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Helsinki and beyond!

The Russians are calling!




The first day in Helsinki we decided to go for and explore using our travel cards which we purchased from the hostel lobby. Smith had suggested that we looked into going to see a Ice Hockey game, so we set off for the arena where it's played in Helsinki, once arriving though the impressive arena was completely closed. We were getting the hang of the tram system so hopped back on one and headed for central. Once deeper into Helsinki we got to a square with the large white cathedral perched on top of probably the highest point of Helsinki. We couldn't have chosen a better day to see it, the weather was hot and there was some event taking place on the steps that led to the cathedral. At the time we were unaware to the nature of the event taking place, as it turned out it was for a children's charity in which people had knitted hundreds of patterned squares which would later be auctioned off. It set an impressive picture in the cathedrals square of all the multicoloured pieces of knit-work laid out over a set of easily 40 or more steps, with the elegant White cathedral behind with a blue sky backdrop. The cathedral was originally built like many buildings in Finland in a Neo-classical style by the Russians after the Finish War. The cathedral was a tribute to Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia. It was called St. Nicholas' Church until Finish independence in 1917. Later in the day we arrange our tickets between Helsinki and St. Petersburg the only bit of travel be hadn't arrange until Beijing before we left the U.K. Which fingers crossed will be ok, Russia after all being the biggest pain to sort out our visas for!


The following day we took a trip to Suomenlinna island and fortress. As I described in my previous blog this place is a world heritage site due to it's military and maritime history and many years of rule under three separate sovereign states (Swedish, Russian and Finn). It's building work therefore shares influence from all of these cultures and it's dry docks on the island are still in use. There are a mix of housing, small offices and a library on the island which is a 10 minute boat ride from the mainland. It's been under civilian administration only since the early seventies and even still has a naval marine academy on it. We luckily joined a guided tour that was in English which was great in helping us understand the history of the island. 


The weather unfortunately turned drizzly and stoped us from doing a great deal of sightseeing! We decided on our last day to go to Helsinki zoo, on arrival to our pleasure we found out the entry was free as the season had finished! Due to the weather being quite cool all of the animals were out and about. We had also arranged in the evening to go see an Ice Hockey game on tuesday evening which was exciting, I wasn't a hundred percent certain on the rules but the atmosphere was great and the home team which we were supporting, HIJK came back from two points behind to win!


(the cheerleaders proved distracting as they danced about in the seating area when play stopped during the game!)

We set off for Russia at 10am on the Wednesday, and after a pain free three and a half hour train ride, which included passport control, and the use of the first visa that was sorted in the U.K. The subway in St. Petersburg is very unique, building finished apparently in the 50's and it looks like it's stayed that way, it is very ornate, decorated with gold light fittings and marble flooring. The carriages of the train are dark and poorly painted but hold a certain charm and character, as well as filling you with a slight fear to keep you on your toes, even more so when you realise that the subway is one of the deepest in the world!

St. Petersburg is an amazing place but very unique, where most cities juggle a mix of old and new, where you can see different influences and periods in history in the architecture. St. Petersburg offers all but nothing in modern architecture, but a history lesson in buildings in neo-classical/baroque styles. After only a little while of searching we located the hostel which to our initial horror seemed to be in a building of very bad disrepair. A very old cage lift that was out of action, which regardless of our heavy bags didn't upset us too much due to it's condition! The stone staircase with tiled landings are uneven and the woodwork of the huge single glazed windows is rotten and stripped of paint. This we have come to realise is just the Russian ethos, like many of the buildings, the attitude seems to be only fix it when it's broken, which is also adopted with Their mechanics too!

its really starting to feel like we are experiencing something completly different from what we are used to, there is thousands of museums in St. Petersburg and there is lots to see of the history and culture, but I'll save that for the next blog!

Posted by Christian25 07:42 Archived in Finland Tagged travel finland russia

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