Caught up in the InvasionJune 26 in Finland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C
With only full day in Helsinki, it seemed to be a good idea to include a personal guided tour of the city for the members of our group. At the appointed hour a smiling lady appeared in the hotel foyer. Since she was wearing a prominent badge labelled "GUIDE", we made the logical assumption that she was to be our guide. It turned out to be true.
We were ushered back outside to the same luxury Mercedes that had brought us from the ferry terminal the previous day. It certainly was a comfortable way to see the city. Our first stop was at the Sibelius Monument. When you only have a tiny population of around 5 million people, I guess there are not too many candidates for the role of national hero. The composer Jean Sibelius is obviously Finland's favourite son and his presence is seen all over the city.
The monument consists of a collection of huge stainless steel pipes, all welded together. It would have been nice to take a picture of them without first having to wait for busloads of tourists,all wanting to have their own pictures taken standing right in front of the monument. The cruise liners had obviously arrived in the port and their toxic cargoes of thousands of camera carrying tourists were all over the city.
Our next stop was the new Oordi Library - a massive construction made entirely of wood. It is amazing how a brilliant piece of architecture can revitalise an entire district and this is exactly what this building had done. With its sloping floors and soaring ceilings, it certainly challenges the senses when you are inside. It is much more than just a library - it has become a vibrant meeting place and community hub.
The other major place we were going to visit was the famous Lutheran Church in the Rock. The entire church has been built into the rock in the centre of Helsinki.
I remember being very impressed by this place five years ago and was keen to spend some quiet time there again. That turned out to be impossible. The super cruise liners have changed (ie ruined) all that. You cannot even get close to the building now because of the jam of the tourist coaches. The crowds of loud people all streaming towards the building looked more like a Grand Final Football crowd than people going to a place of reflection and prayer. To make matters even worse, our guide raised a flag. I could have died of shame.
You now have to buy a ticket to enter and the queues stretched far back from the entrance. Once inside you are confronted by a souvenir shop where you can buy mementos and drinks. Is this really still a functioning Lutheran church or a type of Disneyland ? In front of me a family was having trouble with their two smartphone carrying young children. One of them was having a tantrum because he had lost his Internet connection. At that stage I lost interest and was ready to leave.
I could not help but feel sad that the place had changed so much for the worse. It reminded me of what had now happened to Macchu Picchu since it had been prostituted in the name of mass tourism. To me, the effect of these massive passenger liners has been to destroy much of what you come to Europe to experience. I could not wait to escape the masses to somewhere much quieter.
After the tour finished, I spent the remainder of the day wandering the city on my own. Thanks to a dose of Neurofen, my knee was giving me a little less trouble. By the middle of the afternoon the cruise passengers were all back on their floating cities and Helsinki was much more liveable once more.
In the evening our group (now reduced to 8) went out for our final dinner in Helsinki. Tomorrow we will lose another two, when David and Sue start their return journey to Australia. The remaining six of us will be continuing to Russia. That should be quite an experience.Read more