We went for a wedding in Prague this summer and flew Finnair from Singapore. Naturally, Finnair connects in Helsinki. So we decided to stay a night in Helsinki before flying to Prague.
We landed in Helsinki early in the morning on 27th July 2016 after flying overnight from Singapore. Our plan was to leave our luggages at a hotel we’re checking into for a couple of hours to freshen up. Hilton Helsinki was nearby and they allowed us to leave our luggages there overnight while we gallivanted around Helsinki town. We packed a day pack and our essentials for an overnight stay in Helsinki city that night.
After we checked out, we went to get our Helsinki Cards from the airport which cost about 47 Euro per card which is valid for 24 hours.The card provides unlimited travel on the public transport and ferry to and from Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, which is the #1 must see place on Lonely Planet and by TripAdvisor. With more time, we would have gone to the museum and other sights too.
It’s always exhilarating when you first start out on your holiday. Sometimes, I feel that I don’t completely live in the moment enough to savour every second that I’m on vacation and just feel joy from every pore of my being. While reflecting and recalling where we’ve been, I realise that it is sometimes easy to take a certain experience for granted when we don’t live in the present.
We took the train from the airport to the city. We have truly began our journey into places we can’t pronounce well enough. Our ride into the city was about 35 minutes. The train ride was rather pleasant and comfortable. Next mission when we arrived in the city was to get to our Airbnb apartment in the city. Before that, we stored our day packs in the storage lockers at the central railway, for when we get back from our excursion to Suomenlinna. But not before checking out where the apartment is. We waited for the bus at the central station and had doubts about the direction… We studied the map again and crossed over to the opposite side, noted that the bus will take a while. The weather was good and sunny. So we decided to walk it.
We walked from ‘KLUUVI’ towards where the little yellow star is on the top right side of the map.
The walk was good and we got to the apartment. The instructions in getting to the apartment then became slightly confusing as it was stated that we should look for a blue bicycle at the building… we saw about three or four blue bicycles and so we started snooping around the bicycles like a couple of tourist bicycle thieves. We finally located The One. It had the little keypad locks with a key in it which got us through the lobby and then into the apartment. It wasn’t a big apartment but really cute like a place I might have stayed in if I were a student studying there. The bedroom was really just partitioned from the living room, with an IKEA wardrobe.
After getting a sense of where the apartment is, we set out again and towards the city centre again, looking for food. There aren’t many food choices where the apartment is except for a Nepalese restaurant we saw near the little bridge. We went back to the city ate at a cafe. First meal in Finland, Helsinki. I had a salad with salmon. How can we not have salmon in Finland? While at lunch, that’s when we noticed a couple of things:
- There are really many blonds in Helsinki. True to the stereotype…
- Segways. There are too many of those. (These were just the first sighting of MANY segway users…there were so many more in Prague.)
We went on our way to Market Square, Kauppatori, which was really busy with summer vacationers. It was a bustling market square with lots of food stalls and some selling reindeer meat burger. We didn’t try it. Salmon is definitely a popular item as part of a dish there. They were selling fish and chips with salmon as its key ingredient. For this part of Asia in Singapore, salmon is considered as a luxury as they are all imported from Norway or other parts of the temperate world.
The queue to the ‘free’ ferry was horribly long. We queued up nevertheless since this is where we were able to use the Helsinki Card. We must have waited for about 1 hour before we boarded. The sun was blistering hot.
We got onto the ferry. Finally. The trip on the ferry to the island was hazy. From fatigue, heat, the long wait, the crowd…all elements packed into it. The island was littered with holidaymakers and sunbathers. The island has a laid back feel to it.
We enjoyed the Vesikko. It is the only WWII-era submarine which still remains on Finland. Moreover, it was also a vessel used against the Russians. It was definitely an eye opener to visit the submarine.
It was amazing how that many men lived in such a small space. The engine room must have been very hot and crammed. The beds were so narrow and a bathroom to share among all of them…
We walked the rest of the island and headed back to the jetty for our ride back to the mainland.
It was definitely a long summer day for us. We retrieved our bags from the lockers and went back to the apartment on foot as we thought that was a lot quicker without having to wait for the bus.
After showering, we were just a little jet lagged and tired. TV selection wasn’t great at the apartment so we were mostly on our tablets before we headed back out for an early dinner. I believe it was about 6:30pm then. We found a hole in the wall type of cafe just behind where we stayed called Kujo bar or something and their salmon salad was the real deal. Here, we would get shredded pieces of salmon in our dishes. The salmon salad we shared between us was an actual salmon fillet on the top.
Our burgers were great too…as you can see. They do taste as good as they look.
We called it a called it a day and was back at the apartment by 8:30pm. It was still bright…
Moving from the couch to the bed that night after watching an old movie on TV felt like I floated in a sleepwalk.
Our flight to Prague was that afternoon. We had to get to the airport before our ticket expires so we were up early and took a bus this time to the city and almost missed our train to the airport in time for our flight. We missed one of the trains and we just managed to get into the other one which was about to leave, on another platform.
Upon reaching the airport, we still had to collect our luggages from Hilton hotel and then check-in. After checking ourselves in and getting through customs, we managed to take a breath, have coffee and a muffin before getting on the plane to Prague.
See you again soon, Helsinki! (Well, we would be returning through Helsinki as well…)