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A Weekend in Helsinki - Music, Hot Chocolate and History

11/02/2017

During our second day in Helsinki we went to the West part of the city - the Töölö neighbourhood. Here is the famous Temppeliaukio Church (a. k. a. the Rock Church). It opened in 1969 and the interior walls are created naturally by the rock. Due to its excellent acoustics the church is a popular venue for concerts. There is an entrance fee.

Curiosity: this is the first church I've visited that has WiFi 

Relatively close to the Rock Church is the Sibelius park with the composer's devoted monument (Johan Juluos Christian Sibelius 1865-1957). The monument resembles more than 600 organ pipes made of steel in a wave-like pattern. It was unveiled in 1967.

As the day was very cold the park itself didn't draw much attention, but it must be a nice place to visit in the summer. Instead, we found the cutest coffee shop to warm up with some hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. The shabby decoration with old rustic pieces and some russian details makes it feel very cozy. Don't miss it out! It also has a garden and as it's located on the sea shore, should be a really nice place in summer days as well.

If the day is still in front of you or you have an extra day to walk around, take the ferry from the Market Square to Suomenlinna - a sea fortress built in 1748 by Frederick I of Sweden, then called Sveaborg. It consists of four islands just off the Bay of Helsinki. After the Finnish War in 1808 the fortress remained a Russian naval base for the next 110 years. The next year Finland was incorporated as an autonomous part of the Russian Empire until 1917. In 1918 during the Finnish Civil War a prison-of-war was established at the fortress and renamed Suomenlinna (that means Land of Finland). Because of the cold and poor hygienic conditions in the prison, more than 1000 people died and by the end of the year the prison was closed. During the Second World War the fortress served as a coastal artillery, anti-aircraft and submarine base. In 1991 Suomenlinna was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage as a unique monument of military architecture.

There is a lot to visit at Suomenlinna but if the weather is not very kind to you (during our visit it was snowing and freezing cold) or you don't have much time, just take the Blue Route (check the map on arrival). It passes by the main spots of interest like the Suomenlinna Church, the Dry Dock and the King's Gate.

There are restaurants and coffee shops as well. Seemed like some of them were closed in the winter, but I assume in spring/summer time should be more crowded and pleasant for walking around.

The round ticket is 5 euros and the trip takes around 15 minutes.

My overall experience in Helsinki was much better than expected. Actually, I didn't expect much but the city surprised me. The warm and cozy restaurants and bars and the cold wind tickling my cheeks, walking on the streets, are things that I was used to in Bulgaria but miss living in Portugal. However, the nordic organisation was something new for me to experience. Now, I am curious to get to know more of that part of Europe.

 

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