HEL freezes over

I survived my first overnight cruise! I suspect that I would have felt a lot better about it if not for this cold that has me just wanting to stay in bed.

There were a few rougher patches after we left the Swedish archipelago and made our way into the Baltic proper. I say rougher not knowing what to compare it to. Certainly not as bumpy as my last ride on an XPT train.

With the late dawn comes the reappearance of land. Sheets of sea ice and snowcapped islands greet us as we approach Helsinki. Finally, we pass another Viking Line ship loading vehicles bound for Estonia, then nuzzle our way into the dock. The journey is over.

We purchase day travel cards from the machine and catch a tram to the main station. Being a Melbourne boy I love the importance of the tram network in Helsinki. Most of them are even painted green and yellow too!

The views of snowbound Helsinki out of the tram windows were amazing, with a number of prominent buildings along the way. The main train station is another of these Art Deco masterpieces.

No time to admire though, as we caught the underground metro two stops to Hakaniemi, where our hotel is located.

Across the road is the famous market hall, which has stalls selling various deli items as well as a couple of sit down places to eat. The choosing and eating looked a bit complicated so we caught the metro back to the central station.

The shopping area around the station is imposing. We hadn’t had breakfast and were quite hungry. Harald’s Viking Restaurant sounded good.

We ordered meals of lamb, reindeer and elk as the main meats. The latter two were a bit gamey but everyone liked my lamb neck. The Berry sauces and vegetables were also good, the dessert divine, especially Alex’s chocolate cake.

Now we were ready to pillage!

After booking train tickets to Rovaniemi tomorrow we set out to see some sights. The problem is that Alex is a bit over history right now. We trudge to the Kiasma, a modern art gallery. It’s between exhibits right now, but what was there was perhaps a bit too high brow for kids.

A tram takes us down to the Design Museum. Opposite it children are ice skating and riding toboggans in the grounds of a magnificent church.

The Design Museum is an interesting overview of Finnish design, including electronic design in the forum of Angry Birds and Clash of Clans. I don’t think they should be proud of introducing micropayments in games though. Uggh!

I eat a licorice bun and drink lemonade flavoured with fruits, spice and maybe a bit of licorice too. Pity I’m the only one who actually likes licorice in the house.

We catch a tram back to the centre, browsed a shopping centre and department store, then return to the hotel. It’s time to do the washing. I’ve found a coin laundry, 24 Pesula, a few tram rides away, but there’s nought but a supermarket around to browse while I wait.

The others return to the hotel early and I see them off while snow swirls outside, big flakes blowing into our faces. It’s beautiful!

So far I’m impressed with Helsinki!

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