Sunday, June 27, 2010

Midnight light

The Sea Fortress: part 3 (final)

After walking around the town portion a little longer I went in search of the large guns and fortified outer wall.

There were a lot of people enjoying the summer sun on these rocks.

Spotted: A Hobbit hole

Spotted: A Russian gun.

Ahhhh, the jagged outter wall.

Spotted: Another, very antique looking cannon pointed seaward.

I walked around the tall walls and through some of the dark tunnels for a while longer before admitting to myself that I had seen enough for one day. So, with a slightly sunburnt neck and a hankering for another jam doughnut I ambled slowly to the main quay to catch the ferry back to the city.

The Sea Fortress: part 2

After walking around a bit more on the Little Black Island I walked to another island appropriately called Länsi-Mustasaari (West Black Island).

Veiw to Pikku Mustasaari from Länsi-Mustasaari.

There was not much there to hold my attention (mainly residential flats), and my stomach was causing a fuss so I made the walk back to the island I had landed on (Iso Mustasaari).

With the mass of tourists departed I headed for the cafe/snack store. I bought a meat and rice filled pastry, a jam and custard filled doughnut, and an ice block.

I recomend!

These are some images of the central parts of the two largest islands; Iso Mustasaari (Big Black Island), and Susisaari (Wolf Island)/Kustaanmiekka (Gustav Sword(?))

The Sea Fortress: part 1

On the second day of Midsummer, with the majority of shops, museums, and almost everything else of interest closed, I decided to take the ferry to Suomenlinna (or Sveaborg, if you are Swedishly inclined).

"Founded on islands off the coast of Helsinki in 1748, the Suomenlinna sea fortress is a cultural treasure. It's construction began in the 1700s when Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. The guns that still face west on the rampants at Kustaamiekka [Southern most part of the largest island] are a reminder of the period under Russian rule in the 19th century"-Suomenlinna brochure

As well as being an outdoor museum, Suomenlinna also houses a permanent population in period residential buildings. The island also has a church, post office, small supermarket, and more icecream kiosks, cafes, and souvenir shops than you could poke a stick at.

Walking out the door wearing jeans due to the windy and overcast look of the weather I hitched a ride on the Metro, which luckily started service just as I got to the station (around 11am the sign told me. How usefully vague). Getting into town a little later I walked to the ferry terminal near market square. Buying a return ticket for just €3.80(?) I hopped on the waiting ferry which departed 5 minutes later.

15 minutes later...

Arriving at the island I hopped off the ferry and immediately walked away from the crowd, over a bridge to the island of Pikkumustasaari, which by my translation = Little Black Island.

Doesn't look that special... Scroll down.

I found this giant ring fixed securely by the sea shore. Still not that special I guess. Shoes still quite white.

There wasn't anything in the brochure about this island, but there weren't many people walking there so I veiwed this as a good place to start. The buildings were all closed but there was a sort of dingy, dark, and slightly scary looking opening guarded by a creepy effigy, so, onwards...

Thanks to the benefits of flash photography, here is a blurred image of the inside of the cave(?). I promise that it was a lot darker than it looks.

The floor was also littered with bones to help with the ambiance...

Friday, June 25, 2010

While the cats away...

I'm still here in Helsinki while everyone else has gone away to their summer cottages in the countryside for Midsummer celebrations. Well not everyone.

Though the streets are much quieter where I am now (the suburbs), earlier this morning the city center was bustling, especially the market place. So, after completing the full circuit of the 3T tram I dropped by the markets and enjoyed a sugar doughnut with apple in the center, and a cup of coffee. The doughnut was saturated in ungoodness which made it particuraly crispy and delicious, and the coffee was, ok...

I also had a look through the less transitory market, a lovely brick building also on the waters edge.

In the background on the right is an Alvar Aalto office building, with the Uspenski Cathedral poking out the top of it.

Hyvää Juhannusta

Happy Midsummer Everyone!

Mystery tortoise watch.

On the many walks I've been taking while in Helsinki I've discovered a reoccuring object of decoration and utility scattered about in several entirely seperate locations, the concrete tortoise/pole holder. Why? Who knows.

This one was spotted between the old post office and the modern art museum.

This slick, all black fellow was found near the markets on the water edge.

This unadorned tortoise was near a beach in Hertoniemi, Helsinki.

I'm sure I've seen more of these little blighters around, the search is on!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Incident on the number 3B tram.

While sitting on the tram the other day, taking in the sites, I was rudely interupted by a Mercedes ploughing into the side of the carriage. You can read for yourself below... If you can read Finnish.

This is a Google translation. A bit choppy but there you go...

Tram and car traffic collision jumitti the middle of Helsinki

Passenger and 3B-line tram kolaroivat the center of Helsinki at half past seven on Tuesday evening. Collision occurred Punavuori rink Street and Frederick Street junction. Passenger Rail turned to street directly in front of the tram, but survived the accident without injuries. Collision crowded intersection, incomplete pouleksi hours. Police arrived to direct traffic.
The car was not the driver but the passengers. Tram rails remained, but was transported for repair depot method.

We all scream for it

I was walking around the neighbourhood when I here a tune, a tune that almost certainly must be an ice cream truck, tinny, repetitive, irresistable!

I didn't consciously look for the truck, but it found me. The driver got out of the truck and asked what I would like, I pointed out an icecream on the rear truck door menu and was told that there were only TWO of the many that were sold individually, I picked this...

It was cola and melon flavoured (?) (to the best of my judgment I could not say for sure), and it was delicious


A walk in the park

The last few days have been sunny and warm (in the 20s C.), the birds are singing, and the Helsinki residents are comming out of their scandinavian modernist inspired 1990's appartments.
Instead of trekking to the city, lugging along a bag full to the brim with the trappings of your average tourist, I have been joining them for some sun and sea air in a local park.

This building, now a museum (open on sundays), is situated in the more formal part of the park surrounded by geometric gardens, and other period buildings.

I think this building was originally a storehouse.

As you walk further away from the Empire style (I think) gardens and buildings the park becomes much more relaxed. With lots of winding paths confusing direction, It's easy to get a bit lost, several times now I have found my way back to where I started without intention, cursing under my breath I turn around and try again.

The less formal but still ruggedly manicured side of the park makes for great walking (5 times and counting), jogging (4 times and counting), or biking(0 times, whump whaaa). It is filled with lots of wild groupings of birch surrounded by natural hedges of stinging nettles (Great!), and lots of benches and grassy areas to picnic in.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Domino effect...

So here is what happend.

Flight to Beijing was going fine, in fact, better than most that I've been on. Lots of entertainment, a nice dinner of beef gravy, peas, and kumara (with a slightly perculiar colslaw, and obligatory bread roll), followed neatly by a passionfruit soaked sponge pudding, kiwi fruit biscuits and tea.

Then it went a wee pear shaped as things often do when they seem too good. While watching the flight channel (showing the plane over the globe, time to destination, ground speed, etc...) I noticed that we were veering off course slightly, then more and more until we were heading away from the airport. 'No wait' I thought, 'we're heading back again', 'must'av needed a different approach angle, or a gap in air traffic'.


Turns out there was a really rather large thunderstorm hovering above the Chinese capital... So we landed at an airport 200km away and waited (I watched the first half of season one of glee). After about 2 or 3 hours we took off again for Beijing. Making a fairly turbulent landing after another 40 minutes airtime I was finally at my half way point.


My connecting flight to Helsinki had left. I was quickly booked onto a flight that would take me to my final destination with a transfer at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. The flight was supposed to leave in 3 hours, though it actually left in about 9. So after running through what must be the largest airport ever, trying to collect my checked luggage from the carosel and recheck it (4 floors up. 4!), navigate customs, navigate the terminal lounge, and wait forever, I was on my way again.

This is what the airport gave me to eat while waiting, what I think were tofu balls, rice, soggy cabbage, crumbed fish, and weird pink sausage like product.

Arriving in Stockholm at 12am, after 8 hours of bordom on a flight without any entertainment, and questionable meals, I found that my transfer had left many moons ago. I was told that because I couldnt be found in the system they couldn't book me onto a flight so I would have to come back in the morning and do it myself. (They could, however, set me up in a hotel near the airport. For free, with easy transport, WIN)

Back to the airport at 5 in the morning after a shower and 3 hours sleep and the impression that I would be on a 7am flight (I was told with convincing sincerity that this was possible) I discover that people are unhelpful, and that all the counters that might be able to help me open around 6:00-6:30. Raspberries! Where next? Mc Donalds for breakfast of course! That breakfast menu was calling my name, and despite myself I cannot deny there is somthing soothing and reasuring about McD's in a foreign country. Desks open for me after a nice meal of crepe style swedish pancakes with strawberry preserve and a hash brown, flight is booked and I'm grinning like a freak all the way to customs. I spend the last of my 100 kronor on a bag of Daim chocholates and wait an hour and a half.


My flight is with Finnair and it is delightful. The sun is sunning, I'm drinking a hot cup of tea, and I don't have to sit next to anyone. At this point I am far beyond the any desire for contact from strangers.

Then at last I'm in Finland and I fly through customs without hassle.

Underestimation by half

So it turns out that 21 hours was optimistic. Starting my trip around 10pm Wednesday the 16th (New Zealand time) and arriving in Helsinki at around 7pm on Friday the 18th (NZ time)(10am Finnish time)

Am I right in thinking that's 45 hours!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And so it begins...

Wintry sunshine, obscenely white shoes, and a head cold mark the beginning of my extended sojourn in Finland.

Now to wait for the seconds to slip by, and find myself at the airport check in with out my passport, or a 21 hour panic attack, wondering whether or not I packed an international power adaptor. Tick tick tick...

Stay tuned for more.