Ok so here I am sat in Helsinki, not going out tonight, so I thought I would briefly talk about some of the things that i have experienced.
Moscow is a cold city, not to say the weather was bad, but it is a hard place to get along with as a solo traveller. Very few older Russians can speak English, and outside of Red Square and it’s immediate surroundings many signs lack even latin character transcription. The metro there is your best friend, I must have used it 15 times or more in the 4 days I was there. You do warm to its charms if you can find them, it has a certain business about the place, much like London. I toured the Kremlin with a New York couple I met in the queue for Lenin’s Maussoleum, I went clubbing with three American Audio Video specialists from the Auto show & I spent an evening conversing with two Germans and a very loud Russian tennis coach father.
Out in the city I went up the Ostankino Tower, the sixth tallest freestanding structure in the world today, and 13th highest observation deck [HERE]. My other personal highlight for Moscow was the Cathedral of Christ our Saviour [HERE]. The interior is nothing short of majestic, I am not religious but I was truly humbled by the magnitude of the place and getting a glimpse into russian religion, where many people young and old are deeply religious.
Saint Petersburg is worlds apart, a showcase of European architecture and masterplanned in the 1700’s it has a grandeur reminiscient of Paris. It is certainly more tourist friendly, almost too much so, and I would say the city loses some of it’s identity to the hordes of retiree tour groups bungling around in coaches with video cameras. I met two swiss businessmen and a local man joined our party, we talked about the new growth and changing attitudes in a post-Soviet Russia. I taught a barman a cocktail and he let me make them behind the bar. I met a man who was russian to the Da Vinci in the Hermitage because he had to get his yacht back to Stockholm but hadn’t seen the works yet.
My favourite site in the city was most certainly the Russian Museum. I was familiar with Russian futurists and cubists but I knew little of their other artistic heritage. It is all here, there is a very diverse display and I fell in love with it turns out “the most beautiful painting in Russia”. Information about the museum can be found [HERE].
Helsinki is bizaare, an ecclectic mix of architecture and atmospheres depending on the district you are in. The air is fresher and the sea breeze is cooling and crisp. Virtually every local can speak english fluently, which is almost unnerving compared to Russia. There is plenty to see and it is closer together so walking is a great choice, although cycle lanes are everywhere. I met a group who travel from separate locations worldwide and spend two weeks together every year and I had a heated debate with a couple of local christians.
Sveaborg/Suomenlinna was my fondest experience here. This expansive sea fortress is unique in that it has a residential population of several hundred, a still active naval garrison and is tended to by a voluntary prison labor camp on one of the Islands. The beach is somewhat of a pun but you can sit on the rocks staring out over the Gulf of Finland for hours watching the boats go by, and I did just that. Information can be found [HERE].
So tomorrow I leave onward for Stockholm by boat. Apparenty travelling on a Saturday evening is somewhat fortuitous as I am hearing it is quite the party. Although I definitely want to try and photograph the stars weather permitting. I haven’t opened my notebook to write this, and have written dozens of pages, a more in-depth look at the cities I went to will follow on my return.