After a couple of nice days on the island of Gotland, it was time to head to Finland, which would be the last destination on my Nordic journey, before heading back to my home in Denmark.
Originally, I had planned to go to Northern Finland after Lofoten, but since it was too snowy for my tent and the hostels in the area were too expensive, I decided to go to Southern Finland after travelling through Sweden and fly home from Helsinki instead of Stockholm, which was my original plan. I was sad that I wouldn’t get to see Northern Finland this time around, but at least I could add another capital to my list by going to the South!
Before getting to Helsinki, I had 24 hours of travelling to do. I started at 12 PM on May 3rd by sailing from Visby to Nynäshamn for 3 hours, then driving on a bus to Stockholm for one hour and then waiting (and half sleeping) at the bus terminal in Central Stockholm for another three hours. At 7 AM, it was finally time to get on a bus that would take me to the ferry to Turku in Finland, where I would have another 11 hours to kill before arriving. I tried to go to sleep, as I was really exhausted, but since it was in the middle of the day and people were talking all around me, it was difficult to get much sleep. I had a beautiful view of thousands of islands all the way though, which made it bearable. At 7 PM, I finally arrived in Turku, a big-ish city that didn’t really appeal to me, so I wasn’t sad about leaving it an hour later. At the harbour, I took a tram to the bus stop, and met so many Finnish people who were eager to help me when they saw me looking at the map – I didn’t even have to ask! Finnish people are adorable!
I had to find a bus that I had booked for Helsinki, which only cost me 7 Euros – and it had such comfy seats and was very spacious! I had the entire backseat for myself, so I could lie down and sleep for the next two hours – but… I didn’t, ‘cause the bus had free wifi D: typical me!
When I finally got to Helsinki, it was 10 PM and all I wanted to do was to find my hostel and go to sleep. But first, I had to figure out how to get there with the confusing tram system, which I eventually did by asking some nice people, and then I had to walk 900 meters to the hostel. I had booked three nights at the Stadion Hostel, which is located near the Olympic Stadium, but since the map was very misleading, I got very lost. I was very tired, carrying a heavy rugsack and walking through a dark and creepy forest by myself. I didn’t feel very safe, and eventually, I decided to give up and go to the Olympic Stadium, where I’d hopefully meet some people, who could help me. But instead, I ended up finding the hostel! I realized that it’s actually a part of the Olympic Stadium, which it didn’t look like on the map… Typical! I got in just before midnight, used the wifi for a few hours and then went to sleep in my 12-bed girls’ dorm.
The next day, I woke up at 11 AM, got ready and left the hostel at about 2 PM. I used the trams to get into the center of Helsinki, but just like in any other big city, no one actually checks if people buy tickets or not.. So I may or may not have bought tickets 😉
I spent the ENTIRE day shopping. I really felt like I needed some shopping therapy, as two months without any shopping is crazily hard for me, so I went absolutely mental and made my bank account cry for an entire year… but I got 5 lovely dresses and two gorgeous jumpsuits – I was so ready for some summer weather! I needed this day to just relax and reload and I do that best, when I’m spending all of my money – obviously.
Helsinki has loads of enormous shopping centers situated in walking distance from each other. I spent some of the day at the Kamppi Center, but most of it in the biggest center, Forum. I ended the – very successful – day with a frozen yoghurt and then went back to the hostel, where I got talking to Austrian Doris, who has also been travelling around the Nordic countries and had Helsinki as her last destination as well.
The next day, I had booked a trip to Estonia, which Doris decided to join me on, but I’ll write more about that in a new post tomorrow – so stay tuned!
On the way back to Helsinki from Estonia, I saw Helsinki bathed in the most amazing sunset colours – I think the pictures speak for themselves, it was so beautiful!
On my last day in Helsinki – and the last day on my journey – I decided to go sightseeing and actually see some of Helsinki as opposed to just seeing the shopping centers. Buuut, I sinned and did just a little bit of shopping first…
I started my sightseeing day at the 73 meters tall Stadion Tower, where I paid 5 Euros to go to the top, where the view of Helsinki was amazing! I then went to the center of the city and walked to St. John’s Church, which is a Lutheran church in Gothic Revival style built between 1888 and 1891, and is also the largest stone church in Finland. At the hostel, I had met Pola from England, who was studying in Russia at the time and was on a trip to the Baltic countries and Finland with her friend, Amy. While I was walking about the church on my own, I met them (small city) and they invited me to join them for the rest of day, which was really cool.
They were also sightseeing and had planned on seeing the two main cathedrals and then going to Suomenlinna, an island with a sea fortress, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked to the Uspenski Cathedral, which is the biggest orthodox church in Western Europe and was built in 1862-1868. It’s located on a hillside overlooking Helsinki with a beautiful view of our next stop, Helsinki Cathedral.
Helsinki Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral that was built in 1830-1852. The cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in Finland and is a distinctive landmark in the cityscape of Helsinki. This was my favourite church of the day, as the architecture is simply amazing and the white and green colours really make it stand out. Definitely a must-see on a trip to Helsinki!
After studying the two cathedrals, it was time to head for the island of Suomenlinna, where we had to pay 7 Euros each for a return ticket. Our plan was to walk through the entire island, from one end to another, and catch the ferry back to Helsinki at the other side of the island. Suomenlinna is a lovely and interesting place, but unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good to us there, so we didn’t do much else. I can imagine that the island is amazing during the summer time and I would love to have some more time to explore the fortress and walk about on the amazing cliffs on the island!
When we got back to Helsinki, we were all starving, so we went to get some (fast) food and then went back to the hostel, where I had to wait for a few hours before heading off to the airport to catch my flight to Denmark. I said goodbye to Doris, Pola and Amy and then went to catch the bus to the airport at 11.40 PM. While I was waiting for the bus, I went to get one last photo of Helsinki at a nearby lake, which looked beautiful with the dark sky and the city lights.
I slept for a few hours in the airport with my sleeping bag and woke up with people staring at me like i was some animal in a cage… My flight was at 7 AM, so I didn’t want to spend money on accommodation, when I would have to be at the airport at 5 AM anyways and therefore wouldn’t get much sleep.
I boarded my flight and 1 hour and 20 minutes later, I was finally in Denmark again. It was really good to be back and the weather was amazing in Denmark compared to what I had had throughout my journey. I knew that it was the right time to come home, since I had just been out of energy for the last few days and not as excited about everything as I usually am when I’m travelling to new places. It’s very unlike me to be like this, as I’m always eager to see everything that a city has to offer, but I had seen so much in a short period of time, so I just needed to go home and reload.
I waited for four hours in Copenhagen and then caught a bus to Aarhus, which took another four hours, before I was finally picked up by my dad at 3:30 PM.
I first went to see my big brother and then went home to the rest of my family, who had hung up flags and a welcome sign. My cat was a bit scared of me with my big rugsack to begin with, but she soon realized that it was me. It was amazing to be back home, in my own bed and with all the people (and cat) that I had missed so dearly.