Madelyn Given at the Sibelius Sculpture, made in honor of the famous Finnish composer, in Sibelius Park in Finland.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Finland

After my travels to the Baltic States and Poland, I was excited to continue my journey to another Scandinavian country, Finland. I took a ferry from Tallinn, Estonia to Helsinki, Finland. The Baltic Sea is not deep, and yet it is a busy port crossing. It was a short day trip on a nine-story ferry.

One of the first things noticed after landing in Finland is that life is much more expensive here. The standard of living is good and very modern. They are proud of being coffee drinkers and the 600,000 people of Helsinki and 5 ½ million in Finland are also proud of their connection with Nokia. They do not seem concerned with Russia as a neighbor.

I stayed at a centrally located hotel near the grand central train terminal; my hotel was within walking distance of museums, restaurants, and trendy shopping centers.

Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki, Finland. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Kamppi Chapel, Helsinki, Finland.

From my hotel room, I could look down on a large unusual structure with no windows, trim, signage, or doors. It was round with a flat top, like a giant canister, except it was larger at the top than at the bottom. It was like the curiosity that got the cat; I needed to know what this was. I went down and walked outside the plaza surrounding the structure, but saw no signs, nor any sign of people near it. I finally came inside the hotel and asked at the desk. It is the Kamppi Chapel—with the entrance inside a passageway to an underground mall nearby. It is a place for meeting people and appreciating peace and quiet in the center of Helsinki. This simplistic chapel is 11.5 meters tall and made of three types of wood: the lightest colored wood is on the outside, coated with a special type of wax as a sealer and preservative. Inside there are a few wooden benches to sit. No services are performed here and no religious symbols are displayed.

I took a ferry to Suomdinna, an island fortress off Helsinki. Finland was once part of Sweden and this fortress was the largest in the entire Swedish realm. After the 1808-1809 war, it was controlled by Russia for 110 years. It is now a recreation area with parks, museum, and shops, with 850 remaining inhabitants still living there.

I toured Helsinki, going to the marketplace, the Art Nuevo section of the city, and the great and quite plain Lutheran Cathedral with 44 large wide steps up from the plaza. It was worth seeing Sibelius Park and the monument there, which is a stainless steel sculpture erected in honor of the Finnish composer, Sibelius.

The old Olympic Park still is in use for ice skating and track. Hockey is the number one sport for both men and women.

From my hotel, I took lots of short walks to nearby parks, to the Church on the Rock carved into bedrock, and to the Amos Anderson Museum. I was given a small book to solve the mystery at this museum, which is the mansion townhouse of the famous owner, Amos Anderson. There are five floors, and there are benches to sit and read throughout the entire building.  As I passed a numbered piece of art, I would study it to find a clue to help me solve the mystery, and at the end, the mystery was solved.

Each evening, our little group gathered for dinner. The last night was a farewell celebration, and then all would head their separate ways: back to Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, India, and Malaysia. I would sail on an overnight ferry to Sweden.

(posted February 7, 2016)