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Tag: scandinavia

Sassy and Sophisticated Stockholm, Sweden!

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Stockholm, Sweden: city of hills and waterways

Stockholm, Sweden was the final port stop on my Baltic Sea cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway. Stockholm is replete with natural beauty, with its many glistening waterways and lofty hills, as well as charming historic and modern architectural structures seemingly climbing the playfully rolling hillsides.

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Views inside of City Hall

Completed in 1923, the National Romanticist style City Hall is a quirky building that pays significant homage to Byzantine Design with its gilded mosaic hall and arcaded main lobby. The building is surrounded by meticulously manicured grounds that provide an excellent place to view Stockholm’s Old Town across the water and people-watch.

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Views of Stortorget

Stortorget, the main square of Gamla Stan, or Old Town, houses the Nobel Museum, narrow side streets, whimsical Lion statues, and colorful, ornate buildings. Hordes of tourists congregate by its central fountain, lingering amidst the delectable scents of the bakeries and cafes lining the square. Stockholm is expensive, but these temptations are irresistible! To escape the crowds, stroll down one of the numerous side streets and let yourself get lost in pleasureful peacefulness.

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Changing of the Guard

Around the corner in front of the Royal Palace, time it right and you’ll catch the majestic ritual of the Changing of the Guard.

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Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum is home to the Vasa ship, Swedish warship from the early 1600s. It managed to sail 1,400 yards before sinking during its first voyage. Rediscovered in the 1950s, it was given a new home above ground and where modern Swedes and tourists alike can contemplate its enticing story. Too top-heavy to be fit for sailing, it tragically sank in 1628 when the impatience of King Gustavus Adolphus got the better of him. His underlings lacked the fortitude to advise him of the ship’s problems and suggest a delay of embarkation. Today you can visit the Vasa Museum to see the ship itself and many displays pertaining to its troubled history.

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Riddarholmskyrkan

Riddarholmskyrkan, or Riddarholm Church, is the site of burial grounds for Swedish royalty, including the aforementioned Gustavus Adolphus. No longer used for monarchial burial grounds or as a place of worship, it now serves only as a site of historical importance. A monastery in the 1300s, it later served Protestant parishioners post-Reformation. The original spire was devastated by lighting and replaced with the current cast-iron spire which serves as an important landmark representing the city.

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Modern Stockholm: Convention Center

After enjoying the many historic sites in Stockholm, it’s fun to take some time to delight in the signature Scandinavian streamlined and geometrical style of its modern structures.

You may view my complete tour of Stockholm, Sweden here!:

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Peaceful, Placid Porvoo, Finland!

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Porvoo, Finland “skyline”

A thirty mile drive east of Helsinki will transport you to the small town of Porvoo, Finland: a peaceful paradise of 18th and 19th century (and older) architecture, cobblestoned lanes, and quirky, quaint shops and cafes. Porvoo provides the perfect contrast to the modern metropolis of Helsinki during your visit to Finland!

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Colorful old red barns on the river: a proposed UNESCO World Heritage site

Porvoo is replete with wooden barns, houses, and other buildings that have stood the test of time amazingly well through so many cold and snowy winters. Practically all of the town’s structures are composed completely or primarily of wood, and are painted brilliantly in a variety of bold colors, a delight for the eyes!

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Porvoo Cathedral upon the hill

Porvoo Cathedral stands tall towering over the rest of the town and surrounding waterways like a guidepost. Built in the 1300s originally entirely of wood, stone walls were raised in the early 1400s. A symbol of resilience, much mirrored by the Finnish people, Porvoo Cathedral has withstood multiple invasions (from both the Danish and Russians) and numerous fires.

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Old Town Hall, now housing a museum

The Old Town Hall, which now houses a museum, faces a lively square full of street vendors and musicians…. and tourists! It is a fine example of the creative use of color evident throughout the town.

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Unspoiled old wooden architecture surrounds a cobblestone square

Venture past the tourist hub around Old Town Hall and the shopping district, up the hill past Porvoo Cathedral, and you will find another cobblestone square alluringly devoid of massive tourist crowds and surrounded by charming old wooden buildings!

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Quiet, quaint cobblestoned alley

Once off the beaten path, the noise of the tourist traffic evaporates and you’re in a wooden wonderland, meandering down cobblestoned lanes at every turn, able to imagine another time in the distant past without the distraction of tourist hordes and modern vehicles!

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Even “major” roads in the town are cobblestoned

Porvoo, Finland provides an excellent day trip out of Helsinki for a sample of small town, historic Finland. Just be sure to wander off and get lost along it’s quiet side streets to escape the crowds and enter a tranquil haven. You can view my video tour of Porvoo, Finland here!:

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Harmonious Helsinki, Finland!

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Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki was the next stop on my cruise through the Baltic Sea on Norwegian Breakaway. Probably the most recognizable sight in Helsinki, and the top priority for many visitors, is the neoclassical, multi-domed Helsinki Cathedral in Market Square. This landmark serves as a gathering point for Fins to congregate and socialize on its massive steps. Perched high, it stands as a beacon to be recognized throughout the city, inviting all to partake in its pleasures.

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Neoclassical Architecture around Market Square

Neoclassical architecture is prevalent in Market Square. Usually a vast, open square, it was replete with military tanks during this visit, which I was hastily advised was temporary and in celebration of a patriotic event. Well thank goodness for that!

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Sibelius Monument: Organ Pipes Portion

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Sibelius Monument: Likeness Portion

Designed in honor of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the Sibelius Monument is a symphony for the eyes. It was introduced in 1967, and is housed in Sibelius Park, a wonderland of natural beauty, and a perfect example of the Finnish ideal of people living harmoniously with their natural surroundings. Witnessing the locals frolicking in park settings like this, it is clear the Fins treasure the natural beauty that surrounds them. The monument has two separate parts: one resembling an organ and another with Sibelius’ likeness. Sibelius’ head rests contentedly upon the rocks, drawing the natural beauty of the rocks into the sculpture, man one with nature.

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Rock Church: Exterior

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Rock Church: Interior

Temppeliaukio Church, also known as “Rock Church,” provides another fine example of the Fins connectedness with the natural world. Constructed into solid rock and with a giant skylight to flood the pews in sunlight, it is a testament to the wondrous quality of nature. The rock provides incredible acoustics for the music, which you don’t need to attend a service to delight in.

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Uspenski Cathedral

In stark contrast, Uspenski Cathedral is a more elaborate and exotic Eastern Orthodox Church. This church showcases the Russian architectural influence in the city. Russian Emperor Alexander II is commemorated within, who reigned over the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 1800s. Throughout the city there are remnants of Finland’s Russian-culture swayed past.

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Modern Helsinki

 

Today Helsinki has a shortage of housing and modern structures are springing up all around. The buildings shown above are near the Port, where many more buildings illustrating futuristic zeal are currently under construction.

You can view my video tour of Helsinki here!:

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