Well, this is how one of them ended up in my burger.
My plan for the day was simple: Take the airport shuttle back from the hotel, store my bags, get on the city train, walk from the train station to the Suomenlinna ferry, and take the ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
Despite a hiccup in finding the left luggage lockers at the airport, the rest of my plan
went swimmingly, for once. I managed to get on the ferry right as it was getting ready to make its hourly departure from the Market Square.
The cruise to the fortress takes about fifteen minutes, and the sea and land are shrouded in fine mist as the sun rises to burn it off. Very noisy gulls duck and dive around the ferry as islands appear out of nowhere.
Suomenlinna rises from the water, an old sea fort that deserves a decent walkaround. There is a very simple map to follow, and the signs are marked very well. As I start out, the fog is still lifting off the land. People appear and disappear seemingly at whim.
The main sites are the coastal defense walls, the bastion itself, King’s Gate, and many of the grassy-roofed buildings along the way. There’s a few museums on the island and a cafe and restaurants, and several other places to sit and eat. Since it early April, I wasn’t planning on sitting on a picnic bench – some places still had traces of snow. However, despite the nice chill, I walked around for about two and half hours, enjoying the frosty views from up on the fortress walls and staring down the barrels of cannons overlooking the sea.
The beaches were frosted with cold water, and several small ponds of water were still iced over. I liked the fiery colours of the grass – the oranges and yellows to contrast against the pale green grass and shades of blue in the water.
After a restful and warm stop at a restaurant near the ferry dock, I hopped back on and went back to the city proper. From there, I walked up to the Uspenski Cathedral, a Russian-Orthodox church near the Market Square and then along to Senate Square and the Helsinki Cathedral, which are quite hard to miss. Helsinki is an extremely walkable city, as the streets are in a nice grid pattern and relatively easy to navigate – even if you have trouble reading the street names.
I sat in the sunshine on the steps in front of the Helsinki Cathedral for some time, having a coffee and reading some in a book. After traveling for over a week – and driving myself hard through three other countries – I had to admit that I just wanted a low-key day in Helsinki, and it’s a very low-key sort of city.
After sitting for a long time – the longest I’d sat in a week, it was hard to get up and wander more. Mostly, I was in search of a toilet, so that was powerful enough to get me off the stairs. I ended up at the train station again, strangely enough, so that was good enough for a toilet. Then, I was off to a local bookshop to peruse the English titles and a nearby Starbucks to sit again, read, and enjoy a coffee. Besides, I needed my Helsinki Starbucks mug for the collection.
My final goal in Helsinki was to eat some reindeer, but not expensive reindeer. I found a local bar/pub with a reindeer burger on the menu, and they sold me with the cranberry topping and arugula. Oh, and the sautéed mushrooms. It sounded quite like a Christmas holiday on a burger bun.
Reindeer is delicious as a burger. Done medium, it was juicy, just a little gamey, and the flavours all worked together on a toasted bun. I had my reindeer, my Dasher on a bun, so I had crossed that off my list.
By now it was later in the evening, so I hopped back on the train from the city centre to the airport to claim my things from the locker and find my gate. The Helsinki airport isn’t hard to navigate as it’s pretty efficient in its layout, so I had time to browse shops (I recommend the reindeer and elk sausage, by the way, as souvenirs) and get to my gate in plenty of time.
In fact, if you can get it and your flight is later, go for the discounted Finnair lounge access. The food in there is really good (and you’re not squished in with others at the food court), and let’s face it, the wine and beer selection is great if you’re wanting to fall asleep quickly on the plane.
Helsinki is a great day-long stopover, but I look forward to going back at some point and enjoying more of the city – maybe even popping over to Estonia as well.