I’m sure you guys are so ready to read about a country other than Iceland by now.
To tell you the truth, we were actually going to stay in Helsinki for two days before flying to Lapland, but upon arriving in Finland, our driver told us that we can actually take a cruise to Tallinn, Estonia for less than than 20 Euros. We thought why not? It is a completely new country! Hence, we visited two new countries in two days!
Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital, sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. The city’s urban area has a population of 1,268,296, making it by far the most populous urban area in Finland as well as the country’s most important center for politics, education, finance, culture, and research. Helsinki is located 80 kilometres North of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 km East of Stockholm, Sweden and 390 km West of Saint Petersburg, Russia. It has close historical ties with these three cities.
(PS, I really wanted to take a cruise to Russia as well, but we didn’t have the time! Perhaps in the near future….)
Completed in 1868 in the Katajanokka district of Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. With its golden cupolas and redbrick facade, the church is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on Finnish history.
The Cathedral, by Carl Ludvig Engel, rising on the northern side of the Senate Square is the stage of national and academic festive services and one of the most popular tourist sights. The church is part of Helsinki’s Empire era centre and a landmark for those arriving by sea. It has become the symbol of the whole of Helsinki. Earlier called St. Nicholas Church and Great Cathedral, the current main church of the Helsinki Diocese was completed in 1852. Sculptures of the twelve apostles guard the city from the roof of the church.
We had lunch at a local Finnish restaurant called Savotta Restaurant. Savotta offers genuine Finnish food and atmosphere, just off the Senate Square in the heart of Helsinki. The name Savotta means a logging site.Therefore the interior decoration and dishes has got inspiration of the Finnish forests and thousands of lakes, with a dash of Finnish nostalgy from the past decades and logging traditions. Savotta’s kitchen cherishes the Finnish food tradition. We use only Finnish ingredients from the pristine forests and lakes and from carefully selected small suppliers.
In the decor of Savotta, you can see the genuine old artefacts dating back to Finnish homes and logging sites from the old days. Downstairs dining room’s hundred-year-old floor planks, as well as the old chairs and tables, have been found and brought to Savotta from all over Finland. The tableware includes old and new china of the world-renowned Finnish Arabia including of course Moomin mugs.
A two-hour plus cruise from Helsinki, Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. There are so many cruise companies that travel between Helsinki and Tallinn. You can choose between spending the day there and going back to Helsinki in the evening, or a few days there.
We spent the day exploring the old town and city centre. Did you know Tallinn is considered one of the best preserved medieval city of Northern Europe? With all the Gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture, I can see why.
Once a home to wealthy merchants settling from Germany, Denmark and beyond, Tallinn Old Town today is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, with restaurants, bars, museums and galleries bringing much life to this historical city centre.
Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Tallinn has managed to wholly preserve its structure of medieval and Hanseatic origin. Due to its exceptionally intact 13th century city plan, the Old Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, joining the ranks of the world’s most recognised landmarks. Here you’ll find original cobblestone streets dotted with medieval churches and grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses many of which date back to the Middle Ages.
It just so happened that the day we visited Tallinn, 24th February, it was a public holiday. That’s because the Republic of Estonia was celebrating 101 years of freedom. We saw soldiers and army tanks passing through. It was a grand sight!
With medieval churches nestled between modern highrises, Tallinn’s city centre is a place of fascinating contrasts. The area boasts a number of major landmarks, which are conveniently located a short stroll away from each other.
The quarters filled with glass-walled skyscrapers in the very centre of Tallinn are often playfully called Manhatten, though formally the name was Maakri – the name of one of the streets.
Maakri street is the home of some excellent cafes and it is a well-known area for the best furnishing shops in the city. Otherwise, this street is mainly dominated by banks, media houses and offices.
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Till next time….