27th June, 2019
We set maximum speed eastward across the central Baltic overnight in order to make earliest ETA at Helsinki pilot station on Thursday morning.
Fortunately, the weather had cleared somewhat since departing Stockholm yesterday, and it was now mostly dry with just the odd scattered shower flying past in the strong northerly breeze – thankfully making them short lived.
We turned north into – compared to Sweden – a slightly less dense Finnish archipelago and zig-zagged between various islands, picking our pilot up enroute. The most spectacular part of our sail-in occurs only a mile or so from the harbour, when we pass a very narrow opening between two islands: Vallisaari and Suomenlinna. The former I found relatively easy to pronounce when advising passengers of this transit, however the latter island I made sound like we would be sailing past a famous liquid-like dessert.
We backed down onto our berth without tug assistance despite a strong breeze off the berth, which is a refined skill on board this ship. With mooring lines all tight and the gangway ready at 11:30, it was time for everyone who wished to go and explore Europe’s most northerly capital to do so.
There are no high-rise buildings in this capital, but instead it retains a small-town feel, scattered with grand architecture revealing a mixture of Swedish, Russian and international influences. It is often called the ‘white city of the north’ as many of its buildings are made from a local light-coloured granite.
For the ladies, there is excellent shopping here apparently, however it might cost a little more than you bargained for! Alternatively one can stroll the streets admiring the architecture, stop for an affordable coffee, or take a ride on the Ferris-wheel located near the centre.
For those who wished to have everything done for them whilst ashore, our Explore Ashore programme almost certainly offered something that appealed. Among the several tour options, one which stood out to me was a trip to an interesting spot called Porvoo, around 45 minutes’ drive away from Helsinki through some lovely countryside.
The city of Porvoo itself is said to be the second oldest in Finland, and the old town is a treasure-house of historic Finnish architecture with the town plan remaining as it was laid down in the middle ages. Basically, it’s a lot of wood. There is a lovely cathedral on the top of the hill – itself originally built in wood – since reassembled in stone perhaps after a subsequent building fire survey…
A guided tour takes our guests around the riverside and what is said to be the most photographed attraction in Finland, before everyone is invited to retire to afternoon tea served in the Haikko Manor Hotel, an elegant building dating from 1913.
Well, after the return of that trip to Porvoo and several other of our tours – along with the stragglers doing their own thing – it was time to set sail out of the harbour past ‘Semolina Island’ again, and back into the eastern Baltic. It is full-speed steaming to our next destination, and our highlight port, of St Petersburg tomorrow morning. With that in mind, our local pilot is expected to embark at 04:30, so it’s bed time for me…
Captain Kim Tanner
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