Helsinki, Finland – September 14th

Helsinki, for those that don’t know, is the capital of Finland. It has a population of just over 600,000 people, in a country that has about 4.5 million citizens. The Delaware Valley, in comparison, has about 6 million residents. The country is surrounded by water, and, like Sweden, is considered an archipelago. Its main industry is shipbuilding, and they are responsible for building many of the world’s largest ships, including cruise ships.

Alison and I slept rather well (although Alison woke up briefly in the middle of the night). We got dressed and joined M&B for the breakfast buffet. This morning, we continued our excursion training with a 3 hour boat tour of Stockholm. Like yesterday, we seem to be on the warm side of the changing season – and I’m not complaining. We wore jeans and a light jacket. The water was smooth, a combination of salt and “sweet” water, and very calm. I would describe it as “lake calm”. The lead guide’s name was Lea. We boated around several islands, some with trees and some without, ranging from totally uninhabited to those with a handful of homes or shacks, to those that had high end villas. They also pointed out islands that had some semblance of historical / military significance.

I haven’t validated my understanding, but Finland was once part of Sweden, and then became part of Russia, and then, somehow, became independent. The laws are a combination, with most people preferring those laws of a Swedish flavor. Like other countries in this region, Finland is a social democratic country. Oddly enough, it’s a very nice place, with many of the same features and personality of Sweden, which equates to being, well, bland. I can’t think of too many reasons why I would return.

The 90 minute (or less) boat tour ended with rounding the piers delegated to ice breakers. We saw three or four docked. They work 24X7 during the winter months, and are critical to the economy. Like many tours, we stepped off the boat, and were escorted to an open-air market that offered a wide variety of local souvenirs and locally made product. There were lots of knit products, from slippers and socks to scarves and baby hats to stocking hats – and the ladies were sitting or standing there with their knitting needles or crochet hooks flying. It was actually a beautiful day to be outside, no doubt. There really wasn’t much to see!

Barry and I sat in a local café and had a cup of coffee and local “rye toast” while the ladies shopped a bit more, then we caught the bus shuttle back to the ship. We were prepared to walk the 30-40 minutes we were told it would take, but I’m glad we didn’t!

Getting back to the ship around 1:30, we sought out some lunch, and nearly got blown off the outer deck seating. Back in our cabin, Alison did a load of wash and we rested a bit before getting dressed for the captain’s bon voyage party. We never did see the captain, but we did get some free drinks and met Sue and Mark Davis from Boulder, CO. From there, we went to the Main Dining Room and enjoyed a nice dinner before calling it a night.

We lose another hour tonight (lost one last night, too). Our next excursion, at 8:20am, is St Petersburg.

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