map of FinlandSteve and I met in Frankfort and flew to Helsinki yesterday morning. Got into Helsinki proper and to the hotel about 2:30. Dropped our bags and headed back out into the city. It was cold and blustery, rain off and on. Felt good after the too-warm stuffiness of airplanes over the past 18 hours!

We walked down the Esplanade—the major posh-shopping street of Helsinki (like Ermou Street in Athens). (As you can imagine, Steve had to keep dragging me out of the men’s couture shops and the nick-nack stores.)

We visited the Lutheran “Cathedral” here. Huge, set on the highest point of the city, built on a commanding plinth (or podium or stereobate), with statues of the apostles adorning the roof line. Inside, the contrast with catholic cathedrals could not have been more pronounced: plain, functional, unadorned with art or statuary except for statues of Lutheran “patron saints” like Luther, Melanchthon, and Agricola. The pulpit, of course, (and the preached word) had a much more prominent position than in catholic cathedrals (which emphasize the altar).

Then we strolled over to the Russian Orthodox church—spired, domed, and built of gothic brick. Beautiful. It was closed by the time we got there (those Russians, only working half the day and then focused on Vodka for the remainder!).

Back down the Esplanade. Watched the Finnish flag lowered in front of the President’s house at Sunset. Saw boats and lights reflected in the main harbor. Pedestrians everywhere, in spite of rain and chill. Fathers pushing strollers with happy children.

We stopped at Stockman’s (the Harrods of Helsinki), climbed to the top floor, and had dinner. Toast (spread with something I’d rather not know about), smoked salmon, and a poached egg. Wonderful! Topped off with a “red cappuccino” (made with tea rather than coffee … worried about caffeine keeping us up … it was awful!) and a great chocolate moose with dark chocolate crust. Yum!

Strolled back to the hotel, got a little email done, talked about the problems of the world, took an Ambien, and woke up this morning refreshed and ready to live again! Great breakfast (coffee and orange juice, toast and pickled herring, bread and Finnish mustard and ham/pepperoni/cheese, oatmeal).

We’re off to Tampere this afternoon. A little more walking and sight seeing this morning (Farmers’ Market!).

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