I flew home to Winnipeg from Ottawa and was picked up by my mom and sister. We stopped at the grocery store so I could pick up a few essentials for the next few days and then we hit Olive Garden for dinner. It was pretty much the only time we would have together over the next few days, as I’d picked up evening shifts on my 3 days home and they both work days. After a nice long catch-up, they dropped me off at home and I caught up with my friend Rhea who was living at my place while I was away traveling. My friend Julie also came by and we went for a walk around the Forks before heading back to my place and getting down to the business of organizing things for our upcoming trip to Jordan and Israel!!!
The next three days were spent catching up with family and friends, working, re-packing, running errands and getting a much-needed massage! Then on Thursday it was time to head back to Europe again. Luckily for me, my friend Avery (the one I’d met up with at Oktoberfest) also had an early morning flight that day, so I hitched a ride with her to the airport. This time I did NOT forget my laptop and I was soon on my way!
My first flight with Air Canada took me to Toronto airport, where I had a 7 hour layover consisting of walking (gotta get those miles in), eating and catching up on social media. From there I flew to London. I ended up watching The First Monday in May on my flight and tried to get some sleep.
I landed in London Gatwick at 6:30am, ready for my 12hr layover, and went through customs which is always so much fun! Except really not. They gave me a hard time, questioning why I hadn’t just flown to Helsinki directly, and I had to explain several times that it ended up being cheaper this way.
I finally made it through, picked up my luggage and checked out the restaurants. I chose a restaurant called Giraffe and settled in for some breakfast and tv watching on my laptop. Eventually I got sleepy, so I walked around and found some chairs to take a nap in. Definitely wasn’t the best nap because it was loud, bright and I was paranoid about my stuff (I made sure everything was hooked through my arms or legs, but you never know), but I did manage to get a bit of sleep.
Then it was finally time to check in and board my flight to Helsinki! I was really excited as I’ve never been to Finland before and after two days of travel, I couldn’t wait to sleep in a real bed! I flew with Norwegian and we landed in Helsinki just before midnight. I took a train to the central station then got a taxi to my hostel (ThePark by CheapSleep) arriving at 2am. There was no one there, but lucky for me I had data and was able to call the number on the door. Turns out the night staff person was in charge of two hostels and was currently at the other one, so I had to wait outside for him to come and check me in. Luckily I didn’t have to wait TOO long in the cold, as I had made the decision to NOT bring a winter jacket, since the majority of the places I would be visiting would be warm and I didn’t want to carry a jacket around for 2 ½ months for maybe 2 weeks of cold weather. And I definitely hadn’t had the space for it in my backpack, although I was kind of regretting the decision now.
He checked me in and I went up to my 4-bed dorm room only to see that all the beds were unmade and slept in (but currently empty), so back down I went and he ended up giving me a private room for the night instead!!! This was a huge perk since I was exhausted and just wanted to get a good night’s sleep. The room was very basic and kind of on the cold side, but it was mine and mine alone!!!
After a good night’s sleep and a bit of a lie-in, I got ready, checked out of my private room :(, checked back into the dorm, dropped off my stuff and headed out to explore the city. I took a tram to Senate Square, which is a beautiful old square surrounded by the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace and the main building of the University of Helsinki.
I walked over to Market Square and spent some time checking out the food and crafts stalls. I really love going to markets when I travel (and at home), because you can usually find good food and beautiful, unique, handcrafted items, which are so much better than the mass-produced souvenirs you get in a souvenir shop. I ended up buying a gorgeous ring from one of the local jewelry designers.
Next to Market Square you can find SkyWheel Helsinki, which is a ferris wheel with views of the city. There is also a spa called Helsinki Pool by the ferris wheel, with different pools and a sunbathing area that looked really nice! It was chilly but the sun was out and there were quite a few people swimming.
Uspenski Cathedral, a beautiful orthodox cathedral (the biggest Orthodox church in Western Europe) and dating back to 1868, is a few minutes away from Market Square, so I headed over there and spent some time admiring the ornate decorations inside.
I had heard good things about Suomenlinna, a fortress built on an island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so I took a ferry over. It’s a very popular tourist spot and I had to wait in line for quite a while before getting on the ferry, so best to get there early if you want to visit. You could easily spend an entire day on the islands as there is lots to see and do and even if you’re not interested in the history, it’s quite beautiful to just walk around.
When I got back to Market Square there was still a bit of daylight left, so I walked around the city for a while before heading back to my hostel and chilling with the other girls in the room. It had been a short visit to Helsinki but a good one! Next stop: Tallinn
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