Helsinki, Finland

Day 7

Today is our first rainy day. We hopped a tour bus from the ship. Our first stop was Temppeliaukio, the Church of the Rock. It was blasted out of a granite hill, topped with a copper coil roof, and glass windows. It’s a working Lutheran church. It was so crowded and swamped with tour buses, it was actually quite noisy. It was exactly the opposite of my usual church experiences. We didn’t stay long.

We drove about the city and talked about the history. The city itself was only established in 1550. It became the capital in 1812. The landscape is quite flat and perfect for biking in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.

We stopped at the grand staircase of the Senate for pictures. They have one house and 200 representatives. Their president is on her second of two six-year terms. She used to live in a flat next door to her lover and when she was elected, they wouldn’t let him move in with her, so she married him.

We drove past the icebreakers that keep the channel open into the harbor. First frost is around August/September. The ice breaks around April. The sun in December rises at 9:30am to just above the tree line, then it sets around 3:30pm.

We drove to an indoor recreation of Lapland. They provided us with snowsuits and we walked around in a slightly illuminated warehouse with igloos, reindeer rides, husky sledding, tobogganing, and an ice bar where they poured us a shot of Finlandia vodka in a shot glass made completely of ice at a bar made completely of ice. It’s a very cool concept (pun intended), yet the vodka still tasted like isopropyl alcohol – just a colder isopropyl alcohol than the Russian vodka.

We took a ride on the dog sled. Gosh, those puppies love to run! They saw us and were chomping at the bit to be off around the track. The man said training them to run is nothing. It’s training them to stop that’s hard.

After the Ice Park, we were dropped off downtown where we had less than an hour to explore Helsinki on food before the final shuttle back to the pier. We walked down to the open-air markets and had reindeer meatballs and a Finnish crêpe. Reindeer is far more flavorful than beef. We didn’t have time for anything else save a brisk walk back to the shuttle stop. Sadly, there is much of Helsinki left unexplored.

This was our first rainy day. We’ve had excellent, sunny weather for every port. Hopefully, everything dries for me to pack it tonight. At dinner, despite the incredibly amazing weather all week, people focused on how rainy it was. Really? One rainy day on a week-long cruise to a place that is usually rainy most days of the week and people pull the negative to the top of their discussion points at dinner? Wow. Just, wow.

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