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Heading north: wandering in Helsinki

Once you are in Tallinn its geographical position is too temptress to don’t finally fall into its web. Barely two hours of ferry throughout the Gulf of Finland in the iced waters of the Baltic and you get in Helsinki.

One day is enough to see the most interesting attractions of the city and also to enjoy some hot chocolate that probably is the only thing you can spare the money for, considering the high cost of living in this country. However there are some places, in a way even more authentic than the commercial chain, offering you typical food and hot beverage at low prices. Those are kind of food stand located in the market square that is actually the place from where my journey began.

From the port to the city centre if you want to save a bit of time is possible to take the tram number 9 that brings you directly in the Central Station and at the same time give you a little panning shot. The station changed its name in early 2010 and currently is the most visited building with its 200.000 everyday transient as main national transport hub.

The market square is the best place to start the tour. I decided to take advantage of the few hour of light to go also to Suomenlinna Island, and it has actually been really worthy. The island is achievable by little boat included in the public transportation ticket. With more or less 20 minute you land in this fortress island that is currently one of the UNESCO world heritage site. From the little dock you can have a walk around the fortification which construction started during the Swedish era in the late XVIII cent. It remained a military base during the whole Russian occupation, just in 1918 after the Russian revolution and the regained independence of the country the 6th December 1917, because of its strategic position it took longs negotiation to finally demilitarize the complex and give it back to the Finnish administration that converted it in a garrison. Beyond the interesting history the landscape is amazing, you can freely walk between bunkers and fortifications, cannons and cracks in the walls of red stone dissimulated by grass and between them there are small iced lakes and low cliffs little bays.

Again in Kauppatori and before leave it you have to go along till the Orthodox Cathedral up to a little hill from where you can have a nice view of the industrial part and the old port with its tall masts of sailing ships stationing there during the winter period. The market square is towered by the Presidential Palace, the Town Hall and the Swedish Embassy residing in colorful buildings that give a touch of liveliness to the square. Along the Esplanaadi with its glass building in perfect romantic style, in this period of the years the atmosphere is warmed by the Christmas market and the laughter of children around. Attracted by millions of coloured lights and a continuous flow of people filled by bags, I left the historical part to throw me in the true commercial heart of the city. Alexanderinkatu is indeed a long pedestrian street starting with Stockmann, the oldest and famous shopping centre of the country, and in this period with tram and buses also a fancy reindeer sleigh is authorized to cross this street. At the opposite site od the street you reached Senaatintori, i.e. Senate square dominated by the white dome of the city and its real symbol.

From here on you just have to wear confortable boots and walk around and you can see the fascinating Bothanical garden with several pavilion made entirely by glass that gave it a character of other times.

Circumnavigating Töölönlahti that means Töölö’s bay and passing through a big Luna park opened during the summer is visible all the Olympic part with the Stadium and the iced park. From here keeping the bay at your left side you see a huge building entirely covered by white tiles that host the national Opera theatre. In this area there are concentrated a lot of museum and cultural spaces such has the Finland Hall designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto. This is a modern building with simple and straight lines that is always lightened by coloured neon. Changing completely style and coming back to more romantic and ancient flavour we see the old National Museum or Kansallismuseo in perfect Baroque with a soaring brick stone tower with red roof.

The last unmissable thing is certainly the Temppeliaukio, a Lutheran church also known as the church in the stone. In fact the construction of this church is peculiar, from the outside is almost unrecognizable, there is a little park in the top and you can easy climb and walk there. The most interesting part is the insides that seams definitely dig in the stone.

If you follow the plan from now on I can assure you that a rest is absolutely needed, heating toward some cafeterias I couldn’t stop to think about how quite and relaxing were the surroundings, even if Helsinki gives you the feeling of being a capital with a lot of melting pot and the constant coming and going of people and cars you don’t feel such chaos and noise.

In conclusion, the quality of life in this Nordic capital is absolutely high and well worth a stay.

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