Finland – Helsinki

On our arrival in Finland, Jouko’s good volleyball friend from the ’60s, Aukki, whisked us away to their unique, artistic and creative home by the ocean.  We spent the first night with them (his wife Hanne is also a volley-ball player),  before continuing to the countryside for a few days of golf.

dsc_2209

Hanne’s sister is married to another volleyball player and all 3 men played together in the JOPO volley-ball team  and on the Finnish National Team. But it had been at least 40 yrs since we had seen this couple.  Here is a view of the course from their lovely cottage on the golf course at NORDCENTER,  about 55 miles from Helsinki.

dsc_2274

It was a wonderful reunion and while they all played, I…….blogged!

dsc_2243

dsc_2395

 

Hanne and her sister Eija, are also great golfers.

img_8583

The clubhouse makes for a great backdrop for a picture opportunity!

img_9072

In Helskinki, I found an Airbnb apartment on the same road where we had bought our first apartment and where Niklas was born – the bottom window on the extreme right’

The 2 rooms and bathroom were very comfortable.

It had been 39 yrs since we had moved away from Finland and we wanted to take time re-explore the city. The suburbs of EIRA and ULLANLINNA lie directly south of Downtown.

dsc_3786

The seafront with restaurants, boats and recreation areas was just a block away…

img_8933

……. and had developed so much since we lived there.

dsc_3639

Within easy walking distance of the main City Market area, harbor and the city center.

Along the way you might see someone washing their carpets!

dsc_3609

Kaivopuito, a beautiful park was just minutes away….

dsc_3831

…and from the top of the hill, one has this gorgeous panoramic view, looking south.

dsc_3839

Helsinki has so many beautiful buildings, all built around 1900.

img_9131

Some Art Nouveau and some almost palatial!

img_9238

As we wandered the streets, Jouko found his old High School, still in use (and as one person said, “still standing after all these years” 😀).

dsc_3884

There are only a few wooden structures still standing.

dsc_4391-1Not having a car, we bought a 2 week City Pass for trams, buses and some trains.It was a very efficient system.

dsc_3498

We wanted to get a coffee and doughnut in the Market Square – for old time’s sake – and also take a sight seeing tour of the harbor islands.

dsc_3899

Somehow it always tastes best outside.

The Finnish handpicked blueberries were at their best, along with an abundance of chanterelle mushrooms, other fruits, veggies and flowers.

dsc_3505

The busy port lies directly East of Downtown.  Large cruise ships are often seen docked as well as the daily ships running between Helskinki/Talinn and Helsinki/Stockholm.

dsc_3909

As we left the harbor we were not sure how the weather would co-operate, but it turned brighter and we enjoyed the views.

dsc_3914

Of course embassies are always found on prime real estate; here the US Embassy (both buildings; The Old and New).

dsc_3978

We wove in and out of the islands, some inhabited………

with cottages and the obligatory ………

dsc_3985

…… sauna down by the water.

Other homes were examples of the modern Finnish architecture.

dsc_3925

Suomenlinna, the fortress built in 1748 when Finland was still part of Sweden, lies to the right.

dsc_4128

As we returned to the harbor, the USPENSKI Eastern Orthodox Cathedral dominated the horizon along with the Ferris Wheel.

dsc_3583

Built during the reign of Emperor Alexander ll when Finland was a Grand Duchy of Russia, it was completed in 1868.  It remains the largest Orthodox church in western Europe.

dsc_3570

One can just see the priest, with his white robe, disappearing into the back.

dsc_3562

So interesting to see this style and design after the splendor and lavish richness of the churches in Italy.

dsc_3559

We were so fortunate to witness the christening of an infant.  The echoing chants were almost spell-binding.

dsc_4415

As we left the main harbor and cathedral behind us, we came to the Northern Bay, located Northeast of Downtown.

dsc_4399-1

Kruununhaka.

dsc_4420

Quite by accident we came across this building which was the secret recruiting office of the 1st Military Unit in 1915, 2 yrs before Finland’s Independence. One can still the holes left by mortar shells from both World Wars.

dsc_4291

I wanted to visit Kallio Kirkko (stone church) which sits high on a hill and is built entirely of grey granite, with strong influences of Art Nouveau.

dsc_4265

It was touching to see a mother explaining something to her young daughter.

Jouko and his former volley-ball mates have remained very close through the decades.  They have regular get-togethers and he has returned a number of times to join in one anniversary or another.

dsc_3708

The Matriarch of the group, Inkeri, is the wife of Jouko’s former volley-ball coach and a former player, herself.

She remains vibrant in her mid 80s and rides her bike everywhere – even putting it on the train to ride to her final destination.

dsc_3695

We attended an outdoor jazz concert with her, where her eldest son was playing base.

Over the two week period we met with a number of his closest friends.

dsc_3722
Sirpa & Oiva (unfortunately I did not get a picture of Oiva this time – sorry Oiva!).
img_9342
Cicero & Tuulikki

Jouko started playing with these guys when he was 16 yrs old – several years before I came on the scene!  Their team, JOPO, won two national league championships & both Oiva and Cicero played in the National Team.

img_2829-1
Here I am with Marjut.  As a child of about 10 yrs old, she would come every day; whether rain, sun or snow, to take Niklas out to play.  Later she visited us in England and a few years ago, we found each other on Face Book.  A remarkable woman.  We are standing in front of the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral, where Jouko & I were engaged.

dsc_3849

Aila and their son Jussi came for a one day’s visit.  After all, Helsinki was their childhood home.

dsc_4206

On another evening, while walking down to the seafront, we came across the filling and launching of these balloons.

dsc_4217

So colorful!

dsc_4261

Up, up and away!

Finlandia House Concert Hall

On an inland piece of water, is the famous Finlandia House, a beautiful, ultra modern concert hall.

dsc_4431

Also sharing the water are hotels, restaurants, water sports and…..

Opera House

the Opera House

img_9312

And perhaps the newest church to be built in the city is this unusual chapel, Kamppi Chapel, built in a modern square. It won the International Architecture award in 2010.

img_9307

It is known as the “chapel of silence” since it is intended to be a place where busy people can come for a quiet moment of reflection in one of the busiest places in Finland.

fullsizerender

(This is a photo of a postcard, to give an idea of the beautiful interior).  Lit only by the small windows around the roof, it is a wonderful example of modern Finnish architecture; using nature in it’s purest simplicity.

dsc_4387

There was one more place I wanted to visit “for old time’s sake”; SEURASAARI.

dsc_4305

It is a beautifully maintained outdoor museum on an island, not far from the heart of the City.

dsc_4358

We took a little picnic with us.

dsc_4318

Some young girls working in one of the cafes dressed in period costume.

dsc_4310

The picturesque church that is still in use.

dsc_4324

I just loved the primitive paintings and the colours.

dsc_4326

A group of young people were practicing for what sounded like a Christmas concert.

dsc_4383

There are a couple of beaches for those hardy enough to swim.  Not me!

dsc_4370

Across the bay one can see the City.

img_9370

dsc_4377

And so our two week stay came to an end.  During this time, wonderful memories were brought out, dusted off and remain shiny bright once again.

♦-♦-♦

Next:  Finland – Summer House

4 comments

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s