20/05/2011 at 7:00 pm 2 comments

The journey to Helsinki would involve what Chris and I had codenamed “Boat Challenge”. Essentially this involved taking a 15 hour overnight ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. The voyage took us across Sweden’s highly impressive looking archipelago.

We boarded the boat at around 4:30pm and headed for our cabin where we could dump our luggage. In their infinite wisdom the Ferry company had decided that we would be sharing a room with a drunk 60 year old Finnish man. Perhaps this was someones idea of a hilarious practical joke. The man in question was already knocking back his second or third can of Gin & Tonic when we got to the room. We tried to converse with him for a short time but his English was not great and he kept reverting back to Finnish, although this may in part have had something to do with the levels of alcohol already in his system.

In the evening Chris and I headed for the all you can eat buffet. It also appeared to be an all you can drink buffet which initially sounded like a great idea. However it soon transpired that the white wine tasted largely of vinegar. This was literally the scrapings from the bottom of a not very good barrel. The beer was pretty bad as well, although it didn’t set off the gag reflex in the same way that the wine did. It was just tasteless carbonated brown water (much like the Lager we get in the UK).

Fortunately the buffet was somewhat better, and it was cheap as well so we couldn’t complain too much. Although it was all you can eat and you could go back for multiple servings I decided that it would be much more fun to see how much food I could fit on my plate in one go. This would prove to be a mistake, although I was able to come to the conclusion that salmon does not go particularly well with beef casserole. Especially if the beef casserole tastes like it came out of a tin (of dog food).

Having eaten far too much the two of us headed back to the room to try and get some sleep. All was going well until our drunk Finnish friend stumbled back into the room and 3am. He immediately crashed out on his bed fully clothed and preceded to talk loudly to himself for most of the night. Needless to say it wasn’t the best nights sleep, but it does make for a pretty good anecdote.

We arrived at Helsinki the next morning and began an unnecessarily long walk to the hostel. Instead of taking the most direct route to the hostel Google Maps decided that it would be more fun to walk around what appeared to be a large building site, (as I have mentioned before, much like the rest of Europe Helsinki is still under construction).

Eventually we got to the hostel which much to our surprise was located inside the Olympic Stadium. Apparently Finland hosted the summer Olympics in 1952 although I’ve never before heard anyone mention this so I’m not entirely convinced that it’s true.

We got to the hostel only to find that we could not check it until 4pm. Both of us where tired from the walk and the lack of sleep the night before and didn’t much fancy making the walk back into town. We therefore decided to just hang out in the reception area. Perhaps not the most fun thing you can do in Helsinki. To try and pass the time I decided to try I learn a few key Finnish phrases, although this proved to be largely a waste of time. I had wrongly assumed that Finnish would be largely the same as Swedish and Danish. How wrong I was. Finnish is full of double letters, which isn’t so bad with the vowels but they also do it with the consonants. The only word I managed to learn was “Kiitos” which means thank you.

On day two we took a stroll along the lake and headed into the City centre. Compared to Stockholm Helsinki is a fairly small City with a population of around 550,000 so we easily managed to walk around the whole thing in a day. On the way we took in the Cities two main Cathedrals, Uspenski and the imaginatively named Helsinki Cathedral.

Helsinki Cathedral

We also headed to one of the parks where we hoped we could find something to drink and have a sit down. The park however is on a hill and is situated next to the harbour meaning that the wind was extremely strong. Had we attempted to sit down I’m sure that we would have been blown into the see or frozen to death. Having had enough of the hurricane force winds we headed back into the City centre in search of coffee. In the afternoon we had to make a stop at H&M so I could buy some new socks. My current supply were smelling offensively bad and I suspected that I would soon be charged under the Geneva Convention with crimes against humanity.

In the evening we went to a traditional Finnish restaurant called Savotta which was in the style of an old loggers cabin. It was by no means the cheapest meal I have ever eaten, but Chris and I were in agreement that it was the best food so far. The starter was a platter of different meats, salad, cheese and pastries including a Wild Boar jelly, smoked Salmon and Bear Salami. For the main course the two of us settled on Reindeer Steak with smoked mashed potatoe and a cranberry sauce.

The following day we took a boat trip out to Suomenlinna, an inhabited former island fortress situated a couple of kilometres off the Finish coast. It was the Swedes who originally started to build on the island in 1748 under the command of Augustin Ehrensvärd. His grave can still be seen on Suomenlinna.

Grave of Augustin Ehrensvärd, complete with Greek Hoplite helmet (for some reason).

In 1808 the Island surrendered to Russia and was occupied until Finland gained its independence in 1917. It was not until 1973 that the garrison left the island, and in the 1990s it officially became a World Heritage Site. The island now plays host to several large Russian naval guns dating back to the Crimean War. We were pretty much free to walk wherever we wished on the island. This included walking through the barracks and former underground Munitions Depots, many of which were poorly lit and consequently far too scary to explore properly.

Russian Naval Gun, used primarily for blowing shit up.

Upon arriving back on the mainland Chris and I headed back to the City centre and found a sports bar where we hoped that the FA Cup Final would be shown. We got to the bar in time to see the last 30 minutes of Blackburn Rovers vs Manchester United. Although United got the result that they needed they did spend the last ten minutes of the match passing the ball between the back four which seemed like a pretty negative way to win your 19th league title. In the bar was a strong contingent of Finnish Manchester United fans all of whom seemed fairly pissed and were more content with singing and jumping around than they were watching the actual football match. Afterwards Chris and I sat down to watch a disappointing FA Cup Final. Manchester City’s success left me feeling somewhat bitter as we left the bar in search of something to eat.


Entry filed under: Finland. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Stockholm Berlin

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Berlin « hashtag.eurotour  |  23/05/2011 at 5:37 pm

    […] on the ferry from Helsinki back to Stockholm. Fortunately this time we did not have to put up with any drunk Finnish room mates which made the nights sleep a lot more […]

  • 2. Alan  |  26/05/2011 at 9:52 pm

    Helsinki looks interesting and I’m glad to hear you are sampling some of the local food. Wild Boar jelly, smoked Salmon and Bear Salami. Is that polar bear or a wee black beasti ?

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. Helsinki had been earlier given the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II. It is famous for being the Olympic Games at which the most number of world records were broken.
    The Olympic Flame was lit by two Finnish heroes, runners Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen.


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