The last port of our last cruise was Helsinki, Finland. This country’s geographic position has led to competition between Sweden and Russia for domination over Finland in the 18th century. After 1807, Russian influence prevailed in Finland. Finland declared its independence in 1917, resulting in an uneasy relationship between the two countries. The relationship was in bitter conflict during WW2 when the two countries were on opposite sides. After the war ended, Finland tread a careful path during the Cold War. Today, Finland is a member of both the European Union and NATO. Russia said Finland, by joining NATO, was making a mistake and hurting its relationship with Moscow. Interestingly, six percent of Finnish residents speak Swedish exclusively. Swedish is a mandatory subject in schools. Most of Finland’s signs and street names appear in Finnish and Swedish.
We decided to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus in Helsinki which conveniently picked us up at the port.
We visited Senate Square with a Lutheran Cathedral on the hill. Built from 1830 to 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.
The City Hall was built in the 19th century.
The Presidential Palace had guards standing watch. It is one of three official residences of the President of Finland. It was built between 1820 and 1845.
The Parliament House was constructed between 1926-1931.
In 1952, the Summer Olympics were held in Helsinki. The stadium is mainly used for concerts.
The tower of the stadium is 238.5 feet, the measurement of the length of the gold medal win by Finnish Matti Jarvinen in the javelin throw of the 1932 Summer Olympics.
We visited the beautiful Uspenski Cathedral. It is the largest Greek Orthodox church in western Europe and was constructed between 1862-1868.
The sea fortress of Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built on six interconnecting islands. It was first used by Sweden in 1748. It was surrendered to Russia in 1808 and remained in Russian control until 1918 after Finland proclaimed its independence.
The Sibelius Monument is made of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave like pattern. It is dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The design of the monument is to capture the essence of his music.
K. J. Stahlberg played a central role in the drafting of the Constitution of Finland in 1919. He was also the first president of Finland from 1919-1925.
On Market Square you can find vendors selling fish, vegetables, fruit and crafts.
After finding a geocache, we caught the bus back to the port. Helsinki was a nice city, but it did not have the wow factor of many other European cities.
Next up: Lisbon, Portugal