To be honest we were both quite exhausted this morning after the Russian marathon and Helsinki arrived with a general feel of ‘can we do it ?!’. There was sun glittering through the cabin window and a modest breakfast on a tray arrived at 9.30am. This all went to make the day seem more encouraging and thus fortified we decided to opt for the 10€ shuttle bus into the city and at least be able to say we had seen Finland !
I was expecting a very modern, glass and metal city but I was proved completely wrong ! It was a beautiful, quiet Hanseatic city centre with rather more humble 18/19th century buildings than the incomparable St Petersburg, softly cobbled streets and an altogether delightfully gentle feel ! It was very positive to be so very wrong, and I am glad we made the trek !
We had been told it was very expensive, but I have to say that the excellent coffee shop we lounged in for a short while, was charging the same as everywhere else, and their buffet lunch of three courses plus drinks was a snip at 10.5 euros !
Being on the exhausted side and with aching limbs we could only manage a short walkabout, said coffee and a little souvenir hunting before the coach trundled us back home to Columbus. The Fins, like the Swedes definitely know about simple style and good taste, and this was clearly born out in one shop I visited. Ganit, as the shop was called, proffered such streamlined and simple kitchen and office equipment, much of which were in warm whites, natural straw colour, or tasteful beige and black neutrals; I could have spent a small fortune. I satisfied myself with two small desk items for the grandchildren, in the hopes that they will be considered ‘cool’. ( ….but who knows….?!)
Back on the ship by lunchtime we partook of the Bistro buffet where I ate delicious and falling off the bone rabbit legs in a very savoury gravy. It is probably several decades since I ate rabbit, and it served to remind me how lean and tasty this white meat is ! It was a hugely unusual dish for a cruise line to serve, until I was told the food theme of the day was ‘Scandinavian’, and it seems rabbit is very popular in this neck of the woods. My dinner later in the evening was reindeer stew whilst Kate had herring as her starter, a thoroughly Nordic repast !
We chatted with a very charming and interesting couple over lunch and despite our growing torpor held our end of the conversation up remarkably well. It was then time for a peaceful retirement to our cabins - me with a Usain Bolt speed cappuccino in mine, and Kate with a decaffinated non coffee in hers.
So I can honestly say ‘ I have been to Finland, and very nice it was!’