(This post is from Pat's journal with her permission)
After our last brunch at the Helka Hotel, we boarded the trusty 3B tram to the Olympia Terminal, where we dropped off our luggage for the Silja ferry. We returned to the city center on the 3T line, and visited the Open Market. We used our tourist tram ticket to catch the local ferry to the islands of Soummenlina. The weather was perfect - shiny and breezy, but about 70 degrees.
The islands are 15 minutes by ferry. There4 is an astounding amount of buildings - fortresses and forts. It is a world heritage site if only for all of the architecture. The swedes built itto hold on to Finland, but relinguished it to the russians - who continued building. Huge rock abatements, cannons, big brisk and plaster barracks, wooden buildings, church, school, stores.
All of them on granite outcroppings, interspersed with garlands of spring wildflowers. There are small pond lakes where they quarried the granite to the abatements, plus a longish boat building yard. Today, about 900 live on the isle - some who work to rebuild and refurbish, and some part of an artists colony. There were many museums, but since most were militaristic, we passed on them. After about 2 1/2 hours of walking around, we hopped backon the ferry and lolled around the open market. We went to the old market hall, and greatly enjoyed the fresh veggie, cheese, fish, and butcher stall shops. There was every kind of salmon (fresh and pickled and smoked) and pickled and fresh fish. There was also game meats: moose, reindeer, and even bear (canned).
We had sandwiches at the cafe, and then walked to the esplanade past the performing cat and dog act to a small stage which was setting up for a "Weekday Jazz Concert". There was a trio: guitar, bass, and a singer. Although we couldn't stay for their act, we really enjoyed their sound check! It felt so good to sit (all the walking we are doing is giving us sore feet after 2-3 hours) with the sun on our backs. By 3:30, we hopped on the trusty tram back up the hill to the Olympia Terminal. Within a giffy, we retreived our bags, changed the rest of our euros to SEKs (Swedish Kronas), checked in and were boarding our vessel. Its a comfortable ship. We are in a cozy and nice (11 sq meters) room with a window looking southeast (away from the land mass) on the 10th floor right off the elevator vestibule.
We said goodbye to Helsinki as the ship wended its way out of the harbor with several other vessels, tiny to huge, and through an archipeligo of granite islets. Some with cabins on the, others just a few meters long and wide. After a beer on deck, we relaxed in our room until our 8pm buffet dinner seating. There were mounds of "C+" food - mostly deli-style. Though there was a hot food line, cheese board etc. The atmosphere was pretty "chowdown", so it was somewhat hard to relax and enjoy. We did get a bottle of red wine (Spanish Tempranillo) for the 2 of us. Back in our room, we noted the sun setting from the flashes of reflected light on a nearby ship to our east. So I finished my book "Ruth's Garden", and came up to the moonlight deck to finish this entry. It's actually balmy in the wake of the ship.
All in all, Finland was grand. Some generalities about Finns: Everyone speaks english, and I suspect Swedish as well; too many smoke (at least twice as much as USA; there were lots of pregnant women; there were lots of families with 3 kid families; dads seemed tobe very involved in their kids; we liked the moose (they call it elk); and public transportation rocks. This cruise/ferry was a great way to move between countries.
Here is a link to the photos we took today: Helsinki Thursday