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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hello Helsinki

Well after my night on the boat I woke up, got ready and got off. Wai-san was nice enough to come pick me up at the harbor so I didn’t have to worry about navigating Helsinki to find her apartment.

I bought myself a 3 day travel card and we hopped on to the tram and within minutes we were walking up to her apartment. She has a nice apartment that is quite large in my opinion for a European apartment. However, she apparently has crazy neighbors and I was fortunate to encounter one of them at the coffee shop across the street that we went to once I dropped my bags off. But hey it keeps things interesting I guess.

Well once we had our breakfast and had some tea to energize ourselves I let Wai-san be my guide and she took me off to the rock church which wasn’t far from her apartment. It was actually a really cool church that was built into a giant rock and the interior was all rock and natural. We even got to go outside and climb on top of the rock so we were actually standing on top of the church. I personally found it very cool and very unique.

After enjoying our climb on the church we then wandered through the town some, had lunch, and made our way to the parliament square with another church (this is Europe, what do you expect). This church was also quite interesting as it was all white, enormous, and very simple. Quite a change from the very ornate churches I’m used to visiting.

From there my tour guide led me to yet another church (I can’t seem to actually stop visiting them despite what I say). This one too was quite interesting as it was an orthodox church and the largest one in Western Europe apparently. We looked around there some and then made our way to the harbor market. Unfortunately by this time we were a little too late so most of the booths were shut. We then walked down the esplanade which is a gorgeous green sprawl in the city center with shops all around. We took our time and browsed through some of the shops and eventually made our way to Fazer café to sit down with some more tea and some yummy cake. They had a chocolate tea that we tried but neither of us could really taste the chocolate, oh well.

After the tea we headed out for a nearby park which was also on the coast. It offered great views of the sea and also was filled with ice age rock formations which was pretty cool when you got to thinking about how old these rock formations actually are. We hung out there for a while before finally making our way home.

Once we got home Juha, Wai-san’s finance (who’s Finnish), was home and so I finally got to meet him. We then freshened up a bit and all three headed out to dinner. My tour guide and Juha took me to a Finnish restaurant so I could try some Finnish food and I have to say I did enjoy my meal. I had a type of meat ball with potatoes so nothing too exotic. Juha however did order the Elk and let me taste it, which I did, so I can now say that I at least tasted Elk. We had a nice dinner and it was great just getting to hang out with an old friend and getting to meet Juha.

After dinner Wai-san and I went to see the movie Madagascar, which we bought the tickets for before dinner so we could get good seats b/c apparently in Finland as in Norway you have assigned seats in the movie theaters. The movie was hilarious and I absolutely loved it.

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful day. Since we had such lovely weather we decided to take advantage and do everything outside that we wanted to do. We started off by going back to the Harbor market where we browsed through all the booths. I wound up purchasing a winter hat for myself as did Wai-san. Content with our purchases we hopped on a bus and headed out for Seurasaari, a small island just off the coast which houses an open air museum on Finland’s history. We walked around there for a while were we were able to view and enter old buildings from throughout Finnish history. We came across some overfriendly squirrels which really wanted food. I had some peanuts on me and we fed them and enjoyed watching them. However, while we were preparing to leave and checking the map one last time, one of those “friendly” squirrels decided to come up and attack Wai-san and climb up her leg. We both freaked out and started walking away very quickly; however, the crazy little squirrel followed us for quite some time. We were eventually able to get rid of the squirrel and hopped on the bus and headed back to town.

We grabbed some food and then hopped on a boat which took us out to Suomelinna, a large sea fortress island just off the coast. We walked around the island for a while throughout the fortress and I finally had my chance to touch the Baltic.

By this time we were pooped so we headed back home. After resting for a while we left Juha at home to work on the kitchen and Wai-san and I went out for dinner. After dinner we then met up with Juha at a nearby Czech bar/lounge. We hung out there for the evening and had a good time.

The next morning we woke up to not such great weather and were happy to have taken advantage of the great day before. We woke up late so we just got ready and went straight to lunch. After lunch we then met up with some of Wai-san’s friends which was fun since I got to meet them all.

After hanging out with them for a while Wai-san and I headed out and first went to a hotel that has a bar on top that offers a great view of the city. Since the bar is way too expensive we simply walked around and enjoyed the view and then went back down. We then headed over to the design center where I was able to get a taste of Finnish design as well as have a nice piece of cake.

Once we were finished there we then headed over to the national museum of Finland and immersed ourselves in 2,000 years of Finnish history. There I got to see the first ever snow ski, did you know you could see the first ski ever in Helsinki? I certainly didn’t, but now I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Wai-san and I had such a great time learning about Finnish history that we lost track of time and before we knew it the museum was closing and we were forced to do a run through, and I’m serious when I say run, the last floor. Perhaps there was a language misunderstanding, but the woman told us we had 5 minutes to see the last floor and that once it was 8 the doors would close automatically thus locking us in the basement (that was the last floor). Terrified at that thought, Wai-san and I literally ran through the exhibit but still managed to see some interesting things.

By the time we left the museum the weather had turned much worse and it was now raining, not sure where to eat but not wanting to walk around too much we managed to find a restaurant fairly quickly. Once we had finished Juha came and met up with us and thankfully by this time the rain had stopped. The three of us then headed off for the Finlandia Ice bar. This was very cool b/c it was just like the Absolut Ice bar in Stockholm that I wasn’t able to visit because I was sick and alone. So this was great this time that I’d have Wai-san and Juha with me.

We went to the Ice bar, put on the parkas and gloves they provided us with and entered the ice room. All the walls, tables, and the bar were made of solid ice. We stayed in there long enough to have one drink and take lots of pictures. However, we did start getting cold, at least my feet did, so we left. Tempted to stay longer but since I had to get up early for my boat the next day and Juha had to go to work we decided to call it a night and just go home.

This would basically be the end to my stay in Helsinki since the next morning I boarded an early boat to Tallinn, Estonia. More on the end of my trip in a few days.


Anonymous said...

YAY!!! i made it to your blog. what a warm and fuzzy feeling. hope you had a good time at your work party. wai-san

Mom said...

How wonderful that you have such good friends wherever you go!!!

Thank you wai-san...come see us in Texas anytime.