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Festivals and Fortresses in Helsinki

FINLAND | Friday, 10 June 2011 | Views [690]

First time I've stayed in a hostel in an Olympic Stadium!

First time I've stayed in a hostel in an Olympic Stadium!

After managing to turn off my alarm in my sleep I had to rush down to the 7am ferry for Helsinki. Luckily I made it with time to spare and, after sitting outside while we left, I soon had to shelter from the cold wind and smokers on the deck and head into the restaurant for the rest of the 2 hour trip across to Finland.

We arrived in Helsinki around 11:30am and I managed to find the tramline that ran into town and almost straight to my hotel. I’ve managed to book hostels a few days ahead for most of the trip, but my luck had to run out just before the most expensive country, and I was forced to spend a couple of days in a hotel in one of the most expensive cities. Though it is a nice change from bunking down in hostels. After checking in, I walked down to the waterfront past the Senate Square and Cathedral and down to the market square. It’s a lovely walk down to the park area on the point where you can watch the night ferry to Sweden leaving through the narrow channel. Just watch out for all the swan and duck poo! On the way home I stumbled across a random Samba Festival and that was my entertainment sorted for the evening.

Despite wanting to sleep in I was up early to catch another ferry, this time to the Island Fortress of Suomenlinna, which was soon packed with young army band members on their way to a concert on the island to celebrate Helsinki Day. As it turned out there were bands from the army, navy and armed forces putting on an afternoon show. I had a little wander around the island and watched the massive ferries chugging their way through the channel, before heading back to the concert area and watching some of the amazing performances by the bands. The navy drummers and riflemen were particularly impressive. If I thought the ferry over was busy the ferry back was even more packed, and it was a regular shoving match to get on board. After subtly elbowing a girl who was trying to push me into the little old lady in front of me, we finally made it onto the boat and back into town. Back at the indoor by the waterfront market hall I bought a sandwich and walked out to the park where I sat in the shade on the grass enjoying the Saturday afternoon sun with a bunch of the locals. 

After two lovely nights in the hotel I caught the tram across town to Hostel Stadion, a hostel set up in the Olympic Stadium. After dumping my stuff I caught the tram out to a point close to Seurasaari Island where the Outdoor Museum is located. I walked through a local park and over the bridge to the island to discover that the museum section was free to celebrate Helsinki Day. Sweet! I wandered through some old log cabins, seeing how the Finns used to live (which looked pretty comfortable) and ended up at the Festival Square where I decided to have my picnic. I’d been wondering what all the people dressed up in traditional dress were doing on the island, and I soon found out when the concert and traditional dancing started. So that was my afternoon entertainment sorted. I spent a good couple of hours watching about 50 people kicking up the dust in the arena and it was a pretty impressive spectacle seeing them whirling around in giant circles. After the show ended I walked to the end of the island, found a nice warm rock in the sun, and basked like a lizard for a coupe of hours without any noticeable effect on my tan (or lack of it).

Tags: festivals, fortress, helsinki, olympic stadium, samba, seurasaari island, suomenlinna


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