Helsinki may have been my favorite port. The ship docked really close to town and the day we docked happened to be one of sailboat racing just outside the security area at the terminal. That is not a picture of our cruise ship, by the way, it’s a man who apparently fishes for vegetables and sells them directly off his fishing boat. In the background is Market Square.
Sailing into the port was incredibly beautiful. Helsinki is preceded by hundreds of tiny islands, most with fir trees and quaint cottages, summer homes for Finns I suppose. The water is cold, clear and clean looking.
We didn’t have as much time to enjoy the city as we would have liked but we made the best of it. The cruise line offered a tram ride to the city center, so we took that to spare our feet a few miles. When we got off we argued about which way to go and eventually took someone’s advice, (probably Randall’s and definitely not mine because I had worn my contact lenses and cannot read with them in) and we set off for the Helsinki Botanical Garden.
No one had anything they specifically wanted to do besides visit the Market Square and I was much in need of some green, living things, hence the Botanical Gardens. At first the space seemed unimpressive. We entered off a busy street into a narrow space filled with trees and a few paths jotting off here and there and which immediately rejoined the main trail due to the lack of anywhere else *to* go.
As we wandered deeper into the garden things began to open up and we eventually came to the green houses. It cost a few <insert name of currency here> to go inside and only Elizabeth and I were willing to pay, but we did and found it worth every <insert name of currency here>.
No photography was allowed inside but I went out and took one through the glass. These lily pads are the size of wading pools! Wandering the Botanical Gardens was some of the most relaxing and enjoyable time we spent on the trip.
Between the Botanical Garden and Market Square there was a music shop, aka a playground for the boys. We stopped in so that they could play guitars. I bought some interesting percussion toys for Martina and I and Elizabeth had a little nap.
It was an interesting shop filled with things from the US. We felt right at home.
Once the boys had decompressed, we headed for the Market Square to do some souvenir shopping and find lunch. The handicrafts were gorgeous and the square was quaint and beautiful, situated as it is right on the edge of the water.
We wandered and shopped and eventually found tables at a market food vendor where we ate terrible food and fought off seagulls. Really, I didn’t eat but nibbled around at the rice buried under the fishy, fishy salmon on my paper plate. According to those who love dead animals, the reindeer meatballs were delicious. The seagulls seemed to think so. One landed in a neighboring patron’s plate and grabbed a good beak full.
We saw Dad and Evelyn there with our tour guide, Eva. They seemed to be enjoying their time in Helsinki and had Eva all to themselves.
Then it was time to go back to the ship. I could have spent hours shopping in Helsinki. There were toys stores and clothing stores and furniture stores that would have made for great browsing and definitely some potential purchases. Alas, we didn’t have time to listen to the siren call of the second-hand shops we spied from the bus windows on our way back to the ship.
Helsinki was clean and beautiful, even though the day was overcast. I loved it and would go back given the opportunity. I think it seemed so safe and charming particularly because we visited it just after St Petersburg.