Helsinki, Finland, July 2009

Alexander II Monument Alexander II Monument
(1) Alexander II Monument (2) Alexander II Monument
Helsinki Tram Senate Square, Helsinki
(3) Helsinki Tram (4) Senate Square, Helsinki

After spending ten days in the area around the city of Turku, I had a day's stopover to see some of the sights in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. My first stop was the large Senate Square, where an elaborate monument to Emperor Alexander II of Russia stands in the square's centre (pictures 1 and 2). Alexander II was also the Grand Duke of Finland from 1855 until has assassination in 1881.

Helsinki's trams run past the south side of the square regularly (picture 3), while on the opposite side of the square, steep steps rise up to Helsinki's Cathedral. From the top of the steps there is a good view across the square and the surrounding area (picture 4).

Helsinki Cathedral Helsinki Cathedral
(5) Helsinki Cathedral (6) Helsinki Cathedral
Pipe Helsinki Cathedral
(7) Pipe Organ, Helsinki Cathedral (8) Helsinki Cathedral

The Cathedral (picture 5) was built over 22 years from 1830 to 1852 to a symmetrical floor plan, shaped like a big plus sign. Inside (picture 6), the building fits a circular plan inside the cross, with a curved pipe organ occupying one of the alcoves (picture 7) and the altar on a circular platform in another alcove (picture 8).

The relatively modern cathedral was an interesting contrast to the 13th-century cathedral I had visited in Turku a few days earlier.

Helsinki Station Helsinki Station
(9) Helsinki Station (10) Helsinki Station
No beer Koff Tram
(11) No beer (12) Koff Tram

At sunset I walked past Helsinki's Central Railway Station (picture 9), which serves more than one million passengers each week, making it Finland's most-visited building. The building's exterior is made of granite and features a tall clock tower, though at the time of my visit the tower was clad in scaffolding. Returning in the morning, I could see that the scaffolding was covered in large pictures of what the tower will look like when restored (picture 10).

While walking through a nearby shopping mall, I briefly thought the Finns were demonstrating proper respect for beer (picture 11), before discovering that this sign just means "Sale!". There were some signs elsewhere that really do mean beer, however, including a tram with livery advertising the local Koff brand (picture 12).

Vart Land Statue Fountain at the harbour
(13) Vart Land Statue (14) Fountain at the harbour
Helsinki Harbour Emperor Alexander Monument
(15) Helsinki Harbour (16) Emperor Alexander Monument

Heading towards the harbour, I walked through a long narrow park where there were many statues, one of them illustrating Finalnd's national anthem, "Vart Land", meaning "our land" (picture 13). By the harbour there is a large fountain (picture 14), encircled by tram lines as it seems to be the end of the line.

Looking across the harbour I watched a large cruise ship turning around in a tight circle as it departed from the city, while smaller ferries criss-crossed the harbour (picture 15). Returning from the harbour, I passed by another monument to Emperor Alexander II (picture 16).