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Helsinki

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

12th May, 2015

We arrived this morning at the pilot station at the very civilized hour of 10.30am. After the pilot had boarded we travelled the 7 miles through the Bay of Helsinki giving our passengers a wonderful view of the skyline of this city.

Finland’s capital grew up around its harbour on the Baltic Sea, gradually expanding into the metropolis of today. In spite of its size and sophistication, the city preserves much of the charm of a small 19th Century seaport. Helsinki was a Swedish outpost until the early 19th Century, when it became the capital of the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, an event that triggered a building boom. More expansion came in the 1920s, following Finnish independence. Evidence of Finnish creativity and design is all around you: in Helsinki’s architecture, handicrafts, decorative arts and hundreds of pieces of monumental sculpture. The factor that most clearly sets them apart from their foes and neighbours is their language, impenetrable to most outsiders. Like the Finns themselves, it is neither Slav nor Scandinavian, but came with their ancestors from central Asia long ago.

As soon as the ship was cleared by the local officials our passengers could proceed ashore. Today’s tours were:

“Old Town Porvoo”: After a scenic tour of Helsinki’s most famous sights and a journey through the beautiful Finnish countryside, the coach arrived in Porvoo, Finland’s second oldest city. Old Porvoo is a treasure in the history of Finnish architecture and the town plan remains as it was in the Middle Ages. The Cathedral is situated on top of the hill and dominates the town. The very first cathedral was built of wood but quickly restored with stones and is today a landmark of the city. The Empire-style part of Porvoo tells of the era of Nicholas I, the Czar of Russia between 1825-55. He wanted to be rid of the dense and flammable old town built during Swedish rule, and to replace it with a regular and spacious Russian rectangular city. Luckily Old Porvoo was not touched, and instead the town expanded to the south where it was indeed built according to the Empire-style St. Petersburgian plan. Architect Carl Ludwig Engel, who also designed the Senate Square area in Helsinki, was nominated the designer of new Porvoo.

“Sibelius Experience” combined the highlights of Finland’s beautiful capital with a visit to the home of the country’s most famous composer. During the city element of the tour the highlights were the Market Square, the Old Church, the Swedish Theatre, the Parliament Building, the National Museum designed by Eliel Saarinen, the Finlandia Hall designed by Alvar Aalto, the Hesperia Park, the Finnish National Opera House and the Olympic Stadium. From here it was on to Ainola, the home of Jean Sibelius, Finland’s master composer. His home near Lake Tuusula has been preserved as it was during the family’s lifetime and still contains the original furnishings. A tour of the house was followed by a 30-minute performance of some of the greatest works of Sibelius.

“Scenic Helsinki and Harbour Cruise” offered all the highlights of Helsinki from the comfort of a coach and the stunning archipelago that guards Helsinki from the comfort of a boat.

“Helsinki Highlights” was an opportunity to see and explore the highlights of Helsinki and its surroundings.

“City Tour of Helsinki” explored the highlights of the city of Helsinki in depth.

Once all our passengers and crew were back on board we let go of the lines and sailed the 7 miles back to the pilot station, where we disembarked the pilot and set course for our next port of call, St. Petersburg.

After dinner this evening the Britannia Lounge featured Cabaret Showtime with The Rolls Royce voice of West End & Music Theatre sensation Anthony Stuart Lloyd. This was followed in the Drawing Room by Easy Listening with The Perfect Mood Duo and in Cooper’s Bar by The Late Show with Martin Orbidans.

Captain Kees Spekman

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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