BLOG #43, SERIES 7
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
WE DISCOVER NORTHERN EUROPE #4
October 26, 2016
Next was Helsinki, Finland’s capital. A nation shaped by climatic extremes: “endless summer days and the blackest of winter nights.” According to Insight Travel editors, it is today one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Though it has no world-renowned attractions, no superlative fjords, no medieval monasteries, and few spectacular old towns. But what it does have are 180,000 lakes in which to canoe, swim, or fish in the summer; and on which to skate in the winter. It also has 37 national parks, 19 nature reserves, and 400 protected areas. The aurora borealis (northern lights) can be seen here year round.
The sami race came here first. Since Sweden considered Finland to be its “eastern province,” its rule lasted from 1157 to 1809. On and off through the centuries, Russia has been an ever-present threat; finally, in 1808, Czar Alexander I attacked and occupied Finland. By 1809, it had become a Russian duchy. In 1917, when the October Revolution toppled the Romanovs, Finland declared its independence; in 1919, it became a republic. During the 1939-40 “Winter War with Russia,” Stalin forces Finland to surrender 11% of its land mass to the Soviet Union. In 1995, Finland joined the European Union.
Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden-Finland to compete with Tallinn just across the Gulf of Finland.
We found it to be a very clean high-tech city, but with little historic architecture that stood out; most everything is modern. Our bus stopped in front of the National Lutheran Church, a most imposing structure. Outside of it, in a very large parking lot, an old gentleman, with a weird old instrument that magnified sound, stood up and belted out recognizable music—he attracted quite a crowd. Then it was on to the now world-famous Rock Church. Great acoustics in this natural open-rock amphitheater. A gentleman playing saxophone and clarinet alternately, gave his guests a concert. Then it was on to Sibelius Park, much celebrated because of Sibelius’s great composition, Finlandia, that celebrated Finland when there wasn’t much to celebrate. Today, Helsinki is one of the most innovative, creative, high-tech cities in Europe.
Pipe Organ in the Rock Church