Downtown Helsinki and Other Highlights

Helsinki, capital of Finland, is your quintessential ideal European city: heavily pedestrianized, fantastic public transportation, full of green open spaces and mid-rise buildings, and a general feeling of safety especially for foreigners.

It is also known as the credit card capital of Europe; and indeed one can buy anything (even street food) with a Visa or Mastercard on hand! 

* A fact which came in handy in the city's Market Square!

* Here, vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, poultry, and fish; very similar to our markets in Asia, but much less chaotic!

* Finnish souvenirs and hand-made dolls are also a big hit. Check out the multi-racial selection here!

* The Finns also share the hipster sensibilities of their Nordic brethren: the Danes and the Swedes.

* After partaking in a solid Finnish snack of fresh fish and calamari, one can have a cup of joe at any of the outdoor cafes, people-watch over meat pastries (yes, it's a thing here!), or hop-on the numerous ferries offering cruises to nearby islands.

* Or just take photographs around the picturesque surroundings! A word of warning, beware the wily seagulls as they have been known to swoop down and steal food!

* A nice walk down the pier past a glimpse of the Finnish Presidential Palace. Hello there, neighbor!

* Such peaceful seaside settlements, these Viking descendants have!

* A very Nordic characteristic is the presence of artwork everywhere, including outside washrooms / restrooms!

* One of Helsinki's most famous attractions is the abstract work-of-art known as the Sibelius Monument dedicated to the late famous Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. Art critics have debated its organ-looking design for decades, as Mr. Sibelius did not create music using the aforementioned instrument.

* Perhaps getting tired of defending her work, the artist, Eila Hiltunen, later added this very straight-forward sculpture of Jean Sibelius right next to the main piece.

* More interesting souvenirs, this time of a vendor selling Finnish elves / dwarves! Credit cards are of course accepted!

* One of Helsinki's low-key attractions is the colorful and fantastical Uspenski Cathedral.

* Standing on top of a small hill facing the city, Uspenski Cathedral is the main Orthodox Cathedral of Finland.

* And it is visually stunning! One can easily see the Russian influence in its architecture, color, and design.

* The interior of the structure was surprisingly well-lit with natural light; for I have traditionally found Orthodox churches to be darker and "moodier" than Catholic and Protestant ones.

* The most sacred and venerated artifact in the whole Cathedral is this icon of the Virgin and Child, known as the Theotokos of Kozeltshan, which was stolen in 2010 but miraculously recovered years later.

* This could very well be the backdrop of a period Russian epic.

* Family picture on a church on a hill!

* Finland is a whole different world in terms of brands. The only true Finnish brand that's universally known is Nokia. Yes.. that Nokia, our childhood telecom brand of indestructible phones!

* Electric trams, bicycles, and subway lines are what efficient and effective mass transportation systems are made of.

* Walking through downtown Helsinki, I found myself wondering what a random crane was doing in the background.

* Upon further examination, I realized it was actually a hanging restaurant! Thanks, but no thanks!

* Is it a factory? Warehouse? Nope, it's a typical Finnish hipster hotel.

* Finnish is such a uniquely perplexing language, utilizing an odd combination of double vowels and consonants!

* Go on, try to read it straight!

* What having a successful city in Sim City looks like!

* All this walking deserves a well-balanced meal!


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