After breakfast in the Horizon Court, Patsy, Ben, Daddy, Win and Anita Keith, and I met in the Princess Theater for our tour and then departed the ship in Helsinki. We boarded a motor coach with our guide Violet and headed for the town of Porvoo.
On the way she told us a lot about Helsinki and the country of Finland. It was established in 1515 as part of Sweden. It became the capital of Finland in 1812, when under the control of Russia. It remained under Russian control until the Soviet revolution in 1917 when Finland gained its independence. The country joined the European Union in 1997.
Today Helsinki has 612,000 inhabitants. The population of Finland is 5.45 million. Both Finnish (90%) and Swedish (5%) are official languages due to their history. All signs have both Swedish and Finnish.
Finland is surrounded by sea on 3 sides and the country has 200,000 lakes. 70% of the country is covered in forest. Also there are 3 million saunas in Finland. I noted this especially because of the awesome way Violet said “sauna.” It was kinda like “sowwnaah.”
There are 3 months of the year when Finland is in complete darkness. I can’t imagine living for 3 months without seeing the sun. Because of this, Violet said that many of the people have sour expressions and don’t talk very much. Like many of the Scandanavian countries, Finland offers free education, even to foreigners. Also, Finland drinks the most coffee in the word.
The journey to our first stop took about an hour, and the countryside was beautiful.
We arrived in the small village of Porvoo around 9:30am. It is the second oldest city in Finland, and was established in 1346.
It was a neat little town with cobblestone streets and cute little multicolored buildings. We first went to a chocolate shop and sampled some awesome chocolates and not so awesome salted licorice.
Then we went to the Porvoo Cathedral. There were lots of little shops and even a “castle” where Alexander I lived when he visited Porvoo (it was actually a small red house).
From Porvoo we travelled through more beautiful countryside to the Savijarvi Farm. The farm is named after the adjacent Savijarvi Lake. The name means “clay lake.”
It is a working horse farm that is occupied by a single family (27 members). This family acquired the farm 86 years ago. All of the homes on the farm are over 100 years old and the manor house is from 1886. The 84-year-old grandfather lives in the manor house.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Agneta (the mother) who talked to us about the history of the farm.
We also got to see several of the horses on the farm, including a 5-day-old colt, Shetland ponies, and a 24-year-old named Artemis. Artemis is a world champion carriage driver.
We entered the manor house and met Sebastian, who is Agneta’s son (two sisters). They served us lunch upstairs, and it included non-alcoholic homemade beer, nettles soup, and fish gratis with potatoes. The non-alcoholic beer is very sweet, and it is a tradition that comes from trying to raise the blood sugar of workers during the day to make them more productive.
The lunch was fantastic, and I even enjoyed the non-alcoholic beer. It tasted like a watered down molasses. For desert we headed downstairs to the dining room for Strawberry field cake and frozen berries with caramel sauce.
After lunch we headed down for a tour of the stables and farm before loading back onto the motor coach to drive to Helsinki.
Our first stop in Helsinki was the Rock church, which was built in 1969 under the bedrock. There was a desire to build a Lutheran cathedral, but there were so many complaints about blocking the view that they decided to build it under the ground.
It has a copper ceiling, which when combined with the bedrock provides for great acoustics. It has a capacity of 950 and is very popular for weddings. However, almost no one attends during religions services though most of the country identifies as Lutheran. It was a very unusual but impressive structure.
From there we went to an older part of town and had a little time on our own. I was able to visit the Tuomiokirkko Carhedrial, which has become somewhat of a Symbol of Helsinki.
It was built from 1830 to 1852. A few weeks ago I would have thought the inside to be very ornate, but after all the Russian cathedrals, this one seemed very conservative. It was still very lovely.
I also walked to the harbor and browsed the marketplace by the water. They were selling all kinds of souvenirs, crafts, vegetables, fish, etc. It was a fun area of town.
We then headed back to the ship and got ready for dinner. I was able to talk to the girls for a few minutes. They were on their way to the Creation Museum in Cincinnati. When I asked Kate if she was excited about going to the museum, she said “not as excited as I am about seeing you on Saturday.” This melted my heart. I miss them so much.
It was formal night, and after some pictures we enjoyed lobster night in the Concerto dining room. I also ordered Beef Wellington, which was fantastic.
The show was call Fiera, and was unusual but really good. After grabbing some soft serve ice cream on deck 16 I headed back to room for the night. Tomorrow we should be in Sweden.