We were just one of quite a few ships heading in the same direction this morning, under the early morning cloudy sky.
I love the skies at sea and this morning’s was a stunner.
We sailed through small channels and groups of islands and finally came to a halt when we could go no further! Short of parking right in the middle of the Fish Market, it’s hard to imagine a better spot.
The lads were out on a jolly and waved as they went by.
Our tour began with a short drive around modern Helsinki. We’d been here before a few years ago and it was surprising how familiar it seemed.
Our guide, Marya, spoke about the Helsinki residents’ unfavourable reaction to the “kindergarten art” in the park, but said everyone felt pressured to like it because not only had it been done by a world famous Japanese artist, but the considerable expense had been paid for by taxpayers’ money. Never mind, she said, it will soon be gone.
Autumn has arrived in Finland and there was certainly a chill in the air as we set out. An extra layer was needed for the first time this trip.
We were driving 50km east from Helsinki, to visit the second oldest settlement in Finland: Porvoo.
It’s a quaint little town on the banks of the river and today, it was still and quiet.
I’ll get my rant over and done with and promise not to mention it again: I dislike ugly yarn bombing projects almost as much as I hate that European habit of fixing locks to bridges.
I mean, putting all that effort into knitting socks that no-one will wear?
OK, maybe I’ll forgive a little bunting…
Anyway, restrained rant over, here we were in the main market square, outside the old town hall. I was immediately struck by the palette of colours here. Surely, no coincidence that the sky is all part of it?
We listened to stories of the history of the town, of the fire which spread rapidly from the kitchen of a poor woman who fell asleep whilst making some fish soup, causing the Mayor to impose a ban on wooden buildings thereafter. It didn’t work though: people here were too poor to be able to afford stone and simply gathered up the remains and recycled them into the next generation of houses.
The Scandinavian style is so attractive and I couldn’t resist taking photographs of small corners which caught my eye.
We were wandering up the main street, peering into attractive shops on either side, each one with cute window displays aimed squarely at visitors.
I imagine Porvoo is particularly lovely in the Winter, when a Christmas Market is here.
Though at the end of the main street, it became clear that just beyond the old town, a modern city is just across the road. Not that we needed anything there – we’ll just turn right around and stay with the pretty!
And that’s exactly what we did, spending an hour pottering about, in and out of the small shops and doing a bit of window shopping. I spotted this cute display of Moomin related goods – always a favourite with me.
Just around the corner was a Moomin dolls house in the shop window (sorry about the reflection). There they all were: Moominmama and Moominpapa and is that Little My sitting on a chair?
With unlimited funds and a bottomless suitcase, I could have brought a great deal home with me!
Perhaps it’s as well some of the shops were closed: we didn’t have to question whether we really wanted to pay that much for a set of salad servers, however lovely we thought they were. (85 Euro)
Admiring a few cute samples in the knitting shop, I could also have left a few Euros there as well. Mindful of the conversation with our friends last evening, concerning the size of our yarn stashes, I resisted.
We were simply happy to be here, to have time to linger and take photographs, to spot lovely things and to stroll around.
Just as we noticed the roof fits into the colour scheme,
We looked down and noticed that the cobblestone path does as well!
Keeping an eye on the time, we made our way up to the small cathedral, where a memorial stands to a local artist. Albert Edelfelt. His name was new to me, but his work hangs in the collections of worldwide museums. Of course, I had to look him up!
The little cathedral was locked, sadly, so we couldn’t see inside and had to content ourselves with trying to squeeze the whole thing into a picture without stepping too far back and falling down the hill!
Instead, we walked slowly down, watching carefully so as not to turn an ankle on those tricky cobbles.
Overlooking the yarn-covered bridge, we spotted a poem in the water.
It’s easy to see why Porvoo is such a popular place for visitors. We’re glad we came here.
As we drove back into Helsinki, we were reminded of what life must be like here in winter, as Marya pointed out the two ice breakers over there on the opposite side of the harbour. There are four in total, working almost constantly during the Winter months to keep the navigation channels open.
We were reminded of the cold weather once more when we made our final stop outside the Lutheran cathedral in the city. Last time we were here we learned about the ice fair that’s held in this square every winter, when a replica of the church is made out of ice.
For us, it was almost time to return to the ship, so bidding farewell to Alexander II in the cathedral square, we decided to make our own way back.
It wasn’t that hard to find our way!
Back on board, our friends told us that their guide had played Sibelius’ Finlandia as they drove back to the ship. Actually, as we walked back across the Fish Market it was playing in my head too, provoking one or two memories and bringing a tear to my eye, as it usually does.