Moomins in the mist

Tuesday 7th January 2020


The rain and warmer temperatures had cleared the pavements of snow and ice so that it was much easier to walk about, but unfortunately the warm air had also brought with it a low mist. We were therefore pleased that we had been able to take a photo of the outside of the Uspenski Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in better light the day before [below left].

Built between 1862 and 1868, it has an imposing position on a hillside on the Katajanokka peninsula close to the water. It is apparently usually closed on Mondays so this may not have been attributable to the public holiday yesterday.

Looking back from Helsinki Cathedral many of the older buildings are in warm shades of yellow and ochre with just a hint of pink.

The Cathedral itself was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and prior to Finnish Independence in 1917 it was also known as St Nicholas’ Church. The green domes with golden stars are particularly striking.

The Lutheran interior seems rather minimalist compared to the decorations in the Uspenski Cathedral, but it is still beautiful.

Apparently there are five Moomin Cafes in Helsinki. We passed one and went in to look round but there were a lot of people who were obviously more ardent fans than us posing with the props provided and we felt we should let them enjoy the moment. We contented ourselves with an exterior shot.

On our way to the Temppeliaukio Church we passed Lasiplaatsi Square which is also the roof of the Amos Rex exhibition hall.

Helsinki seems to have more than its own share of unusual and quirky places of worship.

One such is the Temppeliaukio Church which was excavated directly into solid rock and is therefore also known as the Church of the Rock. The rock which was hollowed out of the site has been used to landscape the exterior.

It was designed by two brothers, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and completed in 1969.

The church hall is covered with a dome, lined with copper and supported on the rock walls by reinforced concrete beams.

Inside, the walls are bare rock and you can see the marks of the excavation and an ice-age crevice serves as the altarpiece – we assumed this was a fortunate discovery during construction.

It is a popular venue for weddings and as the acoustics are excellent, the church is also used for concerts.

On arrival in Helsinki, Matilda was particularly pleased to discover that Café Ekberg was just a few doors down on the opposite side of the road to our hotel. Established in 1852 it is the oldest and one of the most famous coffee shops in the city.

The signature cake at Café Ekburg is Napoleon cake. Matilda was, as a friend used to say, “getting her mouth in shape” for this but when she saw that it was essentially a cream slice she felt it might be more sweetness than her sensitive, post-emergency treatment tooth could take.

She chose instead a delicious festive cheesecake with cinnamon and lingonberry. As it was soaked in alcohol, rum baba style, what Robert’s “champagne cork” lacked in presentation it more than made up for in taste [see dish of the day, below].

From here we walked to the Hakaniemi Market. The original market hall was opened in 1914 but, unfortunately when we visited, this was behind scaffolding and tarpaulin being refurbished and the stall holders were trading from an adjacent, temporary building.

The imposing Kallio Church combines Art Nouveau and Romantic styles and is set high on a hill with a 65 metre high tower which rises 94 meters above sea level. Seven bells apparently play a chorale, composed especially for the church by Jean Sibelius, at 12:00 noon and 18:00 but unfortunately our visit did not coincide with this.

Karhupuisto Park is colloquially known as Bear Park after the statue below.

We passed the bear on our way to the first of our chosen two hostelries of the day [both counted as brew pubs] – Ravintola Teerenpeli.

As you walk through the city after dark, which is most of the day at this time of year, the buildings feature lights advertising the resident brands and companies.

Our second hostelry was Bruuveri. Robert and Matilda chose a canned beer and a bottled one respectively. There was no fear of the sediment here as the barman determinedly swirled them both to ensure we had all the goodness from the bottom.

Route Map:


Selfie of the day:


Dish of the day:


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