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Sept. 7, 2017

Helsinki is the capital of Finland and the only European capital with no medieval past. It was founded in the 16th century by the Swedes but taken over by Russia in 1809. They gained their independence from Russia in 1917 but the Russian influence is still seen in the buildings in the oldest parts of Helsinki. The currency is the Euro. The official language is Swedish but most people speak Finnish.

When we arrived in port, we got on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus for a tour of the city. Our first stop was the Temppellaukio Church or Church in the Rock. It was blasted out of solid granite. The church is capped with a copper dome - a 13 mile long coil of copper ribbon. Music from the organ filled the church.



Our second stop was the Sibelius Monument. Six hundred stainless-steel pipes called "love of Music" are built on solid rock. It was built by the artist Eila Hiltunen to honor Finland's greatest composer, Jean Sibelius.

We continued on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to downtown Helsinki. We walked to the Stockmann Department Store. It is the biggest, best, and oldest department store in town and Finland's answer to Harrods and Macy's. We had a delicious lunch in their top floor cafeteria which served a wide selection of hot and cold food, reasonably priced.

After lunch, we continued walking through town. We stopped at the Helsinki train station which was designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen in the Art Nouveau style. He later emigrated to the US where his son became the architect of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the main terminal at Dulles Airport. Our walk ended at Market Square where we caught the Hop-On Hop-Off bus for a ride back to the port. This was a very cold and windy day so we were glad that we did not have far to walk to get back to the ship!



To view more photos from our trip to Helsinki, please go to Helsinki Photo Gallery. To read about the next location visited, go to Riga.

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