Raisin’ Hell in Helsinki

The high-tech that surrounds you in Finland, starting with the self-dispensing paper-saving cloth towels at the airport bathroom, hits you immediately. Why can’t the U.S. be more techie, click here

Another greatness shows in the highly customer-oriented ferries. There is a Helsinki Tallinn ferry and a Tallinn Helsinki ferry. A great way to get to Helsinki is to take the two-hour Helsinki Tallinn ferry journey. Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, across the Baltic Sea. There are many Baltic ferries between other ports. Besides loading passengers, the Tallinn Helsinki ferry I used also took on vehicles, including buses, in its hold. The ferry was the size of a small cruise ship, capable of handling 2500 passengers. Although they were not needed for a short trip, sleeping cabins were available for purchase. On-board facilities included a white tablecloth restaurant, a Burger King, a cafeteria, an all-you-can-eat restaurant, a supermarket, and a large bar. It was truly an amazing boat. Going from Helsinki to Tallinn? Even for a day trip, the Helsinki Tallinn ferry is the way to go.

Finland is a young country compared to its neighbors, coming into existence only around 1550. The newness of Finland is reflected in the city of Helsinski, its capital. Originally the buildings were all of wood. As they burned or rotted, they were replaced by modern concrete and steel structures to make the very contemporary, clean, fresh, small and walk-able city that Helsinki is today. And Finland cherishes its environment, nature conservation is very important and reflects in the surroundings, even in the city. The people of Helsinki are seen frequently riding bicycles everywhere around the small city and throughout the environment of nature conservation all around.

There aren’t as many true tourist sites in Helsinski. The real joy of Finland is outside the cities and in the great outdoors. People interested in nature conservation will love Finland. Besides the amazing ferries that come and go from its busy port, Helsinski’s main tourist attractions are 2 churches that dot the skyline, one a Lutheran Cathedral and the other a Finnish Orthodox Cathedral.

Helsinki is a walkable city
The main square of Helsinki is a few blocks from the harbor

A very active market selling souvenirs, foods, and local crafts lines the harbor. Today the Euro is the official currency, but U.S. dollars are readily accepted. From Market Square catch a boat to Suomenlinna, a sizeable island with a large fort built by the Swedes when they controlled Finland to defend their territory. Today 900 people call this home, along with many restaurants and galleries, and the fort serves as a living history museum that is a must-see if you have several hours to spare.

The Russians controlled Finland for much of its history. In the late 19th century, the Russian army consisted of many Russian minorities sent to Finland to defend Russian interests there. The Finnish authorities allowed all groups to practice their beliefs without restriction. Even today, Jews and Muslims in Helsinki, for example, are always allowed to freely practice their religion. Throughout World War II, in contrast to many of the other countries in Europe, Finnish Jews were free to worship and practice their religion. Today the Helsinki synagogue is one of the few sights to see.

The people of Helsinki named a park for native son composer Jean Sibelius, when he turned 80 years old. When he died, a sculpture of pipe organs was placed in the park with his bust. Today the park and sculpture form an interesting tourist attraction. The sculpture, 600 organ pipes, sings when the winds blow into the park from the nearby bay on a windy day.

There are many museums in Helsinki that are widely covered by standard tourist information sites if you want to get in from the weather, which can be cold except in summer. Another indoor activity very dear to the Finns is the sauna, although there are also outdoor saunas. The very word sauna comes from the Finnish language, and saunas are culturally integral to Finnish life. There is a sauna in every hotel as well as at the base of SkyWheel, a ferris wheel that hugs the harbor. You can also take a sauna at the downtown Burger King!

The Finnish language is hard to learn, but you can safely assume nearly everyone speaks English. The Finns are much maligned as heavy drinkers, the cost of living is high, but the Finns roll out the welcome mat for visitors. Share a sauna with one to learn their true good nature.


  1. I smiled to myself about the towels in the rest room.

    It is actually not a new idea…I remember using them in the 50’s & 60’s…they did not automatically dispense though, we had to pull the towel down.

    Building on the “unique” differences, while there are some in our fold that are not into the tech and don’t care, the paragraph about the ferry was something everyone wants to see because you will not find it in states…I would go there just to see that.

    This is a country known for it’s environmental initiatives.

    1. Great comment, John! Thanks for reading. I, too, recall the cloth towels we used to have. What is unique in Helsinki is how they automatically work.

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