Goodbye Scenic Tsar! Hello high speed train Allegro for trip to Helsinki, Finland. Tour of Helsinki - Senate Square, the Sibelius monument, the Olympic Stadium and the lively harbour area. Welcome reception this evening for the Baltic States travellers.
07.09.2014 - 07.09.2014 19 °C
Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Helsinki
Last sunrise in St Petersburg.
Up early this morning to finalise packing. Breakfast, then bags out by 9am. Said goodbye to Jim and Jose, checked that our bags were on the bus, then the bus left for the station for our train to Finland.
Check in and security went very smoothly and then we boarded our first class carriage for our three and a half hour train ride to Helsinki.
We were served a nice salami and cheese salad for lunch plus fruit salad. Very nice. Before we arrived at the Finnish border, Russian authorities walked through the train asking if we had any medication on us. We all answered no, but of course everyone had some sort of personal medication on them. Then they specifically asked, "sleeping tablets?", but everyone said no, but a lot of people did have sleeping tablets. None of their business we think, but we wondered what would have happened if we said yes to carrying sleeping tablets. A gulag in Siberia, perhaps?
Russian immigration checked our passports and it took 5 minutes. As we crossed the Finnish border, the Finnish border control guards hopped on and stamped our passports. It took 5 seconds.
We arrived in Helsinki on time and were met by our guide for the next two weeks, Tim. The weather is warm and about 20 degrees. We did a bus tour of the city and focal points for a couple of hours.
Firstly we went to the church in the rock. This is quite an amazing structure, carved out of rock with a copper dome. It is a Lutheran church.
We went to Sibelius' monument which was quite controversial when it was first erected, then they decided to include a sculpture of him and now everyone likes the monument.
We drove past the bay and the beach. Our guide Maria thinks it looks like Australia's Bondi Beach!!
The main square is lovely with its church and statues.
This is the ferry that goes to Sweden. Huge.
Helsinki has a population of 600,000 but as Finland is scarcely populated, they have about 17 people per square mile, on average. They gained their independence from Russia in 1917. In winter, they have 19 hours of darkness and in summer, 19 hours of brilliant sunlight! Only June and July are considered the summer months. They get 1 metre of snow in winter and the Baltic freezes because there is only 2 inches between low and high tide.
Checked into our hotel. It is quite nice.
We had our welcome dinner in a separate part of the dining room. We had salmon cream soup, different but nice, crumbed chicken and a rubarb cake with ice cream, and a glass of Spanish champagne.
After dinner, Phil and I went for a walk over to the station to find a supermarket but we didn't buy anything. At least we can recognise some of the products, not like Russia where we couldn't read a thing. It was a bit cool outside.