Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Journey to Helsinki: A Photo Blog

There are a few different options for travelers headed from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.  The ferry is neither the fastest nor most frugal option, but my heart was set on a seafaring adventure. I certainly don't regret my decision to splurge on this mini-vacation!

At port in St. Petersburg



Passengers waiting to board
The ship had 8 decks: a swimming pool/sauna/gym, several restaurants, a casino, bars on every deck, a cinema, bowling alley, and stage with live music/dancers. I decided to book myself the cheapest berth -- a bed in a 4-person cabin with no windows.  I knew that instead of sleeping I'd be chatting all night with the new friends I planned on making, so instead of spending money on a nice room, I put it towards a nice dinner in the Seven Seas Restaurant where I could watch the sunset. 
Looking over the cranes in St. Petersburg's sea port

My little cabin
 I was hoping that selecting the cheapest option - a bed in a 4-person cabin - wouldn't land me with three drunk Ukrainian sailors again.  I was blessed this time, though.  I had the whole room to myself!
Leaving St. Petersburg - the sun was still pretty high in the sky, even at 7pm

I carefully located all the lifeboats....

....and learned how to operate them....
...Especially when I saw that it wasn't very long before
 we were navigating lots of chunks of ice and little islands.

From my dinner table I enjoyed this spectacular view of the sunset.

I also enjoyed all the seafood I could ever ask for...
Fresh salmon, smoked salmon, baked salmon, black and red caviar,
mussels, shrimp, herring, mackerel, crab.
I will never pass up a seafood buffet!

I didn't get to bed til 1am, thanks to the lively Swedish-speaking Finnish men's choir I met on board the ferry, but I was up at 5am to watch the sun rise. The early morning hours are the most peaceful time of the day.  Especially on a party boat such as this.

My first view of Finland!

A few of the islands surrounding Helsinki
I arrived on the day that the results of the most recent parliament election were released.  Walking around the city, I found these Obama-esque posters.  I'm still not quite sure if they're campaign posters or advertisements for a concert.... the "We Got Beef" slogan has me leaning more toward the latter.

A park in the city featuring a nice rock formation
One of many flower shops boasting all of spring's latest arrivals

A huge Lutheran church right in the middle of the city.
The majority of Finns are Lutheran.


The view from Maya's apartment

This is photo-stitched and not perfect, but I like this pie-shaped building in the middle :)

I made the decision to move to Helsinki about 4 hours after arriving.
Maya and her boyfriend Jonni are helping me look at MBA programs.
 Now I just need to find a job and an apartment!
Oh yes...and a Finnish husband will be a must, according to Maya.
She and Jonni are also plotting something on that front.
(Don't worry, Mom.)

On the horizon: Easter this weekend (already!) -- a 4 day weekend in Finland -- and Vappu, one of the biggest carnival/drinking days in Finland -- is next weekend.  We're also thinking about a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia, which is only a 2-hour ferry trip from Helsinki.  I just got back from Fazer Cafe -- the original one in downtown Helsinki.  After spending all day inside, catching up on email and various other e-tasks, I really needed to get out of the house and set off on an evening stroll.  I ended up wandering unfamiliar streets until I happened upon Fazer Cafe and decided to treat myself to a latte in this legendary house of Finnish chocolates (and all sorts of other delightful foods).  I think it's safe to say that I'm making the most of my time in Helsinki.

This won't be my last blog about Finland!

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