Thursday, September 5, 2013

Exploring Suomenlinna Island.

At the fortress on Suomelinna Island.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h!  It was a slow rise for me.  Despite the fact that our hotel is located on a street filled with restaurants, cafes and bars which were hopping with activity well into late night and that I slept right next to an opened window, I slept like a lamb last night.  I woke up rested and ready to rock and roll!


The one downside to our hotel is that there is no on-site restaurant where you can get breakfast.  The good thing is that they have an arrangement with a bar/restaurant, Killans, right next door.  For 5 Euros per person, you get a buffet breakfast.  Nothing fancy....just the usual continental stuff. I figured that for a pricey city like Helsinki, the price was very reasonable.

I just settled for a bowl of yogurt topped with a scoop of very tart berries.  For me, it took quite a bit of sugar to make it all palatable but it was quite delicious.  A few slices of bread with jam and butter and a cup of tea and I was filled.

The restaurant faces Mannerheimintie and we took a table by the window so we could enjoy the view.

It was early morning and as we ate, we watched Helsinkians (?) heading out to work.  Something I used to have to do everyday but no longer have to do....so happy!

The bike lanes were filled with riding their bikes, work bags strapped wherever possible.  Trams and buses were filled as well.  While there were cars on the road, it most certainly was not the traffic jam that I was used to being a part of. 

Our first destination for today is Suomenlinna Island.  Pretty much everybody that we've asked as to what we should do/see in Helsinki has suggested this place.  In fact, Soumenlinna Island (also known as Sveaborg) is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands and which now forms part of Helsinki. Suomenlinna was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. So, there's good reason why it's definitely a must-see for anyone visiting Helsinki.

We made our way down to the dock, about a 20 minute or so walk.  The ferry to/from Suomenlinna runs every 20 minutes during the week and it's only a 15 minute ride.  Yesterday, we checked out the self service kiosks and found out they only take the chip and pin credit cards so I made a mental note to bring mine along this morning.  The fare is 2.50 Euro, per person one way.   We went ahead and got round trip tickets.

Checking our tickets while standing in line to board the ferry.

It was a glorious late summer's day in Helsinki - perfect weather for being outdoors.  We took seats on the deck.

We took in the beautiful views as the ferry made its way over to the island.  How relaxing!






Time flies when you're enjoying yourself and 15 minutes is not a lot of time.  Before we knew it, Suomenlinna was in our sight.



We disembarked and just followed the crowd.  We had no idea where we were walking to; we hoped they would lead us to somewhere we could get directions....like to the Information Center.


Our ferry.

There are roads on the island but biking around is so much more practical.

It's quiet here, unpaved roads wind their way between buildings. 

Suomenlinna Island Fort Church.

Checking the map; he's the designated navigator.

We stopped at the Visitors Center to take a quick look at the museum, use the facilities and do a bit of shopping at the Gift Shop where I bought a cute poster of a seal, my souvenir from Finland!

I was tempted to pick up some of these unusual licorice lollipops.

Most importantly, we got some useful advice on what to see on the Island from a very friendly salesman.  I think he lives here.

It was such a beautiful day, I was content to just spend my time outdoors - not really in the mood to see churches or museums today.

Then it was to continue our stroll which would take us across each of the six interconnected islands that make up Suomenlinna.


Stone walls and archways form parts of the fortress.




A fellow tourist taking a photo of a memorial dedicated to Augustin Ehrensvärd, the first commander of Suomenlinna fortress.


Strolling through parts of Soumenlinna felt like walking through a well tended garden.

The water was always in near sight.

Too cute to be denied taking a photo of.

The friendly guide at the Visitors Center suggested that we deviate from the route on printed map.  He showed us an alternative path that he said would be a slightly longer walk but the reward would be wonderful views.  We decided to take him up on his suggestion.  Not only did we get wonderful views but we also left the majority of the other tourists behind us!

I think that's Helsinki in the distance.


Every now and again, I will agree to pose for a photo.

But most times, not.  Go ahead and laugh at me all you want!

Cannons.  Another reminder of the island's fortress past.

The hillocks were storage facilities.  They looked like something out of Hobbitville.  Oh yeah, and this is a photo of Bro :-)

Pretty views of walls and sea.



More views of the fortress.  This really is a pretty place.

There are about 800 or so residents who call Suomenlinna home.  To preserve their privacy, there are clear signs indicate where you cannot trespass.  Doesn't mean I can't take photos though :-)  For those who seek a quiet, tranquil place to live that's only a 15 minute boat ride from the hustle and bustle of Helsinki, this would be it!


More free apples.  I gave Bro, the "don't even think about it" glare!

Even the boat dock in Suomelinna is charming!

Our walk took us right back to the dock.  It had been two and a half hours since we had arrived.

No, not too many tourists today.

Our teeny ferry had to share waters with the large cruise ships. Yikes!

View of Helsinki.

Docking back.

It was time for lunch.  Even though I had been walking for about 3 hours straight, I wasn't all that hungry.  My metabolism has definitely slowed down as I've gotten older.  Sucks.  But, my greed has not diminished one bit.  I have no willpower when my nostrils are being assaulted by the enticing smells of food being freshly cooked.


We were back at Kauppatori market. Probably by Finnish culinary standards, the stuff being cooked here would not be considered good quality or cheap but for us tourists, it was hard to say no to.  We decided to hand over 10 Euros for a plate of fried fish served with a side of boiled veggies and small potatoes coated with dill.  We found a table, under one of the red tents, to sit and share our snack.

Later on I Googled to get more information on the fish.  The Finns call it "muikku".  In English, it's known as vendace. The fish is fried whole - head, tail, guts and all.  Sitting alongside the Baltic Sea, you'd be inclined to think it was a saltwater fish but in fact, it's a freshwater whitefish!  I love eating small fish and this one was actually quite tasty - the meat was firm and sweet....tells me the fish is fresh.  Typically, it's served with a garlic mayo sauce but I think they leave that out when you order the combo plate.


After taking a few minutes to relax and munch our our late morning snack, we continued our sightseeing.  Lots more ahead of us!