by Bob McCormac
This is a multi-part article encompassing my 20-day trip to the Nordic countries that spawned the Vikings and where they left their mark on civilization. In most areas, those direct influences have long since been erased but the impact on the cultures is still apparent in each country. Some of the articles also cover the neighboring countries, like Finland, Poland, Russia, and Estonia.
This second part covers Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
Helsinki, Finland was originally established as a Swedish outpost in 1550. Due to on again, off again wars between Sweden and Russia, Finland was annexed by Russia in 1809 after Sweden lost the 21-year war with Russia. It remained part of Russia until 1917 when during the Russian Revolution of that year Finland negotiated its autonomy from Russia with a financial buyout that the Fins were still paying for into the 1960s. While Finland is part of the EU they are not aligned with NATO as their need for Russian oil is a more pressing financial matter. Helsinki is also one of the few places that you will continue to see monuments to the former Czars of Russia.
Helsinki locals like to joke that they have two seasons: winter season and construction season! Indeed, everywhere we traveled in Helsinki construction was underway making streets difficult to navigate.
Our first stop is the Jean Sibelius monument. Sibelius was a composer and violinist who is widely credited with helping Finland establish its national identity during its time under Russian rule. Sibelius was so loved and admired that only ten years after his death in 1967, the monument to him and his music was constructed, but it took another 20 years before the monument really gained a foothold in Finland’s national conscience. It is believed that Sibelius saw musical notes as colors and that this ability influenced his compositions.
I’ve come to find out that the tour guides in the country are tired of visiting churches and have named a church stop as an “ABC” (Another Bloody Church). In any case, our next two stops are at churches – The Uspenski Cathedral and the Church of the Rock (Temppeliaukio Church). The Uspenski is unique for its obvious Russian influence with onion shaped cupolas and a beautiful weathered copper roof.
The Church of the Rock or Rock Church is probably one of the most unique constructions as it’s built right into the side of a rock in downtown. While the outside is not very impressive, the inside with its copper ceiling is very dramatic.
There are many places that you should check out in Helsinki but my time is short so I move on to the Central Station which is almost in the center of the downtown area. The station is an imposing structure and if I had more time I would probably spend an hour investigating it. The clock tower reminds me of some of the images from Depression era movies meant to convey the state’s power over the common man.
About the Author
Bob McCormac is primarily a landscape and travel photographer from New Jersey in the USA. Bob spent forty years as an information technology professional before deciding to pursue a long held passion for photography. Bob considers his style as simple and direct; trying not to over complicate the shot while still conveying the feeling.