Friday, April 3, 2015

FINLAND AND ESTONIA


One of our main goals for visiting Finland was to see at least one Aurora Borealis. So we decided to stay 3 nights in Lapland. We would had three chances for seeing Northern Lights, which are not many taking into account that there may be bad weather and the chance to see an Aurora Borealis in Rovaniemi is 50%.

We did not go further north because logistically it is a bit complicated. Rovaniemi is easily reached by train and the probability of seeing an Aurora Borealis was not low. If we had wanted to go north, we should have gone by bus and travelling in Lapland is quite lengthen due to the speed limits in winter.

Another objective was to visit a Nordic country, because until now we had traveled extensively to the countries of the Mediterranean. Also, as we were going to Finland, we wanted to visit Helsinki (including Suomenlinna Fortress) and Tallinn in Estonia (2 hours by ferry from Helsinki).

Finally we add two days to visit Rauma, whose old town is World Heritage by UNESCO, and Turku, the former capital of Finland. So we were going to spend 10 days and 9 nights.


To get and move around Finland these are the means of transport we used:

  • Flights with Norwegian Airline from Barcelona to Helsinki (lasting 4 hours). Cost 200€.
  • Helsinki to Tampere train (www.vr.fi) Cost 20 €
  • Tampere to Rovaniemi in vr.fi train (€ 105 per person in a sleeping compartment of two people). You can reserve one or choose double single bed. If single bed is chosen, the two people are the same sex.




We rented a car in Tampere with Europcar company after visiting Lapland. We only hired a car for two days for the route: Tampere - Beach Yyteri (Pori) - Rauma - Turku- Helsinki.



It was not cheap because it cost 320€ (charging the winter kit and the supplement for one way). As we were three people, we realized that it wasn't so expensive not only for the time saved (this route is not feasible in two days with public transport), but also because this route by public transport would have cost about the same.



The Hotels were:

  • Helsinki: Hellsten Parliament (near the train station).
  • Train Tampere-Rovaniemi.
  • Rovaniemi: Chalet Rovaniemi (Ounasvaara Pirtit).
  • Train Rovaniemi-Tampere.
  • Turku: Ensitila.
  • Helsinki: Hellsten Senate (near the center and the ferry Station of Kauppatori).




The first two days we took the hotel beside the parliament because it was near the train station. We would catch the train the day after of our arrival to go to Rovaniemi in Lapland by a scale of about five hours in Tampere. It was a pity that this hotel was a bit far from downtown. For the last two days we took the hotel relatively close to downtown and Kauppatori for going to Suomenlinna and Tallinn.



The problem was that the company we went to Tallinn with departed from another terminal on the other side of the city (I thought that all the companies would depart from Kauppatori and not just some).



This was our trip route in Finland and Estonia:



Day 1 - Helsinki
  • Aleksanterinkatu Street
  • Senaatintori
  • Lutheran Cathedral
  • Esplanadi Park
  • Kappeli Cafe


Day 2 - Helsinki and Tampere
  • Sibelius Monument
  • Olympic Stadium


Day 3 - Lapland


Day 4 - Lapland
  • Country Cross Ski in Ounasvaara Ski resort


Day 5 - Lapland
  • Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
  • Searching for Northern Ligths (Aurora Borealis)


Day 6 - Lapland
  • Rovaniemi
  • Arkikum Museum


Day 7 - Rauma
  • Yyteri Beach
  • Rauma


Day 8 - Turku and Helsinki
  • Castle and Cathedral of Turku
  • Senaatintori and Kauppatori (Senate Square and Market Square) in Helsinki
  • Suomenlinna (Sveavorg) in Helsinki



  • Saint Olav Church. Views from the bell-tower
  • Pikk Street
  • Tower's Square


  • Town walls, Tower's Square and Viru Gate
  • Aleksander Nevski Cathedral
  • Saint Mary Cathedral
  • Kohtu and Patkuli Platform
  • Saint Nicholas Church
  • Town Hall and Town Hall's Square


  • Olde Hansa Restaurant
  • Saint Catherine Passage


    Day 10 - Helsinki



    • Buying souvenirs near Senaatintori (Senate Square)


    Helsinki is a rather small city. What is large is its metropolitan area. So the center of Helsinki can be seen quietly in a day, and even, in one morning. However I think that it's essential to visit the Suomenlinna Fortress on an island only a few kilometers from Helsinki and easily accessible by ferry. From the pier of Suomenlinna you can see actually the Lutheran cathedral of Helsinki. The ticket of the ferry is cheap because it cost the same than a bus ticket. It takes about half an hour and the ferrys depart quite often. Therefore, visiting Helsinki would take 1 or 2 days depending on the time available. One day, with some haste. Two days, relaxed.



    Day 1 - Helsinki



    We were actually in Helsinki 4 half days. We did not wake up and go to bed in Helsinki the same day. We were the afternoon we arrived, the next morning, the afternoon before leaving and the morning we left. So we visited the city at times. Unfortunately, the first two days the weather was bad, rainy and cold, so we visited some places but we didn't enjoy them.

    I revisited the downtown places the last two days because they were close to our second hotel (near the Orthodox Cathedral). In the first two days in Helsinki, my best memory is the afternoon we spent at the beautifully decorated Cafe Kappeli in the Esplanadi Park near Kauppatori, with live music and a hot cappuchino coffee.


    Senaatintori in Helsinki
    Shops and Cafes beside Senaatintori in Helsinki



    Senaatintori (Senate Square) in Helsinki
    Senaatintori (Senate Square) in Helsinki. This square and its surroundings are an example of Neoclassical architecture.




    Cafe Kappeli in Helsinki
    Cafe Kappeli in Helsinki is located beside Esplanadi Park and near Kauppatori (Market Square)




    Day 2 - Helsinki and Tampere




    The second day we walk through the park of the monument to Sibelius and around the Olympic Stadium, a remote area of the city. It was a weekday and it was raining so this area was quite lonely. We took this tour because it was not far from our first hotel in Helsinki, located near the Parliament (whose building seemed unattractive).






    Sibelius Monument in Helsinki
    Sibelius Monument in Helsinki


    Tampere in Finland
    Tampere in Finland




    Day 3 - Lapland


    Santa Claus Village




    Santa Claus Village in Finland
    Santa Claus Village is seven kilometers away from Rovaniemi, the largest city in Lapland


     Reindeer Sleigh in Santa Claus Village
    Reindeer Sleigh in Santa Claus Village


    Husky puppy in Lapland
    Husky puppy in Lapland



    Ounasvaara Resort



    Cottage in Lapland
    Our cottage in Ounasvaara Resort (Chalet Fovaniemi) in Lapland



     Cottages in Lapland
    More cottages in Lapland


    Kemijoki river in Lapland
    Kemijoki River frozen near Ounasvaara Resort in Lapland





    Searching for Northern Ligths (Aurora Borealis)



    Searching for Northern Lights in Lapland
    Searching for Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) in Lapland. Unfortunately we weren't lucky because we didn't see any impressive Aurora Borealis



    Day 4 - Lapland



    Country Cross Ski in Lapland
    Country Cross Ski in Ounasvaara Ski resort



    Day 5 - Lapland



    Snowshoes in Lapland
    Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski resort in Lapland




    Day 6 - Lapland


    Arkikum Museum in Rovaniemi



    Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi
    Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland




    Day 7 - Rauma


    Yyteri Beach




    Yyteri beach near Pori in Finland
    Yyteri beach near Pori in Finland


    Yyteri in Finland
    Typical Finnish landscape beside Yyteri beach


    Rauma



    Rauma in Finland
    Colorful houses in Rauma


    Rauma in Finland
    The old town of Rauma, Vanha Rauma, with its wooden houses, Vahna Rauma, is World Heritage by UNESCO


    Rauma in Finland
    Wooden bridge in Rauma



    Day 8 - Turku and Helsinki




    Castle of Turku in Finland
    Castle of Turku in Finland, one of the most important places in the history of Finland



    Cathedral of Turku in Finland
    Cathedral of Turku in Finland



    Cathedral of Turku in Finland
    The Cathedral of Turku is considered to be the most important religious building in Finland. The cathedral is situated in the heart of Turku next to the Old Great Square, by the river Aura


    We returned to Helsinki after our Finland route the day before coming back to Barcelona. We arrived to Helsinki at 2 pm and after having lunch I visited again the Senate Square and Kauppatori (this time the afternoon was sunny) before going to Suomenlinna.


    We left the rental car in the Europcar Office and the luggage in the hotel. As the afternoon was lovely I went to revisit the places we visited under the rain some days ago. I began by Senate Square, large and stately, is limited by neoclassical buildings and the imposing Lutheran Cathedral. This elegant square has a Soviet look of Tsarist times, similar to the buildings and places I saw in St. Petersburg a few years ago. 




     Senate Square in Helsinki
    The Senate Square is dominated by four buildings designed by Carl Ludvig Engel between 1822 and 1852: Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the main building of the University of Helsinki and the National Library of Finland.




    Then I went to Kauppatori, the market square, just a few meters away. This large square is bounded on the south by the Baltic Sea and on the North by several elegant buildings. Among them is the Palace of the Prime Minister of Finland and the City Hall.

    In addition, at one corner of the square, near the Presidential Palace is the Orthodox Cathedral, built in the same style like the ones of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Seeing these buildings I realized that Finland is a very young country (it became independent from Russia in 1918) and it has a very clear Russian past. Helsinki was founded actually by Russia to compete commercially with neighboring Tallinn, taking the capital that had historically held the city of Turku. While I was waiting for the ferry departure to Suomenlinna I amused myself taking some pictures to these buildings and enjoying the nice afternoon.



    Kauppatori or Market Square in Helsinki
    Kauppatori or Market Square in Helsinki. On the right you can see the Palace of the Prime Minister of Finland



    Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki
    Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki


    Kauppatori or Market Square in Helsinki
    From Kauppatori or Market Square in Helsinki leaves the ferry to Suomenlinna



    The ferry ride from Helsinki to Suomenlinna was very pleasant in spite of the cold air of the Baltic Sea. The views of Helsinki with its referent, the Lutheran Cathedral, from the ferry were nice. I got Suomenlinna a little before 7 pm and I wanted to catch the ferry back leaving at 8pm because the next was at 20:45, too late. I only had about an hour, just to go to the Kingsgate (a kilometer and a half away) and back almost without stopping.



    Helsinki in Finland
    Sunset in Helsinki


    Suomenlinna in Helsinki
    Suomenlinna (Sveavorg) in Helsinki near the King's Gate. My walk of almost 2 km in this fortress ended here



    Day 9 - Tallinn in Estonia



    As the ferry left at 7:30am and we had to be half an hour before, we had to get a taxi at 6:30 am to get the terminal on time. As there was no traffic, the taxi wasn't expensive at all, about 12 €, and in just 15 minutes we were at the ferry terminal.

    For going to Tallinn from Helsinki we saw in Internet an agency with which the tickets were well priced. Looking directly into the company Tallink Silja (the one which adapted to the day and time we wanted: 7:30 16:30 round trip) cost € 40 each way. Online (without the right to change or cancellation) cost us € 54 back and forth with the same company. The departure and arrival terminals were:

    • Helsinki: West Terminal.
    • Tallinn: D-Terminal.


    In one day, even in a long morning, you can see perfectly the Old Town of Tallinn. We arrived at 9:30 to the ferry terminal and at 10am we were wandering around its cobbled streets. About 1:30pm we had lunch in the Olde Hansa restaurant and then we walked quietly through the Town Hall Square. At 15:30 we went to the ferry terminal.

    The ferries are very full, especially at certain times, because the Finns are going to Estonia to purchase or consume alcoholic drinks. In Finland alcohol is expensive. A can of beer cost about 2 €, whereas in Estonia alcohol taxes are much lower. So it's worth doing a return trip if you buy much alcohol or to get drunk. In fact, many people had folding trucks to transport boxes of bottles or cans.

    Tallinn's Old Town is lovely and transports you to a past time. The day was sunny, which enhanced the beauty of its streets and buildings. Ther is a mix of architectural styles in the construction of religious buildings: Protestant churches, a Catholic cathedral and another Orthodox Cathedral. The place I liked most was the Town Hall Square, wide, pedestrian, delimited with two-story buildings and the City Council as the most prominent building. The atmosphere in the square was festive and lively, with many tourists (it was weekend and the day was splendid with a very pleasant temperature for early April).

    I liked the viewpoints too. There are two located in the upper part of the old town. From one of them, yo can see better the downtown area surrounding the Town Hall Square. From the other, a magnificent view of the city walls and the Baltic Sea is obtained. In addition we climbed the bell tower of the Church of St. Olav to get a first overview of the city.

    And the walls are impressive. Very well preserved, with its towers finished in red cones perfectly visible from the viewpoints of the city.




    Tallin in Estonia
    Bell tower of Saint Olav church in Tallinn



    Tallin in Estonia
    Tallinn in Estonia from the bell tower of Saint Olav church


    City walls of Tallinn
    Tower of the city walls of Tallinn


    City walls of Tallinn
    City walls of Tallinn


    Orthodox Church in Tallinn
    Orthodox Church in Tallinn


    Saint Catherine passage in Tallinn
    Saint Catherine passage in Tallinn is a lovely and quiet street


    Town Hall in Tallinn
    Town Hall's Square in Tallinn


    Town Hall Square in Tallinn
    Town Hall's Square in Tallinn


    In the blog www.elrincondesele.com I found very interesting information about the sites to visit in Tallinn and, above all, a restaurant to have lunch. The restaurant is called Olde Hansa and is absolutely medieval. The restaurant building, located in the old city center and near the Town Hall Square, is like a medieval 3-storey house with a gabled roof. Next to the front door, a cart to give the medieval appearance.

    Leaving the restaurant to the Town Hall Square we discovered even a souvenir shop associated with the restaurant. Besides in the surroundings of the restaurant there is a nice girl dressed in a medieval style you can take a picture with and gives you an ancient coin as souvenir.



    Restaurant Olde Hansa in Tallinn
    Olde Hansa Restaurant in Tallin where we enjoyed a succulent meal and a medieval experience



    The ferry terminal is relatively close to the old town, and after a nice walk of 20 minutes under a lovely day we arrived easily to the Old Town of Tallinn. You can't get lost. Just follow the stream of people.


    Day 10 - Helsinki


    During the last day in Helsinki barely we had time to buy some souvenirs in a shop we saw the day before near the Senate Square. It was a nice last-minute in Helsinki. The morning was lovely. We took the tram in a stop next to our apartment and in 15 minutes we were looking souvenirs. Before returning, we took us the last pictures in the Senate Square with Lutheran Cathedral in the background.

    The flight was at 1pm o'clock. So we had to take a taxi to the airport approximately at 11am. It took us half an hour to get the airport and it cost about 50 €, but with any other combination of public transport we would have taken one hour and a half.



    Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki
    Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki is the most important building of Senaatintori (Senate Square) and a reference of the city


    Finally, other countries and cities I have already visited are:

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