Journey Notes: Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn


Helsinki, Finland was initially established as a Swedish outpost in 1550. As a consequence of on-again, off-again wars between Sweden and Russia, Finland was annexed by Russia in 1809 after Sweden misplaced the 21-year conflict with Russia. It remained a part of Russia till 1917 when throughout the Russian Revolution of that 12 months Finland negotiated its autonomy from Russia with a monetary buyout that the Fins had been nonetheless paying for into the Nineteen Sixties. 

Whereas Finland is a part of the EU they don’t seem to be aligned with NATO as their want for Russian oil is a extra urgent monetary matter. Helsinki can also be one of many few locations the place you’ll proceed to see monuments to the previous Czars of Russia.

Helsinki locals wish to joke that they’ve two seasons: winter season and development season. Certainly, in every single place we traveled in Helsinki development was underway making streets troublesome to navigate.

Church buildings and monuments

Our first cease is the John Sibelius monument. John Sibelius was a composer and violinist who’s extensively credited with serving to Finland set up its nationwide id. Sibelius was so liked and admired that solely 10 years after his demise in 1967, a monument to him and his music was constructed. It took one other 20 years earlier than the monument actually gained a foothold in Finland’s nationwide conscience. It’s believed that Sibelius noticed musical notes as colours and that this capacity influenced his compositions.

I’ve come to search out out that the tour guides within the nation are bored with visiting church buildings. So drained that they named the church stops “ABC” (One other Bloody Church). Our subsequent two stops are at church buildings. The Uspenski Cathedral and the Church of the Rock (Temppeliaukio Church). The Uspenski is exclusive for its apparent Russian affect with onion-shaped cupolas and a ravishing weathered copper roof.

The Church of the Rock is likely one of the distinctive constructions being constructed into the aspect of a rock downtown. Whereas the surface just isn’t very spectacular, the within with its copper ceiling may be very dramatic.

Many websites to see in Helsinki

There are a lot of locations that it is best to take a look at in Helsinki. My time was brief so I moved on to the Central Station. It’s virtually within the heart of the downtown space. The station is an imposing construction. If I had extra time I’d have simply spent an hour investigating it. The clock tower jogs my memory of a few of the pictures from Melancholy-era films meant to convey the state’s energy over the widespread man.

Saint Petersburg

We steam out of Helsinki for the journey to Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Baltic Sea is way calmer this evening and a vibrant sunny day awaits as we arrive in St. Petersburg the following morning.

Saint Petersburg just isn’t named after Peter the Nice as is extensively thought however after St. Peter. The town has truly been renamed thrice: Saint Petersburg (initially), Petrograd (1914), and Leningrad (1924). Then, again to Saint Petersburg in 1991. It should be famous that there isn’t any going ashore in Saint Petersburg with no visa. The visa is both offered by the ship by way of their organized excursions or utilized for by yourself individually.

Stops alongside the way in which

Soviet-era development dots the panorama on the journey from the docks to town heart. It’s in terrible form and completely uninspired. Even the locals converse of it with a sure disdain. The facades are protected as “historic” and signage on these buildings is severely restricted (as are the repairs apparently). There’s no probability for footage as our driver doesn’t decelerate. He strikes as rapidly as potential to the higher elements of town the place the site visitors congestion additionally will increase.

We lastly make a cease alongside an older dock throughout the road from an early Twentieth-century naval vessel, the Aurora. The weapons from this boat had been fired because the sign for the Bolsheviks to storm the Winter Palace within the first occasion of the October Revolution. This was the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the tip of the Romanov household.

The Neva River divides a lot of the central a part of town. A ship on the river is a pleasant method to see quite a bit with out strolling all the distance.

The Vasilyevsky Island Spit extends into the Neva and offers many good views up and down the Neva and, the distinctive rostral columns commemorating naval victories present an fascinating focal point.

The cathedrals

The Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral had been constructed between 1706 and 1740. The construction was not solely a defensive construction towards Swedish assaults, it was additionally a jail for high-ranking political prisoners. Prisoners included Dostoevsky and Trotsky. Fascinating {that a} fort/jail additionally contained an excellent cathedral with 27 icons mounted in gold. The cathedral additionally accommodates the stays of most of the latter Czars, together with the reinterred Romanov household.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the most important Russian Orthodox cathedral and the fourth largest cathedral. It holds about 6,000 folks and is standing solely as there’s no seating.

In the course of the Siege of Leningrad in 1941, German used St. Isaac’s as a concentrating on level. The results of a few of the shelling can nonetheless be seen within the pockmarked crimson granite columns surrounding the church.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is probably the most ornate Russian Orthodox church I’ve ever seen. I’m way more accustomed to the Russian church buildings within the U.S. that are far much less adorned for probably the most half. The church on its small plot of land attracts huge crowds day by day. The road distributors on the again aspect of the church feed off these crowds.

No go to to Saint Petersburg is full with no go to to the Hermitage Museum. The museum is so massive there isn’t any hope of finishing it within the afternoon so. We focused on solely a single part till the tip of the day.


We go away St. Petersburg for the in a single day crusing to Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn is located on the northeast coast of the Gulf of Finland. To many individuals within the West, Tallinn can be a welcome shock. A contemporary techno heart surrounds an outdated medieval city that also accommodates a lot of the preserved structure from the Center Ages. Fortunately, when the Soviet Union bombed after which annexed Estonia after the tip of World Struggle II they didn’t destroy every part of their wake.

Outdated City 

The 2 principal areas of “Outdated City” are the higher and decrease sections. The walled “higher city” on Dome Hill /Cathedral Hill (Toompea) has superb cathedrals and authorities buildings. This consists of the oldest city corridor relationship from 1404. The “decrease city” is a maze of squares, gabled homes, and church buildings. It was referred to as the Hanseatic part for the retailers and merchants that belonged to the Hanseatic League within the Center Ages. A number of the city-states inside the League additionally had their very own governments and authorized techniques. There may be an internal wall that divides the higher and decrease sections that you may stroll by way of to entry both aspect by way of the centuries-old gate.

On the one finish of the City Corridor Sq., there is likely one of the oldest (open since 1422) nonetheless functioning pharmacies. It accommodates a museum inside whereas nonetheless meting out fundamental treatments.

Previous the Apothecary you’ll come throughout St. Catherine’s Passage. This passage is a must-see for the structure and the retailers related to St. Catherine’s Guild.

Structure and church buildings

Sure, it’s time for an ABC (one other bloody church) however it’s a spectacular one. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral occupies one of many 4 most distinguished items of land within the Higher City. The Russian influences are once more evident within the onion-shaped cupolas of the church.

Freedom Sq. sits simply exterior the walled outdated metropolis and is an enormous open plaza. The Victory Column commemorates the Estonian Struggle of Independence. It’s set towards the backdrop of Kiek in de Kok and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It’s a visually gorgeous website.

Kiek in de Kok is a excessive cannon tower on the south finish of the outdated walled metropolis that defended town from invaders coming over land. It’s a formidable Center Ages construction that’s now a museum. It additionally serves as the doorway to the hidden tunnels, the Bastion Passages. The tunnels had been constructed within the 17th century however had been used within the Second World Struggle once more.

Native aptitude

On my approach out of town, I come throughout a few of the native colours. Tallinn has an abundance of avenue performers and this gentleman was actually close to the highest of the record.

I finish my discovery of Tallinn on the sq. the place the towers of the outdated metropolis gates on Viru Avenue stand. It’s a energetic sq. with many retailers, eating places, and avenue distributors. It might be simple to spend a leisurely afternoon on the sq..

Editor’s Notice: This can be a four-part article from our reader, Bob McCormac. It encompasses a 20-day journey to the Nordic nations that spawned the Vikings and the place they left their mark on civilization. In most areas, these direct influences have lengthy since been erased however the influence on the cultures remains to be obvious in every nation.

Learn Half 1: Stockholm, Sweden

You could find Bob’s work right here: