"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Hello Helsinki!

When our boat arrived in Helsinki we were so happy to be greeted by our friend Nina.We met Nina and her family back in the fall when they were also living in Heidelberg for a short time. We always said that it would be fun to go visit them at their home in Helsinki, and a few months later here we were!

Nina is, uh, a bit camera shy.

Nina was gracious enough to show us around Helsinki. Here are Nina and her son Maarti in Senate Square with their 'Finnish smiles.'

The Father, Penelope, Maarti and I below the Helsinki Cathedral donning our 'American smiles.'

Nina invited us over to their apartment for dinner one night. She cooked a mean reindeer.
Juha, Maarti's dad, took Penelope out to play with Maarti and the neighbor girl while the other womenfolk worked on dinner.

Penelope loved playing with the big kids.

Hold on tight!

After dinner we got to use their sauna. Most houses and apartment buildings in Finland have their own saunas. Some are fancy and some are more rustic, but either way saunas are an important part of Finnish culture. The big difference between saunas in Finland and the ones I have been in in the U.S. is that you do it in the buff. But knowing our bath experience in Baden-Baden, you're probably guessing that this wasn't a big deal for us!

For two of the days Penelope and I were on our own while the Father had some work to do at the University in Helsinki. One day was cold, ugly and rainy, so we pretty much hung around the hotel. (Blah. Not so fun.) The other day was nice and sunny, so we ventured out to the zoo. What a better way to entertain a toddler (and yourself) in a foreign country than a trip to a zoo?

The Helsinki Zoo is actually on its own island. You have to take a little boat to get there.

I liked how the natural landscape of the island was used to make the animal enclosures, and the views were great from the island. Sometimes it didn't even feel like you were at a zoo.

Why hello there, little fishy.

High five!

I also learned about some native Finnish wildlife, like the brown bear, which is Finland's national animal. Apparently there is a large tourism industry in Finland built around brown bear watching excursions. No thank you. Penelope and I would rather watch them from here.

This was a bit too close for comfort for little P.

I also learned that there are tons of reindeer in Finland. Reindeer are herded with snowmobiles and raised for their meat, which is turned into all sorts of delicacies.  They even pull sleds. No wonder Finns swear Santa Claus lives in Finland! Here is Rudolph snoozing the day away.

Look! A crocodile.

Oh my! What big teeth you have.

Next to dogs, Penelope's favorite animals are birds. We saw lots of birghtly colored birds.

This female peacock wasn't too happy about something and chased Penelope away. 

So Penelope went after her with a fistful of pebbles. (Her dad must have taught her that.)

This is one of the original animal cages from when the zoo first opened over 100 years ago. It looked like it was straight out of a scene of Lost.

The last day in Helsinki was another cold, rainy day, but we decided to tough it out and take a ferry to Suomenlinna Sveaborg.

It's a sea fortress built on several islands back in the mid-18th century. Over 800 people also live there permanently. You can walk around the network of the fortress' walls, ramparts and buildlings. Today the Naval Academy is situated there, and there is an 'open' prison on the island.

And with that our trip to Scandinavia came to an end. We felt so fortunate to have friends in both Sweden and Finland to show us around and give us a true taste of Swedish and Finnish culture. There is no better way to travel!

No comments:

Post a Comment