If you are thinking of the northern lights, there are 3 countries that tend to come to mind and all are from the same region. If you have read my previous article about neighbouring countries in Scandinavia, you will find that I am quite fond of that side of Europe. It is one of the rare countries in Europe where you can drink water from the tap without risking your health.
Not only how much they respect nature, only one country in Europe consistently ends up at the top of the World Happiness Report ahead of countries like Iceland, Netherlands, or Switzerland which I thought were pretty fun countries based on my experience. Going back to the nature discussion, this country is also the most forested country in Europe. And to top it off, one of the rare countries in the world where one can experience the Northern lights and Midnight sun. It is also the home to the only indigenous people in Europe. That country, people, is Finland!
Credit: Business Finland
Also worth noting that Finland is called home by Santa Claus. In case you wondered...
How to get there?
A lot of airlines fly to Helsinki from London however I could not find many low-cost alternatives such as Ryanair, EasyJet, or Wizz. The cheapest and most convenient way I had was direct flights for a little under 3 hours as opposed to more expensive options that come with a stopover. My ticket went for £88 with Norwegian from London Gatwick.
Where to stay?
A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me her flat so I did not have to worry about accommodation on this trip. It is worth noting though, that Finland is amongst the most expensive countries in the world. Burgers don't go for £20-25 like in Norway or Switzerland (I still cringe from remembering this). I saw hotels going for £100/night - Not my way of traveling!
Not too much of an itinerary on this trip as I stayed mainly in Helsinki however did go to the tiny island of Suomenlinna.
Helsinki is the Capital city of Finland and the biggest in terms of population. Located in the southernmost part of the country it offers some delightful sea-facing landscapes and diverse architecture amongst other things to enjoy. It also holds a special place in my heart as my uncle was the captain of the Senegalese basketball team during the 1952 Olympic Games and has now passed away. Growing up, I always associate Helsinki with him as he was the first person to ever tell me about the city, and well it was organised at the time.
Three Smiths Statue
There a many such sculptures around the city with each carrying a piece of history. The statue sculpted by Felix Nylund was unveiled in 1932 and depicts three naked smiths hammering on an anvil. It was destroyed during the 1944 Continuation War. Marks of the damage can still be seen at the base of the statue to this day...
Kumpula is a very green neighbourhood in Helsinki, it even maintains blocks of wooden houses built in the 1920s. It is also home to the campuses of the University of Helsinki.
Spots like this are in no way unique in Kumpula...
Unveiled in 1852, Helsinki Cathedral was built as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was named after him until the independence of Finland in 1917.
I think right in the middle we have St Peter and Simon the Zealot to our left...
The monument was erected in 1967 as a tribute to Jean Sibelius, the most-renowned Finnish composer. The artist passed away in 1957 however another artist, Eila Hiltunen decided he needed to be remembered for the symphonies he has left behind. The monument is made up of steel pipes welded together in a wavy way to depict the essence of the music of Sibelius.
To me, it is the most beautiful monument in the city of Helsinki...
And this a bust of the legend, in the most artistic way
Suomenlinna is a UNESCO world-heritage sea fortress built around 1748. The little archipelago is made of 4 islands that are quite popular with tourists as it has loads of picnic spots. It was built by the Swedish during their occupation of Finland but had to surrender it to Russia in 1808 and it remained under the ownership of Russia until the independence of Finland in 1918. It has since then gone through a series of changes that led to the control by civilians from 1973.
In the Eastern part of the island, Ruutikellari offers an unobstructed view of Helsinki. The plain area can be a perfect spot for a quiet day or a picnic...
I could have just laid my poncho down and sat there for hours...
The museum is the central museum of the Finnish Defence Forces and the national special museum of military history. It has a special place in Finnish history as it once was a fortress and today holds an impressive portfolio of military artifacts made up of 200,000 items.
Suomenlinna Guest Harbour
The guest harbour is the only area for visitors with their own boats to moor in Suomenlinna. Other piers in the fortress area are only for the use of the authorities, the military, ferry, etc..
If you love boats like me, you will be served ...
Essentially the Suomenlinna bridge is a famous landmark of the island. It opens the door to the multiple islands on the archipelago. It is also situated next to the boat maintenance warehouse and there is a cafe just before you cross the bridge.
I found Finland (Helsinki) to be quite an interesting place for how it is organised. Just like their fellow Scandinavians, Finnish look after nature in a way only unique to this side of Europe. I did not manage to visit places like Lapland or the numerous castles in the country because my friend's car was broken into the night I arrived and needed to have its windows replaced. A last-minute car rental was simply not an option so I resolved to just visit Helsinki. Public transport caught my attention in the way all the information is centralised through an app and commuters can buy tickets and use their phones to travel around the city. I feel I will one day go back to Finland to once again experience aurora borealis and finally get visit Lapland. Thanks for reading me.
Until next time...