…and we could not resist and pay Helsinki a visit this summer. It was one of the shortest trip planning ever, mainly due to the fact that we found some flight tickets for 99 Swiss Francs per person (which is currently less than USD 100). Our infant son was only a few days old when we made the booking thinking if worse comes worse and we cannot travel our travel piggy bank wouldn’t cry too hard.
We were however really confident and convinced our first trip as a family would take place and – even more – be a success. Packing turned out to be a slower process than usual. If the two of us hit the road as a couple we were hard to beat in the packing department when it came to speed. We have our general stuff we take no matter where we are going and then we add specific items depending on where we go, what weather we expect, what occasions we plan to attend etc. Now we were confronted with more challenging questions like how many bodies does an infant need per day? How many dummies? How many diapers? (We decided to only take a few and buy a pack at our destination, which we described in another post). Things we never spared a thought before! It took us a lot of time to decide what to take for the baby and what we could spare. We were quite proud that we finally managed to travel with one suitcase, a small daypack each, a diaper bag plus the stroller. Still – the days of “I just need my passport, the credit card and all will be fine” are over!
Scandinavia welcomed us with beautiful whether and we were later told that we managed to hit the slot with the sunniest ten days in the entire summer. We humbly confessed that it was actually us who brought the sun 🙂 Whilst I have been to Scandinavia many times (I actually used to live in Finland for a year as an exchange student when I was a teenager), the boys were new to this territory. As far as I can tell – they both fell in love with Finland instantly.
With baby in tow we set off to discover Helsinki. One of my favorite spots was and still is the market square. Facing the Baltic sea you can find seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish as well as some handicrafts. The colors and smell make me instantly happy. Traditionally you find many outdoor cafes there; we sat down to indulge in some salmon sandwich, local pastries and coffee. It just seems the sea gulls became an increasing problem in recent years. Some nets prevent them from snatching your delicious treats though.
Strengthened we strolled along the Esplanadi (colloquially known as “Espa”), one of the most famous streets in Helsinki. In the middle there is a park, which is very busy during summer. If you need a break you can visit the popular restaurant “Kappeli” or the kiosk Esplanadi where you get the cheapest coffee in the entire city centre.
The main sights we ticked off with a city tour by bus: the unique rock church, the orthodox Uspenski cathedral, the biggest orthodox church in Western Europe, the stainless steel monument dedicated to the famous composer Jean Sibelius, the Melkki Cruise Terminal, the Olympic Stadium and Senate Square with the iconic landmark, the white cathedral which was built during the Russian rule as a tribute to czar Nicholas I. Apparently, on clear days the dome can even be seen from Estonia’s capital Tallinn.
The weather was good, the mood as well as we navigated around various islands including Suomenlinna, Helsinki’s sea fortress, Korkesaari where you find the city’s zoo and Seurasaari where you find an open-air museum with old, mainly wooden buildings from around the country. We did not get time to visit these islands during this stay but they made it on the list for next time.
The highlight however followed in the evening; we were invited to spend the evening on a small island where our new friends own a mökki – a summer cottage. We travelled by boat – even the baby boy had his own life jacket, which is by the way a law in Finland – seeing the city shrinking in the evening light. A perfect evening followed in good company, with interesting conversations, beer, sauna, authentic food and nature all around us. Bliss!
I thought to myself that those are the moments, which make travel and life rich and beautiful – a true treasure and hard if not impossible to buy with money!
Kiitos (thank you) Helsinki and lovely friends for some amazing days! We will be back 🙂