Helsinki: the city of moomins
January 1, 1970
In Finland I had the time of my life. After a 5-hour flight from Romania, this wonderful country proceeded to show me every side of a Nordic region. What puzzled me at first, were the people. Tattooed from head-to-toe, with state-of-the-art hairstyles and with their expensive clothes, they were really impressive works of art. Then, the general wellbeing, the complex yet classy architecture, the apparently national sport-skateboarding. These first impressions created a whole that made me want to explore more, and to find out every detail of this bizarre country. Of course, wandering through the streets of Helnsinki with the aim of enlarging my culture was no easy-job, since I had to search for information and places to see, but I am going to ease your trip by making a short and condensed list of these places, as well as a brief description of each.
Here are the most important and most beautiful touristic points to consider:
• Uspenski Cathedral
• Helsinki Cathedral
• Temppeliaukio Church
• Market Square
• Finnair Skywheel
• Natural History Museum
• The ice breakers
• Keskuspuisto/ Central Park
• Design Museum Arabia
• Stockmann and Kamppi Shopping Centre
• Suomenlinna Island
It’s a huge Christian church built by Russians on the top of a hill, in order to show their power over the Finnish. It is visible from everywhere in Helsinki, and it provides a great diversity to this beautiful city, since its design is far more different than the other’s buildings. The golden detailing and the brick-red color of this building make a perfect match, so the general impression is a powerful one. It is sure you will remember this Cathedral for a long time, especially if you get to see the interior, which offers the visitors an unforgettable experience with its huge height.
This church is obviously less impressive than Uspenski Cathedral; however, it still remains the symbol of Helsinki, making it a must-visit attraction. It differs from the previous one mainly with its colors-which are white and blue, the colors of the Finnish flag, and with the interior design, that is specific for Catholic churches.
I promise this is the last Church I will talk about, but it surely is not the least beautiful. It is a recent construction, being built in 1969, quarried out of the natural bedrock. Its designers are Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, who made an ingenious place for prayer, and, surprisingly, for concerts. It is so unique because of its rooftop. Not only does it allow the sun to lighten the interior, reducing, this way, the need for electricity, but it is decorated with a huge hand-made spiral made out of copper. They must have spent decades working on that design!
Market Square and the Finnair Skywheel
I have discovered these places simply by chance. They are very close to Uspenski Cathedral, and I was extremely hungry when I finished photographing the church. I decided to try something new, such as reindeer hot-dog, and the Market Square seemed to have such food. What is actually interesting about this place are the birds. Unless I talk about these birds, the Market Square does not represent anything more than just a place to buy some food and souvenirs from. As I decided to try my new kind of meat, I simply see lots of birds coming from above and stealing fish and French fries from other people. I was laughing so hard until one of them began stealing MY French fries as well. But that would have been quite normal-then they began actually attacking me. I must say I got a bit scared…finally I left the food area in a hurry not to ever be attacked by birds again. They must have had a reason to create the ‘”Angry birds’’app game.
The skywheel, which was right in the Market Square, offered me the view of my life. I have always wondered how it was to see everything from above, in such a massive construction, with open-air chairs. I could smell the Baltic Sea, that surrounds Helsinki, I could admire all the tourist attractions with just one look, and, the most important, I could eat their amazing ice-cream while seeing such natural beauties.
Natural History Museum
This one was the greatest museum I have ever seen. It housed hundreds of species of animals and a wide collection of bones, including bones of dinosaurs that I only have seen in movies. What was specifically interesting was the way this museum seemed to help pupils and students learn about nature and about the Finnish flora and fauna. They had special boxes full of bones that you could actually touch, in order to see their texture or to simply make the difference between various types of them. Of course I had to explore every bone, and of course I had to take a selfie with each of them. Another impressive method of learning was the fact that they had special books with pieces of information (that you probably wouldn’t find on Wikipedia) related to the specific area you would find yourself visiting. The drawers full of animal fur, the interactive videos and the rocks ready to be explored were also attesting the ingenious way children get to learn about sciences in Finland. I strongly recommend to never skip this museum, although you may have visited a natural museum before-you will not regret taking this chance!
The ice breakers
They basically are massive ships, built from the most hard materials, that are used to break the ice from different Oceans, during winter, so that transports of goods are not affected. Finland has 8 mighty icebreakers and they can be seen at the end of Katajanokka peninsula when not in use. If you visit Helsinki at the end of spring, or during summer, you are sure to be able to admire their imposing structure.
Keskuspuisto aka the Central Park
Here, in Romania, we have lots of green spots and large parks, but none of our parks could ever be compared with the huge Keskuspuisto. I do not know the exact number of acres occupied by this park, but I do know that I would spend half of my life wandering through its green fields, and playing with the geese, and admiring the flowers and the rabbits that you are likely to meet in the bushes. It’s amazing what Finnish people could create out of their city, taking into consideration the multitude of important buildings. They knew how to combine both the business life and the private one, resulting into this magnificent park, where everyone seemed to enjoy a cold beer after work, or a nice lecture after some hard work hours.
Design Museum Arabia
They have a permanent exhibition, that shows works of art since the 19th century, and that it simply amazing. To be able to see mugs from 100 years ago, and then to be able to buy your own Arabia mug, this is what I call Heaven! Yes, I bought a Moomin-themed mug, and for those who don’t really know who Moomin is, keep reading my article and you will find out.
Stockmann and Kamppi Shopping Centre
When it comes to shopping, I am always in search of something I cannot find in my country. So this is how I came across Stockmann, their biggest shop, full of well-known brands and creative other products. They have a wide range of cosmetics and electronics, from which you can choose your favourite. Another impressively big shopping centre is Kamppi, where you can as well find lots of brands from all over the world.
Suomelinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, among the largest sea fortresses in the world, and a wonderful place to be dreaming about. During summer, they have tons of interesting museums opened, that deserve to be visited. I was really surprised by one of them-the Toys Museum-where I have seen all kinds of toys, starting with the 19th century ones up to nowadays toys. They were beautifully exposed, with a short story about their provenience, so it was really enjoyable and exciting.
What is even more interesting about Suomenlinna is the way people have kept the old design of the buildings, giving the island a really picturesque air and making its visitors feel cozy and comfortable. You must also explore the tunnels that cross the land and also the cafes from the centre, which might delight your day. To reach this island you have to take a 5-minute trip with the ferry that leaves from the Market Square, and whose price is included in a normal ticket, that you would normally use for all the public transportations.
A little about the Moomins
‘’The Moomins’’ is an old cartoon realized be Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson, and it has became a powerful image of Finland. When I first saw a bottle of sparkling juice with a white roundish hippo on it, I had no idea Moomintroll, the main character, would become my best friend too. After seeing the juice, I continued seeing lots of other products, ranging from bed sheets to chairs and cheese, and that made me question about Moomins even more. Finally, when I visited Arabia museum, I couldn’t hold back from buying a Moomin mug that was on sales. And here I am now, watching ‘’Moomins’’ everyday. I even made a fan account.
How to get a real taste of Helsinki
Helsinki has lots of other attractions, apart from museums and parks, such as cafes and restaurants. I strongly recommend you also go to a night-club, such as ‘’Bar Musta Kissa’’ or “Siltanen’’, to experience an authentic Finnish night. Finland is well-known for its magnificent saunas, so you cannot skip that. Some examples are ‘’Kotiharjun Sauna’’, ‘’Sauna Arla’’, ‘’Sauna Hermanni’’ or ‘’Kulttuurisauna’’.
For those who believe it is better to be shown around by someone experienced, here are some links for guided tours:
And do not forget that they also have a Hop On-Hop Off buss, that is extremely pleasant, fast and cheap and which shows you the entire city in almost 2 hours. It worked for me!