Day 6 – The EAGLE approaching the Finnish
While the majority of the group took their time to sleep in after the pub crawl, I took the chance to hop on a ferry to Helsinki. The capital of Finland is just 80km away from Tallinn and several huge ferries go up and down there every single day, even if the Baltic Sea is frozen. During winters, they act as first class ice breakers. Luckily, this wasn’t necessary: the weather was sunny and the sea was flat. The ferry turned out to be a floating city with a tax-free shopping street, several restaurants and even a casino. Thus, enough to explore during the 2.5h trip to Helsinki. There was even a little sandbox for cats and dogs. Approaching my destination, the ferry had to cross the archipelago of Helsinki. We sailed along the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress which was shaped by three historic eras when it helped to defend first Sweden, then Russia and ultimately Finland.
After disembarking, I walked along the harbor and found a lovely small market with fresh fruit, local cuisine and Finnish wood handcraft. I continued my walk to the Senate Square where I first saw the impressive Helsinki Cathedral. Here, I got on a sightseeing bus to get a good overview of the capital and hear more about its history.
Finns speak Finnish. It makes sense then that the official language of Finland is Finnish, but it is also Swedish. The Swedish minority, which only accounts for 6% of the country’s population, enjoys ethnic autonomy. That’s why Helsinki has bilingual signs on streets.
Another fun fact: Finland’s education is one of the best in the world, although Finnish children start school at seven years old and school attendance is only compulsory for nine years. Furthermore, Finland has kept school hours short, homework minimal, and standardized testing non-existent for its students. They follow the phrase ‘less is more’ and seem to succeed to activate and engage children.
Walking back to the harbor, I saw an epic vintage tram consisting of a motor car from 1909 and an open summer trailer from 1919 which reminded me of San Francisco. I decided spontaneously to take a ride in the epic summer trailer and enjoyed another tour through the old city. However, this time we went through smaller streets the bus couldn’t take. In front of the Finnish National Theatre I saw hundreds of old-timers, which gave a nice picture.
Finland is mainly a nature paradise destination, which is why I also wanted to go on a boat trip through the Helsinki archipelago. Finland is often called the land of a hundred thousand lakes and islands: this archipelago already consists of more than 300 islands. It was very interesting to see all these summerhouses and saunas near the waterline. As you might know, saunas are a quinte essential part of Finnish culture. The only island that is not public is Santahamina, which is a military base and houses the Finnish National Defence University.
Back on land I had plenty of time left to go on another walk through the city and chill in the park. Then it was time to hop on the ferry again back to Tallinn where I enjoyed live music in the ferry’s club.
Lisa en Jeffrey