Helsinki – A Photo Essay

Walking alongside the port.

Helsinki – A Photo Essay. I was lucky enough to see many sites during my day in Helsinki. Also took too many photos, which is the norm for me. I am going to share some of the better photos with you.

Walking alongside the port.

Walking alongside the port.

A small market.

Car Boot Sale

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Walking in the park

Walking in the park

Home of the best coffee in Helsinki

Home of the best coffee in Helsinki

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Sinebrychoff Art Museum

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Orion Cinema

Orion Cinema

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Parliament Building

Parliament Building

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I hope you enjoyed the photos. Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Weekend Wanderlust 2

Wkendsm

Afternoon in Helsinki

I felt happy in Helsinki

After writing a post about spending the morning in Helsinki it only seems fair that I should write one about spending the afternoon in Helsinki.

After eating lunch at the UniCafe (a good cheap option) I made my way towards the Kruununhaka district of the city. The weather was good. The sun shining down, it made me feel very good.

My lunch

My lunch

My first stop was Helsinki Cathedral. This magnificent white building stands out on top of the man made hill. There were plenty of steps to climb but it was well worth it in order to observe the majestic structure and the view towards the square.

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

Walking past the Government Palace I made my way towards the waterfront. The next place I visited was the Uspenski Cathedral. This is the Russian Orthodox cathedral. Finland spent part of its history as part of the Russian Empire. It gained independence in 1917 after the Russian Revolution.

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking back towards the city centre along the waterfront. Despite being a Friday afternoon everything seemed so quiet. Like most cities Helsinki has a big ferris wheel. While it looked tempting it appeared to be closed, so I gave it a miss. Carrying on walking I was confronted by a large pink figure in front of me. It was the sculpture of the ‘Bad Bad Boy’. He is known as such because he is peeing into the sea. He knows he is in trouble by the sheepish look on his face. A very bad bad boy.

Bad Bad Boy

Bad Bad Boy

I did not want the afternoon to end but I had a ferry back to Tallinn I needed to catch. So back at the city centre I observed the citizens of Helsinki enjoying the start of the weekend. Some were leaving the city via the railway station, others were taking in a show at the National Theatre.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre

All in all I was happy to have spent the day in Helsinki. If you are in Tallinn I would recommend you add a day in Helsinki to your itinerary.

I felt happy in Helsinki

I felt happy in Helsinki

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

I’m Coming Back

My Macbook Air

I have been deliberately quiet over the past few months. There have been various reasons for this.

My Macbook Air

My Macbook Air – poor photo

New Job – At the start of April I had started a new job. Initially it had been a struggle and there were also a lot of outside influences that were getting in the way. After a couple of months there was uncertainty on whether I would keep my job. The company I work for lost the contract. All in all I felt very unsettled and to be honest I did not feel like writing about travel or had the energy to do so. However, the job situation has now been sorted and I feel more settled.

I turned 50 in June and felt I needed some time to reflect on what I wanted to do in the future. There was a issue with my health at the start of the year which I worried about unnecessarily as it turned out.

As I get older I see more of the unfairness in the world. Maybe it is a sense of failure on my part to see change happen. To that extent I will start to become more vocal about issues that are important to me. Also I have started to volunteer in my local Oxfam store. Their values reflect mine.

I had stopped enjoying blogging. After leaving my last job I made a concerted effort to work on the blog full time. It was the worst decision I could have made. To be honest all the checking of Google Analytics and all that other crap just wore me down. It took away the reason why I started the blog in the first place. After seeking advice from from Travel Blog Success I decided step away and see if I wanted to continue blogging. I felt I still had plenty to say but did not feel like sharing with the public. I reminded myself of a post I wrote ‘When Does Blogging Stop Being Fun?” and took my advice for once.

Now I’m coming back. I will be scaling back my ambitions. There is now no interest in becoming a full time blogger. The only way I will travel full time is if I have a substantial win on the lottery. It is time to take the blog back to its origins. To those that can make a career and living from travel blogging well I say more power to your elbow. It is just not for me. Having said that I will still complete the Travel Blogging Success course and check out the various Facebook pages I like concerning blogging.

Moving further on the blog is not just going to be about travel. I have no plans to travel in 2015 apart from the occasional day out but will start planning for 2016 soon. The blog will start to include more posts about music, sport and personal reflections on life.

I am glad to have taken the break from blogging and would recommend it to anybody else feels it has become a chore. I best go and update my WordPress plugins.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Morning in Helsinki

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It feels like a long time since I’ve written a post about travel. Looking back at my last trip one of the highlights was spending the day in Helsinki. This post is how I spent the morning in Helsinki.

I took the ferry from Tallinn. The crossing itself took about a couple of hours. My advice would be to book a ticket that includes the buffet breakfast. Helsinki can be expensive city so take advantage and fill yourself up for the day ahead. The breakfast from my meat eating days.

Breakfast Sitting 1

Breakfast sitting 1

When the ferry pulled into the port I made my way towards the city centre. The first place I walked past was the Kauppahlli Market. It was here that I first noticed how expensive Helsinki was going to be.

The first port of call was the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. It is the house museum of Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff. They came from a brewing family. However, both Paul and Fanny had grown fed up of the family business and started to travel and collect art, Their collection was donated to the Finnish government in 1921. Admission to the museum is free.

Sinbrychoff Art Museum

Walking through the city I got to see how pretty some of it was. The sun was shining too which was a bonus. There were also plenty of quaint buildings to see as well.

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All this walking was making me thirsty. One of the recommended places to drink was Chofé. A coffee shop that also acts as a design shop and art space. The cappuccino was excellent. It went down very well.

Inside Chofé

Inside Chofé

After refreshment I made my way towards the outskirts. The aim was to reach the Olympic Stadium. This was going to be my halfway stop. On the way I passed the Temppeliaukio Church which I mentioned about in a previous post. One thing I noticed was the street signs were in two languages. One in Finnish and the other is in Swedish.

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Street Names in Helsinki

As I walked towards the Olympic Stadium I passed the National Museum of Finland. It tells the story of Finland from pre-historic times until today. Admission costs €9 for adults.

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The final stop of the morning was the Olympic Stadium. The home of the 1952 games. Again it has been mentioned in a previous post it represented the end of the morning in Helsinki. On towards the afternoon.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

April Was A Quiet Month

For me April was a quiet month. I deliberately decided not to post any blog posts. This came about because I had been lying awake at nights worrying about my Google Analytics stats. This had a familiar ring to it. It reminded me of work too much, totally against the reason why I started the blog in the first place.

Since I took redundancy six months ago I decided I would put a lot more time into the blog and see how far it could take me. I completed my TEFL qualification and had signed up to Travel Blog Success. I even booked myself a place at TBEX with the aim of flying to Spain. However, the reality of spending so much time on the blog began to make me stress out. It was no longer about the writing. Having to try and make contacts with fellow bloggers and companies was not fun. I felt like giving up and knew I needed to take a break so to decide on the future.

Fortunately April saw me start a new job. It was good to be able focus on something else that was important. At the moment it is going well and I am enjoying it, despite having a total daily commute of almost three hours. At least this has allowed me to reconnect with my first true passion, music. Listening to Spotify playlists has been a pleasure. Currently I am listening to Olympia by Bryan Ferry. I recommend you give this a listen. I also volunteer every Saturday afternoon at my local Oxfam store.

The problem I had spending my time travel blogging was that I found myself becoming distance from those people. This was not a good situation to find myself in. At least I’m reconnecting which is good.

The end of April saw the third anniversary of the blog. I have enjoyed the last three years and have made connections with some good people. The blog has allowed me to make positive changes to my lifestyle (going meat-free). However, it had started to become a grind. In truth I am not a entrepreneurial person. There is no drive in me to make the blog support my travels. I could not see me selling, smoozing, begging or prostituting myself to various companies in order to get a freebie. This is why I did not go to TBEX and why I will never go. I want to gain control back of my blog and have fun again. The blog will continue because I still have pieces from my last trip to share. The plan is I post once a week.

As far as travel for 2015, I may take up a long standing invitation to spend time Istanbul. Apart from that I have no idea what I will do. I like the sound of that. I turn 50 next month and this has played some part in my decision. If I was 25 years younger I will make more of an effort.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Töölönlahti Bay

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While I was visiting Helsinki last September I was trying to cram in a lot in one day. After seeing the Olympic Stadium I felt that I needed to sit down and chill out. The perfect place to do this is Töölönlahti Bay.

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The bay and surrounding park lies in the heart of the city. It is a popular place to sit and take in the sites of the bay. It is also popular for walkers and joggers.

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You can also find bird watchers surveying the creatures that fly around the bay. There are plenty of birds to see and photograph.

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Töölönlahti Bay is found to the north of the Central Park. It is close to the National Opera and Finlandia Hall.

It is definitely worth stopping off here and spending thirty minutes here with a packed lunch watching the world pass by. I’ll close the post with some more photos of and the bay and surrounding parkland.

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Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Wkendsm

Weekend Wanderlust 2

 

 

Trying To Stay Positive

I have been quiet over the last couple of weeks. Indeed I had not put together a monthly review or newsletter. The reason? For the first time in ages I had not ventured outside my hometown Sutton Coldfield.

As I have mentioned in previous posts I took redundancy from my last employer. At the time it was a good idea. I was feeling burnt out. With the redundancy came a sum of money that I have been living off. Now the money has run out and I am living on the dole.

During the past months I have gained a TEFL qualification which was positive. I have also been working on the blog. As well I have been trying to find a new job. The process of looking for work and the initial lack of response was starting to bring me down. It has been difficult trying to stay positive. However, there is good news. I have been offered a job and waiting on clearance before starting. I have also been volunteering one afternoon a week at my local Oxfam store. It feel great just being able to mix with people again.

Now the job front has been settled I can turn back to travel and the blog. During the quiet period I had plenty of time to think about the future. One thing that became clear was that I could never be able to live the nomadic lifestyle. The effort in finding work made me come to this conclusion. I turn fifty this year and to be honest as I get older the chances of finding work become slimmer.

Also putting efforts into the blog made me realise I was not longer enjoying putting together the blog. Looking at analytics and worrying about numbers was starting to become stressful. It had become the opposite on why I started the blog in the first place and I had considered ending the blog.

After much thought I have decided to carry on with the blog. I will even complete the Travel Blog Success course. If people discover and like what I write, great. If I get asked to contribute to other blogs even better. Also if somebody offered me payment for a review or post I would be over the moon. However, I am not going to chase readership. The blog is first and foremost returning back to reason why it started, for me.

You might be thinking cheer up you miserable sod! Do not worry I am not sinking back into a depressive state. There have been positives. My new healthy routine has been of benefit to me. First off going meat free has made me feel more energised. I have started to run again for the first time in nearly twenty-five years. Also I have a morning routine of meditation, yoga and exercise. This have given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I just got to think of a way of keeping it going once back in work.

The future is starting to look up. Once back into work I will have that routine. Also I will get back to enjoying travel again. In fact enjoy life and living.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Olympic Stadium Helsinki

The Olympic Rings

Finland has a long tradition of athletic success. They are most famous for middle/long distance running and javelin. It only seemed right that one day Helsinki would host the Summer Olympic Games. This took place in 1952. The Olympic Stadium Helsinki was one of the places I wanted to visit while in the city.

Outside the Olympic Stadium.

Outside the Olympic Stadium.

The Olympic Stadium known locally as the Olympiastadion is situated in the Töölö district of Helsinki. It is the largest stadium in Finland with a capacity of 39,784. Building work started in 1934. It was going to be the venue of the 1940 Olympic Games. These were moved to Tokyo and were eventually cancelled due to World War II.

During the games of 1952 the stadium was used to host the athletics, show jumping and the final of the football tournament. Since 1952 the stadium has played host to the World Athletic Championships of 1983 and 2005, the European Athletic Championships of 1971, 1994 and 2012. It has also hosted the 1957 Bandy World Championship. Bandy is an eleven-a-side variation of ice hockey. Played outdoors it uses a ball instead of a puck.

Today the stadium is home to the Finnish national football team. It has also hosted concerts from artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Iron Maiden. 2016 will see the start of stadium renovation. It is due to reopen in 2019.

The Olympic Rings

The Olympic Rings

One of the most distinctive features of the stadium is the tower. It stands 72.71 metres tall (238.5 feet). This represented the distance thrown by Matti Järvinen when he won the Javelin at the 1932 Olympic Games. If you are looking for somewhere to stay while in Helsinki, there is the Stadion Hostel inside the stadium.

The Stadium Tower

The Stadium Tower

Inside the stadium grounds there are two statues honouring two Finnish Olympic heroes. Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Virén.

Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi

Paavo Nurmi

Nurmi in his athletic career set twenty-two world records in distances ranging from 1500m to 20km. His Olympic career is equally impressive. He won nine gold and three silver medals between 1920 and 1928. Nurmi lit the Olympic flame in 1952. When he died in 1973 Nurmi was given a state funeral. Such was his ability the last of his Finnish records fell in 1996.

Lasse Virén

Lasse Virén

Lasse Virén

Lasse Virén completed the 5000 and 10000 metres double at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. He was the first athlete to achieve this feat. In 1976 he attempted to equal the record of Emil Zátopek by entering the marathon but finished fifth. As a young boy Virén inspired me to start running at school.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Wkendsm

Weekend Wanderlust 2

Temppeliaukio Church

Outside the church

One of the most unusual attractions in Helsinki is the Temppeliaukio Church. It is built into solid rock and is also known as the ‘Church of the Rock’ and ‘Rock Church’.

Outside the church

Outside the church

The initial plans for the church came about in the 1930s when a competition was put forward for the best design. Plans to develop the winning design were put on hold due to the outbreak of World War II. After the war another competition was held. The winning design came from Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen. The design was grand and because of high costs it had to be scaled back. Construction started in February 1968 and the church was consecrated in September 1969.

Inside the church

Inside the church

Located in the Töölö district of Helsinki the Temppeliaukio Church soon became one of its most popular attractions. It is said that it attracts half a million visitors each year. When I visited in September the church felt busy mainly with coach parties. It was hard to imagine what it would be like when quiet.

Popular with visitors

Popular with visitors

One of the popular uses for the church is as a concert venue. It can seat 750 people. This is down to the excellent quality of the acoustics. This is produced by the sound bouncing off the rough rock surface. This was not just down to nature. It had been argued that the acoustics would be enhanced if the walls were left uncovered. The Suomalainen brothers who initially against the idea agreed to the request.

The uncovered walls

The uncovered walls

If you hear the sound of peeling bells please do not go looking for the bell tower. There is no tower, in fact there is no bell. The sound is a recording made by Finnish composer Taneli Kuusisto. The sound is broadcast through loudspeakers on the exteriors walls of the church.

I hear the sound of bells

I hear the sound of bells

There are benefits for the local population who choose to be members of the church. They can organise weddings, baptisms and funerals free of charge.

Here are some more photos I took while inside the church.

The Copper Roof

The Copper Roof

The organ pipes

The organ pipes

The Altar

The Altar

View from the seats

View from the seats

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Wkendsm

Weekend Wanderlust 2

Walls of Dubrovnik

One of the Forts

One thing I was recommended to do by the hostel owner was to walk the Walls of Dubrovnik. These have seen so much history both ancient and modern. There have been defensive walls surrounding the city since the eighth century. The majority of the walls seen date from between the twelfth and seventeenth century. The walls are made up from limestone. Such was their strength they survived the earthquake of 1667.

Enjoying the walls

Enjoying the walls

These walls have seen plenty of action during the years. It has defended the city from various invaders and sieges. The most recent being the siege of the Yugoslav army between 1991-92. While a lot of the old town was damaged by the bombardment the walls seemed to get away with less damage. It is reckoned that the old walls prevented further damage to Dubrovnik.

Walking the wall.

Walking the wall

There are several forts and fortifications that are linked to or detached from the walls. The forts that are found within the walls are the Minčeta Tower, Fort Bokar and St. John Fortress. The detached forts are the Revelin Fortress and St. Lawrence Fortress. There are also fortifications to be found around the city. These are the Walls of Ston, Falcon Fortress, Imperial Fortress and Prevlaka Fortress.

One of the Forts

One of the Forts

When is the best time to walk the city walls? In my view it is best to walk the walls in the morning. There two reasons for my recommendation. Firstly, the weather will not be a hot as later in the day. Secondly you will miss the invasion of the cruise ship crowds. From about lunchtime until late afternoon Dubrovnik heaves with tourists from the cruise ships. The walls get packed with people who have limited time to enjoy the city. You will not get chance to enjoy the attraction.

It's a little quiet round here.

It’s a little quiet round here.

What do you get when you walk around the city walls? You get amazing views of the city. Also you views stretching out into the Adriatic Sea. In my opinion it is the views of life of the old town that makes was visit worthwhile. You see women drying their washing and children studying at school. I recommend that you take it slowly and allow yourself at least two hours to take it all in. It is a place I would recommend.

Posing at the Dubrovnik City Walls

Posing at Dubrovnik City Walls

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

 

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