My European adventure resumes on the morning of August 8, 2017.
After breakfast, I started my tour of Helsinki at Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art. Though I will attempt to describe the exhibit, the installations must be seen to be appreciated. I will say this, though: my mind was blown.
The theme of the exhibit was how social media is changing what it means to be human. There was one installation which included poetry generated and read by a neural network. There were videos documenting the lives of fictitious social media celebrities, stories detailing the impact of social media on identity, physical installations of monitors and wiring which spoke to how our perception of the world is affected by social media and how computer waste pollutes the environment and endangers workers who sort and extract precious elements from hard drives and other computer parts.
I emerged from Kiasma in a kind of daze to be confronted by a peaceful and small demonstration by young refugees who didn’t want to be deported.
I had been told that the Hop-on, hop-off bus tour stopped at Kiasma. It was on the map the desk staff at the hotel had given me. I couldn’t find a sign anywhere near the museum that would indicate a stop, though. I waited, thinking that I could flag down the bus when it did stop, if it was anywhere near.
The driver of the first bus I caught up with informed me that there were two hop-on, hop-off bus tour companies and that my ticket was for the other one. He directed me to the proper stop, and I crossed Mannerheimintie to wait again.
I was understandably confused (and not a little frustrated) when, upon boarding the second bus, I was again told that my pass was for the other company. Once more, I crossed the street and waited.
Thankfully, the third driver accepted my pass and gave me the proper map and a set of headphones.
By this time, it was again after noon and having caught the bus near the end of its route, it wasn’t long before we passed Stockman’s (the Finnish equivalent of Macy’s or The Bay), the Esplanade (a lovely park and Market Square leading to the waterfront), and stopped at Senate Square. The next tour would depart in 20 minutes.
I took advantage of the stop to take a few pictures and try to find a public bathroom.
Another toilet story for you 🙂 Most public bathrooms in Helsinki are pay per use. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right change to access the one I found. I didn’t have the time to have a meal and use a restaurant bathroom, and so I scouted around until I found what looked to be a free public bathroom.
Let’s just say that in the future, I determined to have two and five Euro coins on me at all times. Enough said.
The two and a half hour hop-on, hop-off bus tour took us past the Uspenski Cathedral, ferris wheel, heli-port for flying tours, and the Market Square (again) and then down the peninsula. We passed the Olympia Terminal, Mannerheim Museum, Kaivopuisto Park, and through the Eira neighbourhood, featuring homes with Jugend, or Art Nouveau, architecture.
We then made a detour down to both cruise ship terminals to drop off passengers. Continuing the tour, we passed the flea market, the Tennis Palace, and the Natural History Museum on our way to the Rock Church, so named not only because it is made entirely of bedrock, but also because of the concerts that take place there due to the awesome acoustics the Rock Church affords.
We zipped on past the Sibelius Monument, the Tram Museum, Olympic Stadium, the Botanic Garden, and Linnanmäki Amusement Park and Sea Life Helsinki, before swinging by Töölö Bay, the National Opera House, Finlandia Hall, the National Museum, and the Parliament building (under construction) until we once more arrived at the Kiasma stop.
While I got to see all of these landmarks, I didn’t feel that I’d have time to hop off the bus and see anything, as the tours stopped running at 4 pm and I didn’t want to get stranded. I stayed on the bus until we once more reached the Esplanade, where I got off, had a stroll, and booked a discount ticket (thanks to the bus tour) for the boat tour of the archipelago for 4 pm.
I had time to grab a late lunch, see the inside of the Uspenski Cathedral, and shop for more souvenirs at the Market Square before the boat left the dock.
The boat tour was great. I sat on the upper level (and got a sun burn) so I could take pictures of all the things. We went most of the way around Suomenlinna, the sea fortress, which is actually five islands connected by bridges. It had everything, including its own church.
Suomenlinna guards the Gulf of Finland and Helsinki. The sea fortress was built because of all the naval warfare in the area. The main channel through the area was even protected by huge chains which would be used to prevent ships from passing (like Game of Thrones and Vikings).
We cruised by islands used for recreation (camping and hiking), public beaches, summer homes, and many year-round residences. There were lots of sail boats, cruisers, and even a sea plane, which again reminded me of home. There’s at least one resident on Lake Nepahwin that has one 🙂 They fly right over our house when they take off.
Before we returned to the dock, we passed Korkeasaari, the Helsinki zoo. It’s on its own island and is the most northern zoo in Europe.
After the boat tour, I walked back to my hotel by way of the Esplanade, where I caught the end of what I think was a koto concert. There were two performers plucking large, solid-bodied harps. It was lovely, regardless.
When I got back to the Presidentti, I decided to try their “pop-up restaurant.” In the summer months, they offer an evening meal. It was quite good, though not as drool-worthy as Kaarna.
Overall, my two days touring around were just enough for me to get a taste of Finland, and to make me want to return in the future.
Wednesday would be the start of WorldCon, and that I’ll save until my next instalment, after next weekend’s next chapter update.
Until next time, be kind, be well, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!