Friday, August 1, 2014

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is across the bay of Finland from Tallinn, Estonia; the first stop of our cruise.  Tallinn is a capital city full of history and graced with countless historic buildings.  Helsinki is a capital city of a different type.

Helsinki does have a long history, having been settled in the mid 1500's by Sweden as a port to compete with Tallinn.  However, wars, poverty and disease combined to keep the town from living up to that dream.

In 1809 Finland became part of Imperial Russia and the capital of Finland was moved to Helsinki.  It was only then that Helsinki started to become more than a backwater small town.

Imperial Russia constructed buildings that were true to the Russian style in Helsinki.

These very neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies, when filming in the USSR was not possible. Two of the more notable movies are , Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983).

Uspenski Cathedral, constructed when Finland was part of Russia,  was finished in 1868 and is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe.  Its architecture is a combination of both Eastern and Western influences.

Temppeliaukio Church, also known more commonly as the Church of the Rock, is a much more modern church also to be found in Helsinki.  The plans for the church  were drawn up in the 1920's .  However, it was not "constructed" until the 1960's due to economic conditions and WWII.  The church that was literally blasted out of the native bedrock and built into the hillside.  It is an awe inspiring sight.

Helsinki hosted the Olympics in 1952. It had originally been selected to host the 1940 Summer Olympics.  However, they were cancelled due to World War II.  To the right is a shot of Helsinki's Olympic stadium.

It has an Opera House, a Concert Hall, two symphony orchestras, an arts and music festival, and many other musical venues.

 A stainless steel monument monument, dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, also serves to highlight Finland's musical heritage.

The city abounds in cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops that cater to the many cruise ships that have a port of call here.

Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, occurring late relative to the rest of Europe, tripled the population in the metropolitan area.  


The resulting building boom has created a capital city that has much more of a modern, urban, functional feeling.  It often leaves the city, at least in my opinion, feeling distant, dehumanized and temporary.

It was quite a juxtaposition from all we had seen in St. Petersburg. 


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