Let’s start with the old: Suomenlinna. Meaning “Castle of Finland”, Suomenlinna was built by the Swedes in the mid-18th century to protect their kingdom from those pesky Russians. While Finland is a fairly obscure place today, Suomenlinna was well known at the time as being the strongest fortress in Europe. Our tour guide told us that the equivalent would be the Titanic – unsinkable. But just like the Titanic, Suomenlinna went down. Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom until 1808 when Sweden lost Suomenlinna and the rest of Finland to the Russians during the Finnish War. Today, the island fortress in the harbour is a popular weekend picnic spot for locals and a must-see tourist attraction.
Now let’s move onto the newer. The biggest thing I was excited to see, however, was one of the items on my list of 103 Things: Temppeliaukion kirkko, also known as the Rock Church.
It is known as the rock church because it was built into a giant rock. That’s right. In the 1960’s, the Finns excavated a giant rock and put a church it in. A giant dome tops the structure and lets in plenty of natural light. Only Nordic people – with their amazing sense of design and style – would think of building a church which breaks all the molds (especially in the 1960’s…)
Of course, I was on cloud nine the entire time, though I always am when I cross one of the 103 Things off my list. Charlotte seemed to really like it too!
For even more amazing Finnish design and style, we did a bit of window shopping at Marimekko – the quintessential Finnish design store which specializes in women’s apparel and home furnishings.
We also went to Stockmann, Finland’s main department store, but spent more time in the food hall looking at chocolate then we did at fancy Finnish clothes. Ooops.
With design and style also comes art. The Kiasma is Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art. It was relatively small, but absolutely fantastic.
Did I mention it was a bit provocative too?
We also hit up the outdoor markets on the waterfront, which had amazing produce, sweets, and other foods, as well as all sorts of locally made crafts. Glorious.
I’ve blogged about the city. I’ve blogged about the sights. All that’s missing now is the food… but of course, that gets a whole blog entry to itself.