Friday, November 11, 2011

Further Trips and Sightseeing

I took a cruise to Helsinki a few weekends ago with a large group of fellow SLU exchange students. The price of the trip itself was only around $50 for 2 nights on the cruise ship. We left on a Friday afternoon and got back to Stockholm at 10am on Sunday. Apparently Finland is called "Suomi" in Finnish? How the heck did we (and other languages) get "Finland" out of that? Anyway...

We started off from a harbor in Stockholm (don't ask me which-there seem to be a lot of them) on a heading for Mariehamn, which is the capital of the Åland Islands. As far as I understand, they are self-governing but belong to Finland. Apparently the cruise ship we were on also served as a vehicle transport between Stockholm, Åland and Helsinki. Some of the students had to sleep on the bottom deck, which was actually under the deck where the cars were being held (needless to say, it was not the nicest place to sleep)! There were a few restaurants, clubs and pubs onboard, as well as a duty-free shop which most of us visited regularly; things seem a lot less expensive without the 25% sales tax!
The view on the boat was lovely. Unfortunately, it was hard to get a good daytime picture outside after the first day because it was raining so much on Saturday.

Most of that night consisted of hanging out in the hallways between our cabins and going to the karaoke bar upstairs. Apparently a storm was passing through that night because we noticed the boat rocking back and forth a lot. It was not conducive to a good night's sleep.

The next day saw us bright and early in the capital of Finland! I found a group of people and wandered into the city with the intention of finding breakfast. After a lot more wandering, we found the Karl Fazer cafe, which is apparently a brand of delicious Finnish chocolate!

I ordered delicious apple cake with vanilla sauce! It is my new favorite Scandinavian dessert.

I got this weird tea press thing, as well. The tea was also delicious!

After breakfast I set out to see more of the city. The first stop of the day was the cathedral located nearby:

We then proceeded to wander around a good portion of downtown Helsinki and found, among other things, a Finnish circus, a "Happy Jazz Club" and the National Museum of Finland. 

Finnish Circus

National Museum of Finland

National Museum of Finland

There was an open-air market about a half-mile or so from the ship. It sold everything from souvenirs to fresh fish and produce.

By the time I made my way back to the harbor, the boat was leaving in an hour and it was pouring rain. I did some quick shopping at the market in the downpour and then walked back to the boat, ending my time in Helsinki in favor of a hot shower and dry clothes. A lot of the students spent the return trip drinking and partying, but I wasn't feeling up to it and decided to read and go to bed early instead. It had been a long day, and 2 nights of karaoke bar just did not seem terribly appealing. Luckily, the ride back was pretty calm as far as the weather was concerned. Thus concluded my trip to Finland!

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