I spent three weeks in Finland in July. I thoroughly explored Helsinki, sojourned at summer cottages on the water, traveled up north (where I saw reindeer), got a tan from the full days of strong northern sun, and discovered a deep, deep (deep, deep, deep…) love for Karelian rice pastries. Staying with my boyfriend and his family, I had the unique opportunity to see Helsinki and the surrounding area from a non-tourist perspective (although I did a lot of touristing as well #noshame).
Helsinki is just lovely. It’s beautiful, but not overwhelming. The whole city seemed to be on summer vacation, laying out in the numerous parks taking advantage of midnight sun days before the long winter returned. Helsinki has a fascinating history, and the architecture bears the mark of both Swedish and (more significantly) Russian rule. I won’t bore you with my extensive (relative to most Americans, I would guess), new knowledge of Finnish history courtesy of my boyfriend and the many museums we visited, but it was great to see the city and country in light of its past.
Above is the Helsinki Cathedral, one of the most popular sites in the city for visitors. It is the Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral and was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who was then the Grand Duke of Finland (which was a Grand Duchy of Russia for 108 years). In Finnish it is called Helsingin tuomiokirkko and the Swedish name is Helsingfors domkyrka. Why Swedish? Finnish was not written down until the late 16th century. Sweden had ruled Finland since the 13th century, and Swedish was the administrative language. Swedish-Finns made up much of the upper class for centuries, and to this day everything is in both Finnish and Swedish (even road signs), despite the fact that less than 6% of the country is native Swedish speaking (Finnish is the native language of 90% of the population).
And yes, I spotted those paddle boardings in the city…. [35mm taken with my 1999 Olympus 105G Superzoom. Click here for more pictures of Finland.]