Well I promised a blog when I returned from Helsinki, and I am technically keeping that promise, albeit much later than I intended. Let me get right into it!
I mentioned in my last blog how cheap it is to take a cruise to Helsinki from Stockholm- about 30 USD- which is only slightly more than I paid for the 40 minute train ride from Uppsala to Stockholm. It might have been the best Cost:Fun ratio I have had since my arrival! Whenever I mentioned my upcoming trip to anyone here, they asked if it was a ‘booze cruise’. The cruise ships have a tax free store on them, which means alcohol is significantly cheaper than in Sweden where it is heavily taxed. Although the ship’s rules prevent consumption of this alcohol on board, it soon became clear that many of the passengers were on a mission to break this rule. I couldn’t decide if the number of middle aged drunkards on board was humorous or depressing, but it was a side of Sweden that I had not seen before. We left Stockholm in the late afternoon, so we were traveling through the archipelago as the sun was setting. This was, of course, beautiful. Stockholm’s archipelago has (as far as I know) 30,000 islands, more than any other in the world. We passed dozens of them, varying in size and shape but all covered in evergreens and most containing at least one small red cottage. Apparently a Swedish king (I am not sure which one, but I would bet good money that his name contained either ‘Gustav’ or ‘Adolph’ or most likely both) decreed long ago that all the houses in Sweden must be painted, regardless of the inhabiting family’s income. Red paint was cheapest at the time, which explains why almost every house in the countryside and on the archipelago is a deep red color. Yellow is also highly popular, and it is rare to see a house that isn’t one of these two shades. The effect is subtle but pleasant, as both colors blend well with each other and with the surrounding landscape. My friends and I had dinner on the deck (Swedish meatballs- of course) and watched the sun set before we decided we were too cold and went inside for a bit. We cruised through the night and woke up to a swaying boat, swaying passengers, and rainy Helsinki.
Helsinki was nice but we had to be back on the boat by 4pm and we didn’t get off it until 10 in the morning. There is a limit to how much you can do in a city in that period of time, so I don’t feel as though I got a fair representation of the city. The fact that it was a dreary day and we had slept on a swaying vessel meant that I was seeing it from an unfairly negative standpoint, but I couldn’t help but find the day somewhat depressing. There were, however, two of the most amazing cathedrals I have ever seen- Helsinki cathedral and Uspenski cathedral. Their architecture was unlike anything I have seen- both seemed to blend elements of Russian architecture with classic western European styles. Fitting, because Finland was ruled by Russia from 1809-1917. Of the brief glimpse I got of the country, my favorite aspect was the language; it fascinated me in written and spoken form. I encourage you to look up a youtube video of someone speaking finnish- there is no way I can describe it. My visit did inspire me to read up on a bit of Finnish history- of which I knew almost nothing- and I am glad I did. I recommend you just check out the Wikipedia page for a few minutes!
We made our way back to the ship and had a fun night on the open ocean- I spent a great deal of it on the deck of the ship with my friend looking at the lights of a fellow cruise ship on the distant horizon. We arrived back in Stockholm exhausted and satisfied.
This has been a shamefully short post but I promise to write another one next week! I need to talk about my trip to Barcelona to meet my sister, and attempt to catch you up on all I have done in Sweden also. I am getting up in about four hours to catch a train to Copenhagen- so I will have stories from there as well! Goodnight for now.