Christmas in Finland

Christmas in Finland, Where Santa Lives

          When contemplating travel during the month of December we usually think of the Christmas Markets of Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic.  One of my favorite Christmas shops is Kathe Wohlfahrt’s year round shop in Rothenburg, Germany.  But Christmas is actually celebrated throughout the world, including countries like Japan which are not traditionally thought of as Christmas destinations.  Many believe that Finland, which is an overwhelmingly Christian nation, is one of the most ‘Christmassy’ countries in the world.  After all, they say, Santa Claus himself lives in Lapland, a region in northern Finland, located near the North Pole.  The fact that there are as many reindeer in Lapland as there are people only adds to the mystique.  Whether or not you believe that Santa originated in Finland, the Finns certainly do and there is much evidence for it as one travels throughout this beautiful country.  I hope you enjoy these photos from my recent trip to Finland that make one think of Christmas.

Santa Claus Figure Outside Shop in Helsinki, Finland

Santa Claus Figure Outside Shop in Helsinki, Finland

Child in Finland Decked Out in Christmas Colors

Child in Finland Decked Out in Christmas Colors

The Finnish Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki

The Finnish Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral in Helsinki

     

Porvoo, Finland

The Old Train Station at Porvoo, Finland

          On a recent trip to Finland, Russia and Ukraine I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful little town of Porvoo, Finland.  Just a 30 mile bus ride from Helsinki, the capital of Finland, Porvoo is a small medieval town located on the River Porvoonjoki.  I was captivated by an old deserted train station located just outside of the old town and could only imagine all the comings and goings from this station over the years.

Porvoo, Finland

The Old Town of Porvoo, Finland across the River Porvoonjoki

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

 

The Old Train Station at Porvoo, Finland

 

 

Red and Yellow Colors of Finland

Finland’s Red and Yellow Color Theme

          Astute visitors to Finland can’t help but notice the recurring theme of red and yellow colors throughout this beautiful country.  Rather more of a ‘katchup and mustard’ combination, these striking hues are featured on everything from houses and buildings to trains and boats and even to flower beds and the clothing fashions worn by the Finns themselves.

Red and Yellow Tulips in Helsinki, Finland

Red and Yellow Tulips in Helsinki, Finland

           The origin of this tradition is difficult to trace, but could be related to the colors of the unofficial flag of the Swedish-speaking Finns or the temporary state flag used from 1917-1918.  The red and yellow color scheme is so pervasive that it even extends to an area near Las Vegas, Nevada called Little Finland, which is known for its red and yellow rock formations.

Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo, Finland

 Enjoy this gallery featuring shades of red and yellow captured with my camera around Helsinki, Porvoo and Suomenlinna Sveaborg.

    

Helsinki, Finland

Gateway to Scandinavia, the Baltics and Russia

          Whether you plan on heading north to explore Scandinavia, south to visit the Baltic States or southeast to visit Russia, Helsinki is a great starting point for your trip.  The Helsinki Airport makes it a major transportation hub for the region and with convenient bus service from the airport to the Helsinki city center just 9 miles away (30 minutes, 4.5 Euros), visitors should definitely set aside a few days to explore this beautiful city.  From the modern bus terminal at the Kamppi Center in the city, you can choose from an array of side trips outside Helsinki, such as the day trip I took to the medieval town of Porvoo 30 miles east.  If you’re heading on to St. Petersburg, Russia I recommend the comfortable, albeit expensive Allegro Train for the three and a half hour ride.  Customs and other border formalities, such as passport and visa checks are conveniently carried out on board the Allegro Train by friendly, efficient customs officers.  Helsinki is also a major stop for cruise ships plying the waters of the Baltic Sea, many of which can be seen moored in the harbor.

The Esplandi or Esplanade in the Helsinki City Center

The Esplandi or Esplanade in the Helsinki City Center

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland

Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland

What to See and Do in Helsinki

          Much more than just a gateway city, Helsinki, Finland is a popular destination in itself.  Despite being the capital and largest city in Finland, Helsinki is very walkable for reasonably fit travelers, especially if you divide your forays into different regions, explored over several days.  Some of the main sights include the Finnish National Opera, the Sibelius Monument, the Parliament House, and the Olympic Stadium, site of the 1952 Summer Olympics.  You will not want to miss the unique and spectacular Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock in the same region.  The city has many other churches worth visiting, including St. John’s Church, Mikael Agricola Church, Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral.  During your walking tour of Helsinki be sure to stop and enjoy the many architecturally interesting homes and buildings along the way.  One of my favorites is the glass Palm House arboretum built in 1889 in the University of Helsinki Botanical Gardens.  Finally, be sure to set aside several hours to take the ferry (5 Euros round trip) to Suomenlinna Sveaborg, a park-like fortress covering six islands off the coast, which is also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Suomenlinna Sveaborg

Suomenlinna Sveaborg

Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock, Helsinki, Finland

Temppeliaukio Church or Church of the Rock, Helsinki, Finland

The Rivoli Jardin Hotel, A Great Place to Stay

          Located just a short walk from the Central Railway Station where the airport bus lets you off, the Rivoli Jardin Hotel was the ideal place to stay for my three day sojourn in Helsinki.  The full buffet breakfast was one of the finest spreads I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying in my travels.  Since Helsinki is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world, I was not surprised that my hotel costs came in over my usual budget.  My average nightly charge was $137.00.  For that I got a clean, comfortable, safe room, a great location and a friendly, helpful front desk staff.  The Rivoli Jardin is located just a few blocks from the Helsinki Esplanade and the center of town and has a convenient market almost right across the street.  The Rivoli Jardin Hotel met all my criteria for an Awesome Accommodation and I can highly recommend it for your next visit to Helsiki, Finland.

The Rivoli Jardin Hotel, Helsinki, Finland

The Rivoli Jardin Hotel, Helsinki, Finland

The Buffet Breakfast at the Rivoli Jardin Hotel in Helsinki, Finland

The Buffet Breakfast at the Rivoli Jardin Hotel in Helsinki, Finland