Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Tour of Helsinki

When Mike and I were here 3 years ago, we took a bus tour of the city.  Yesterday, I was able to join some parents and friends of the International School of Helsinki (ISH) and do the same tour again.  It was a good refresher.  Though a European capital with close to a million people in the metropolitan area, Helsinki is one of those cities that you can feel like you can see in just a few days. 

The highlights of the tour are the Rock Church (Temppeliaukion Kirkko) and the monument to the composer Jean Sibelius.  The Rock Church is amazing.  The site for the church was selected many years ago and instead of quarrying the rock out of the hill and then building the church, the church was built into the rock.  Many of the inside walls are the actual rock and the roof is made of copper.  The acoustics are supposed to be excellent and there are often concerts performed there.  I picked up the schedule and hope we'll be able to go to a performance this fall.  Read more here about the Rock Church.

Outside the Rock Church on a very dreary day

Inside the Rock Church

The other stop on the tour is a monument to composer Jean Sibelius (read more about Sibelius).  He is Finland's most famous composer and his most famous composition is called Finlandia.  He is definitely one of Finland's favored sons.  The monument consists of hundreds of steel pipes welded together.  According to the info on the tour, the monument is designed to recall the trees in the forest.  According to Wikipedia, the monument's design is to capture the essence of Sibelius' music.  Also, an interesting fact from Wikipedia is that a very similar work by the same artist is at the UN headquarters in NYC.  One of my tri-state area readers will need to go and check it out!

Monument to Jean Sibelius

After the tour, my new friend Jaime and her son Brayden and I had lunch at Cafe Strindberg on the Esplanadi.  Cafe Strindberg is another Helsinki institution, but unfortunately, they are in a building attached to a mall and with the mall's renovations that start in a few weeks, the Cafe will close.  Apparently, this summer, there were many protests and even several country politicans got involved to save the Cafe.  Time marches on though, and the Cafe is due to close at the beginning of October.  I am glad I have had a few opportunities to enjoy it.

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