Crossing The Finnish Line

Helsinki may not be considered a popular tourist destination, but after my recent visit I am happy to report there is a great deal more to the city then first expected. As the capital of Finland it boasts a population of half a million and is situated on the picturesque Gulf of Finland.

I was fortunate to stay right downtown, within walking distance of everything I wanted to see. The famous Helsinki Cathedral, with its pristine white exterior, topped with gold crosses, can be seen from everywhere and acts as a central reference place. The square in front of the cathedral plays host to tourists and concerts, but the true value of the visit is a climb up the 46 steps to visit the church itself. The interior is plain, in typical Lutheran tradition and the most ornate element is the pulpit, with its detailed dome.

Three blocks away lies the Gulf of Finland, part of the Baltic Sea. There are 330 small islands just off the shore, accessible by many tour boats, which leave regularly from the harbour. One such island is home to Suomenlinna Fortress, a large navel complex built two hundred and fifty years ago by the Swedish army to help defend the area against Russian attack.

Finland is a relatively new democracy and was constantly occupied by Russia or Sweden, during the ongoing wars between those countries. When Russia invaded Finland in 1939 the only country to come to her rescue was Germany, who helped hold the Russians back. After the war Finland negotiated peace with the Soviets, asked the Germans to leave and now enjoys good relations with Russia, as well as the rest of Europe.

Finland with its 5 million inhabitants has its own unique language, the roots of which are Estonian and Hungarian, maki