Helsinki is a Dream
By Yvonne Mason

"White City of the North" Helsinki is often called, most likely because the city spends a lot of time under snow. Pekka Halonen featured snow in most of his paintings shown at The Finnish National Gallery. In May the skies are blue and the clouds are fluffy and it is light outside for about 20 hours. The climate is cool and invigorating.

St Petersburg
Giant lily pads in the Botanic Garden

The Sokos Hotel Torai and Radisson SAS Plaza offered huge healthy delicious breakfast buffets. Some of our favorites were the bowls of fresh berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lingonberries and cloudberries; mixed berry smoothies; heavy grain breads; juices; divine fish; cheeses; yogurts, eggs; pastries; pates; meats and tomatoes and cucumbers ( not seen on at breakfast since Greece). Pesticides are not needed in Finland because of the long frosts. Wonderful clear sweet water pours from the taps, I donít know why the Finns donít bottle this elixer for the rest of the world.

Old Market Hall, on the harbor near the cruise ship docks, is one of my favorite eateries, offering many great flavors including stall after stall of the freshest fish including salmon, herring, turbot, perch and trout. Some of my best choices are white fish caviar served on the ubiquitous rye rusks; Caesar salad with langoustines, reindeer meat and chile chocolate.

An Art Nouveau restaurant in the Central Railway Station brings back the romance of another century even though itís now a cafeteria.

Free rock concerts and other celebrations are performed on the Esplanade Park. Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, built on islands off of Helsinki, is a national monument and cultural treasure. Construction began in 1700ís when Finland was a part of Sweden. The UNESCO World Heritage site offers walking tours of the fortress, museums, an art colony, restaurants, shops, theatre and a living village. The ferry we took from Helsinki took less than and hour and was filled with laughing third graders on a field trip.

St Petersburg
Rock concert on the Esplanade

The University of Helsinki Botanic Garden,, Finlandís oldest scientific garden displays over 900 plant species in greenhouses, some so warm, one can really work up a sweat. Rainforest, desert and Mediterranean ecosystems are made believable in this northern city. The Botanic Garden participates in an international exchange of seeds.

Design District Helsinki, has been famous for the best design since at least the 1950ís. Marimekko, Aarikka, and Aero Design are some of the internationally respected designers. The Design District is 25 streets amd 170 members from jewelry designers to bar owners, from galleries to shops, to design hotels. Most are open for absolutely fabulous shopping.

Downtown Helsinki is compact and walkable. An affordable 2.2 e tram circles the city in two directions and stops at many of the spots of interest.

Green mail boxes like Thai spirit houses add a whimsical note to a lovely city with many surprises..

Last update Mon February 18, 2013 2:08 PM