I have now spent over a week in Finland, broken by my excursion to Tallinn for 2 nights. After arriving the first morning, I was taken by my host, Jari, by ferry across the harbour to the fortress island of Suomenlinna. Building started in 1748 to defend against the Russians but it was not very successful and the Russians owned it for most of the 19th century. It was also a naval dockyard but has now been restored for civilian use with museums, cafes and restaurants.
I was also taken for a quick walk through the city which helped orientate me for later exploration.
However before doing this I travelled by train about 900 km north to Rovaniemi where I caught the local bus 8km further to the Arctic Circle. It really was midnight sun as it did not set that night until 12.15am and was up again just after 2am
I even wandered through Santaland and met the old gentleman before returning to Rovaniemi and spending a few hours in the Museum called Arktikum learning about geological processes, wildlife and the traditional life of the people of the arctic lands. For lunch I had smoked reindeer on a bun. The town is pleasantly situated on the longest river in Finland but is quite modern having been razed to the ground as the Germans retreated in 1944.
I returned to Helsinki in the overnight train and spent the next morning visiting the harbour front, the Lutheran cathedral which dominates the town,
and the Orthodox Cathedral which rivals it, as well as the impressive university library and other government and private buildings. It is a very pleasant city in which to wander. Several of the cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the Opera House are built around Tooloo Bay
However I was to make yet another trip , this time 300 kilometres to the north -east , driven by my hosts to stay with Jari's family in Savonlinna. This is a land of lakes and forests and in the town is the castle of Olavinlinna built in 1475. It is now used for opera performances in summer and preparations for this prevented us accessing some sections but we were taken on a tour of the towers, more steps.
We drove out through the beautiful lake country with the varying greens of the spruce and birch which is hard to cover in one photo to a forestry research station and museum called Lusto (Finnish for growth ring) and discovered much about the history of forestry in the country and how the logs were floated down the rivers. On the way back to Savonlinna we stopped at the largest wooden church in the world but unfortunately it was closed.
Besides experiencing lavish Finnish hospitality in the way of food I was taken to the family cabin set way out amongst the lakes and forests in a beautiful tranquil setting and was able to spend the evening here (including a sauna but I declined a swim in the lake at 14deg. ) before the sun set after 10pmWe drove back yesterday and having been near the Russian border in lands once ruled by Russia, it seemed appropriate to go to a Russian restaurant for dinner. Today I have wandered some more streets and parks of the city by foot and by tram and seen the Sibelius monument and a church built into the rock. In a few hours I will be leaving Finland on a ferry which will take 24 hours to reach Rostock where I will be back in Germany for the last week of my travels.
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