had a salmon starter, and we ordered a bottle of black current wine. We alternated entrees, salmon for me, and lamb for Pat. Hers was a bit bland, and my salmon very tasty.

We woke to rain today, with the promise of sun tomorrow. It looks like museums today, and the trip to Suomenlinna Fortress on five small islands off the coast tomorrow. After breakfast, we headed out to take a dry run at catching the ship to Stockholm tomorrow night. Our ideal itinerary would be to check out of the hotel, take the tram down to the Olympia Terminal, drop off our bags in a waiting area, take the small ferry out to the islands, return about 4pm, and board the ship to Stockholm. About an hour later, we had confirmed that all was possible. We knew where to get the tram, and where to get off for the terminal. We had talked to the guy who would watch over our bags during the day, and had gotten confirmation that our internet cruise ticket purchase had gotten into their system and that we would board easily. Now, we could visit the National Museum of Finland today with no fears for the rest of our Helsinki adventure.

I love museums which both answer and raise questions in my mind. The National Museum's presentation includes a complete archealogical, cultural, and political analysis of the past 6,000 years of Finnish history. Not having the luxury of spreading the antiquities over many museums in many cities, what they have is right here. Almost every dig in the last century has deposited its treasures in the glass exhibits, and they've taken the time to describe them well (in several languages). In addition, videos have been produced with archival footage of the events and characters of the past hundred years. Pat and I took the time to sit, read, and absorb all that we could. The questions it raised relate to references in one of the texts and a video to a period in the early 1990's when they experienced a banking crisis, and food shortages. Understandably, there wasn't much to explain this unusual blip on Finnish economic progress. I'll pursue if when I get home.

From the museum, we took the tram out to the University of Helsinki's Botanical Garden. Arriving too late to see the inside of the glass arboretum, we walked among the flowers and trees on the grounds.

Transportation in the city is a topic which deserves a comment. With gasoline at $6 a gallon, its not surprising that there are so many on bicycles. But Finland is making it very easy to ride bikes. Most of the streets have marked bike lanes on the sidewalks, paralleling the walking lanes. Free and rental bikes are easily obtained, and secure bike racks abound. Bikes are accomodated on busses, trains, and metro. And near a park we saw a children's bicycle training site, complete with streets and stop lights, and attendants to advise and support parents and kids. The car population seems to have embraced fuel-efficiency, and we've seen some of the shortest cars imaginable.

My only real complaint of the day comes from one of my usual joys. Can you explain to me why an ice cream vendor woud make the edges of a spoon so sharp that it would cut your inside upper lip as you pulled it from your mouth? I was horrified this afternoon to feel the pain and see blood dripping from my spoon into the remainder of my mint chocolate chip. Shame on you - Rogers Ice Cream at Stockmanns. My swollen lip even led to an inadequate dinner, settling for shrimp soup at our favorite Nepali restaurant. I shall never assume the safety of a plastic spoon again.

The complete set of photos we took today are at:

Helsinki Wednesday

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