Day 69 – 27/7/16
Tallinn to Helsinki, Finland

We docked at the Helsinki West Terminal by the Eckero Lines (m/s Finlandia) at 2.30 pm after about two and half hours sailing. Ours was one of the first car after the two trucks to leave the Ferry. We drove straight to Hotel Sofia which was about 13 kms away from the Ferry terminal.

In the evening with the help of directions from the hotel receptionist we went to the City Centre by a bus just outside the hotel which drove us to the Rautatientori metro station, the most busiest Metro station in Helsinki. We had to pay Euro 3.00 each for the ticket which included the bus and Metro. Opposite the exit of the Metro station was the Helsinki Central Railway Station (Rautatieasema).

We boarded the bright orange train of the Helsinki Metro which took us to the Centrum. We then got off and walked towards the Square.

The Central Railway Station serves as the point of origin for all trains in the local VR commuter rail network, as well as for a large proportion of long-distance trains in Finland.

We walked one block towards east along Kaivokatu street, and turned right to Keskuskatu. We followed the street to the Esplanade Park and walked along the park east towards the sea. At the eastern end of the park, we turned north along Unioninkatu and reached the Senate Square (Senaatintori). There we saw the Lutheran Cathedral and the old city centre. From the square, we followed the Aleksanterinkatu and walked towards the Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral. It was closed and so, we could not visit it from inside.

Uspenski Cathedral an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary). It is set upon a hillside on the Katajanokka peninsula overlooking the city.

Helsinki Cathedral, looked marvellous with a tall green dome surrounded by four small domes.

Helsinki Senate Square (Senaatintori) is an archaeological masterpiece, which comprises of the Palace of the Council of State to the east, the University building on the opposite side and Helsinki cathedral to the north. The Emperor Alexander II statue right at the centre of Senate Square symbolizing Finland’s imperial relationship with Russia.

We strolled through Aleksanterinkatu in Central Helsinki which together with its side streets make up Helsinki’s main shopping area with small shops and department stores. The area also offers plenty of alternatives for eating and drinking.

While strolling through the city centre, we see HAM – an art museum, located in Tennispalatsi near the city centre. It looks after an art collection that belongs to the people of Helsinki, which includes over 9,000 works of art. Almost half of these works are on display in parks, streets, offices, health centres, schools and libraries, to brighten up everyone’s day.

On the other side of the road we could see The Finnish National Theatre which is the oldest Finnish speaking professional theatre in Finland, established in 1872, and for the first thirty years of its existence, it functioned primarily as a touring company. The building is reportedly haunted by at least three ghosts – an unknown Grey Lady and the ghosts of actors Urho Somersalmi and Aarne Leppänen

Sibelius Monument – consisting series of more than 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern, to capture the essence of the music of Sibelius. It weighs 24 tonnes and measures 8.5 × 10.5 × 6.5 metres.

We then had dinner at one of the restaurant and returned back to the hotel by the metro.

Day 70 – 28/7/16
Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden

After a relaxed day at the hotel, catching up with sleep, WiFi, etc, we left for the Port to take the 6.00 pm Viking Line Ferry. We were not able to book a cabin at the time of booking. We were asked to check at the information counter once we boarded on the ferry. But on checking we were told there were no cabins available. Could not believe that there was no arrangements made for people with no cabins to sit or lie down on such a huge and spacious ferry commuting time of which was 16 hours during the night hours. Not getting a cabin was not our fault, but we faced this unpleasant situation and passed 16 hours without any sleep.

It was strange that such a big ferry company accepted bookings for a 17 hour sailing at night when they do not have any arrangements to let the passengers even sit comfortably. It was the most horrible experience we had on this ferry of Viking Lines. Even the crew was absolutely arrogant and rude. They literally shunted out people from every couch. Like us, there were a few more passengers travelling, especially with small kids etc.

Day 71 – 29/7/16
Stockholm, Sweden

Once we arrived at Stockholm we drove to the apartment booked by us with an English guy through AirBnB. He left the whole apartment for us after giving us instructions to take the train to Stockholm Centrum. Today we decided first to catch up on a few hours of sleep, before we leave for the train station to see Stockholm.

Strandvägen in Swedish for “Shore/Beach Road” is a boulevard on Östermalm in central Stockholm, Sweden. It was built for the Stockholm World’s Fair 1897. It is now a famous spot for tourists from where we can even take a boat cruise on the river.

We walked through Djurgårdsbron, one of the four bridges connecting mainland Östermalm to the island Djurgården. This iron bridge which was reinforced in 1886, was demolished in 1895 to be replaced by the current three-span steel bridge, 18 metres wide, about 58 metres long, and able to carry the new trams. The bridge had to be reconstructed in 1977 on account of the increased traffic loads.

Gamla Stan (Old Town) one of the oldest streets with an unaltered interior. It is a Town between the Bridges, and is the old town of Stockholm. It consists of the island Stadsholmen including the surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg. It was nice to walk through this town with a lot of churches around.

We then walked towards “Kornhamnstorg” which means Grain Harbour Square a public square in Gamla stan, connected to various streets. The square was named after the harbour Kornhamn where corn was delivered to the city by ships from Lake Mälare.

A metro train departing from the Gamla stan station through which we travelled to Stockholm Centrum.

We then passed by the House of Nobility “Riddarhuset”. A large German Church (Tyska kyrkan) – was closed hence we could see it only from outside.

The oldest building in Stockholm that we visited next to the Royal Palace is the Riddarholmen kyrkan from the late 13th century and was then used as the burial church of the Swedish monarchs. Now of course it has been discontinued as a royal burial site in favor of the Royal Cemetery. From the information we gathered we understand that the congregation was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is used only for burial and commemorative purposes. It was originally built as a greyfriars monastery. After the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was closed and the building transformed into a Protestant church.

Just next to the castle we saw the Storkyrkan Cathedral which founded in the 13th century which is the episcopal seat of the Bishop of Stockholm. The interior was amazingly beautiful.

A short walk from the central station was the Stockholm City Hall, venue of the Nobel Prize banquet held on 10th of December each year famous for its grand ceremonial halls and unique art pieces was erected in 1911–1923. It also houses offices for 200 people including the Municipal Council.

The City Hall of Stockholm can only be visited with a guided tour, either by a public tour or a private tour. Groups consisting of more than 10 people have to book a private tour. Individual visitors can join a public tour or book but since we were late we missed a tour.

We also got to know that the City Hall is a very popular venue for wedding ceremonies, which can be arranged on Saturdays between 12.00 and 18.00, in the Oval Room and last about five minutes.

From a distance we could see Northern Södermalm and the bridge to Riddarholmen which means “The Knights Islet bridge”) in Gamla stan, leading from the square Riddarhustorget on Stadsholmen to the smaller neighbouring island Riddarholmen.

St. Eric’s Roman Catholic Cathedral was built in 1892 and was raised to the status of a cathedral in 1953, when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockholm was created (still the only one in Sweden). The church takes it name from Saint Eric, the 12th-century king of Sweden who, having been slain by a Danish prince, came to be regarded as a martyr and the patron saint of Stockholm, depicted in the seal and coat of arms of the city.

Orthodox Church of St George, Stockholm is located next to the Orthodox Metropolis of Sweden and all Scandinavia, which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland and Iceland. The Metropolis has existed in Stockholm since the 12th August 1969.The Church building was originally built in 1890 for the city’s Catholic Apostolic congregation. However, after the Catholic-Apostolic congregation had mostly died out, the church was given to the Greek Orthodox in 1976.

We had finished all the site-seeing and decided to have dinner in one of the restaurant in the old town before we take the metro back to our rented apartment.

Day 72 – 30.7.2016
Oslo, Norway

We left from Stockholm around 9.30 morning towards Oslo. The drive was very beautiful with blue skies and white clouds all throughout.

(The picture above is from Oslo fjord)

We arrived in Oslo, the capital and the most populous city in Norway. It was almost past 6.00 pm when we reached our apartment – a nice villa, booked through AirBnB. We were handed the key to the apartment by Ingebjorg Aadland, a lovely 39 year old lady. They were staying in the same apartment upstairs and had rented this small one BHK apartment to us. After introduction, we had a cup of coffee before leaving for the Metro station to go to Oslo Central with guidance from Ms. Ingebjorg, the owner of the place where we were staying. It was a nice independent house with the owners staying upstairs. She guided us to the Metro station which was just 5 mins walk from her place. She also informed us that Oslo had Norway’s most extensive public transport system, managed by Ruter and that we could easily travel around on the public transport. After taking a ticket at the machine we awaited a Metro train to take us to the Vigelandsparken – Vigeland Sculpture Park.

With help on directions from a few passers by we reached Vigeland Park, which was situated in Frogner with 227 granite, bronze and wrought iron sculptures built on 75 acre land. It is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions, completed between 1939 and 1949. Most of the sculptures are placed in five units along an 850 meter long axis: The Main gate, the Bridge with the Children’s playground, the Fountain, the Monolith plateau, the Wheel of Life & the Sundial.

On the highest point of the park, is the Monolith Plateau, with circular stairs towards the Monolith. “The Monolith” a 14.12-meter high, highly symbolic sculpture consisting of 121 intertwined human figures, meant to represent the human desire to reach out to the divine was the focal point of the park. The Monolith was carved from one single granite block, hence the name (mono: one, litho: stone). Man’s longing and yearning for the spiritual and divine. The people are drawn towards heaven, not only characterised by sadness and controlled despair, but also delight and hope, next to a feeling of togetherness, carefully holding one another tight in this strange sense of salvation.

“Wheel of life” was modelled in 1933-34. The wheel is a symbol of eternity and is here executed as a garland of women, children and men holding on to each other. In a sense, this sculpture sums up the dramatic theme of the entire park: Man’s journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity.

At the end of the 850-meter-long axis lies a Sundial, forged in 1930

The fountain installed in 1947 is surrounded by 20 tree groups all modelled between 1906 and 1914. Beneath the crown of the trees the life of man, from cradle to grave, unfolds. Our time on earth is at the same time only a part of an eternal cycle with no beginning and no end. After the tree group with the skeleton which is about to decay in nature, follows a tree full of children: From death arises new life. The bronze reliefs along the outer side of the pool render the eternal life cycle of mankind. The ground around the fountain Vigeland is formed of an 1,800 square meter mosaic in black and white granite. The geometrical pattern shapes an almost 3,000 meter long labyrinth.

After spending such a lot of time in this beautiful park, there wasn’t much time left for any other site seeing, but we had to see the Royal Palace. By the time we got there it was closed and managed to see it only from outside.

It was now getting dark, so we decided to have some dinner at a local restaurant before taking the metro train back to the apartment.

It was quite late by the time we reached back. The next day we had to leave for Coopenhagen, a long drive.

Day 73 – 31.7.2016
Oslo, Norway to Copenhagen, Denmark
& Day 74 – 01.08.16

We drove down from Oslo to Copenhagen via Malmö avoiding the ferry route through Oresund bridge with Wind Mills in the sea.

Today we were visiting Copenhagen, the capital and most populated city of Denmark, situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand and another small portion of the city is located on Amager separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund.

The Øresund bridge and tunnel, an engineering marvel, connects the Danish capital of Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmö. It is a cable-stayed bridge which runs nearly 8 km to an artificial island where it transitions into a tunnel that runs another 4 km. The double-track railway and motorway opened on July 1, 2000. The man-made island of Peberholm links the bridge and tunnel. The island was constructed from material dredged from the seabed and most of the 4 km tunnel was built by concrete elements cast on land and towed out and lowered into a dredged trench. The flora and fauna on the island have been allowed to develop freely and undisturbed and has become a haven for biologists. More than 500 different species of plants have been identified by biologists and the island serves as a popular breeding ground for birds as well as habitat for the rare green toad.

It was a real good drive through this stretch. We could have taken an alternative route to cross the sea through a ferry, but after the bad experience of Viking Ferries, we decided to drive down and do not regret a bit. We paid a toll of SEK 390, but it was worth it. If we would have crossed through a ferry we would have to pay approx Euro 50 to 75.- for the ferry ticket, besides the hassle of checking in at least an hour before the scheduled time of departure, etc.

We reached our destination at Sidse’s house, the apartment booked through AirBnB around 4.00 pm. Unfortunately had not read instructions sent by Sidse regarding the keys, hence had to disturb her at the workplace. The keys were left by her in a black box outside her house. We then went inside the house and to our room. It was a very small and cosy room. Left all the baggage there and walked to the bus stop to take us to the city centre. We had no local currency with us, but the bus driver a Pakistani-Danish let us board the bus and let us even ride the bus (a wee-little) for free. He dropped us to the central square with instructions and the bus stop details for our return journey.

We then strolled around the central square where there were lot of activities going on, music band was playing, people dancing and merry-making. We watched it for sometime then moved forward through the old town. The City Hall Square is located at the site of Copenhagen’s old hay market and the Western City Gate with surrounding fortifications.

There was a 7 metres tall Dragon Fountain with the basin diameter of 3.1 metres featuring a bull fighting a dragon. On the edge of the basin, there were three water-spraying dragons.

Then there was another sculpture perched high on the Richs building of a Weather Girl telling about the weather. One sculpture rotates to the front, depicting the girl with her bicycle. When the weather is set for rain, another sculpture rotates to the front, depicting her with an umbrella walking her dog.

After strolling around, we decided to try out an Indian restaurant. Only once we entered, we understood that it was a Pakistani restaurant and not an Indian one. The food at the buffet wasn’t very tasty though it looked very appealing. Anyway we had our dinner while getting into conversation with an Indian-American group who had just arrived into Copenhagen after finishing their cruise. They were very excited to hear about our journey and wanted to follow our trip.

We then took the bus back home. Had to use to find the exact location of the house in the dark.

Sidse was waiting to meet us. After a little chat with her we went upstairs to sleep. She assured us to keep the breakfast ready the next morning by 8.00. She also mentioned that there would be some people coming over for a shoot around the pool.

After a nice breakfast in the morning, we were trying to get an appointment to service our car which had already become due. Louis in the meantime pulled the bedroom door ajar which got locked with the keys inside. We were left with all our stuff inside and we were out in the living room. Tried to get help from Sidse for a duplicate key and after getting ready we went to get our car serviced.

Once the car was serviced, we went to the harbour to take a glimpse of the Little Mermaid sitting on a rock. The size of the statue is relatively small with only 1.25 mtrs in height and weighs around 175 kg.

Evening we were supposed to meet up with Ulrikka who had agreed to take us around Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen. The park was opened on 15 August 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

It had a variety of buildings in the exotic style of an imaginary Orient: a theatre, band stands, restaurants and cafés, flower gardens, and mechanical amusement rides such as a merry-go-round and a primitive scenic railway. It has a wooden roller coaster on a Mountain built in 1914. It is one of world’s oldest wooden roller coasters that is still operating today. An operator controls the ride by breaking down the hills so it won’t gain too much speed.

Another roller coaster situated next to the concert hall, “The Demon”, features an Immelmann loop, a loop, and a zero-G roll all during the ride time of just one minute and forty six seconds..

The world’s second tallest carousel “The Star Flyer” is 80 meters high and offers panoramic views of the city. Tivoli also has a ride Vertigo, a looping plane ride where the rider pilots the ride and is able to control the plane.

The newest ride added on 11 April 2013 at Tivoli is Aquila, a giant swing and spinner with centrifugal powers up to 4 G, named after the constellation of the Eagle.

We however did not attempt any of these rides, but of course decided to try the Danish ice creams, which was fabulous.

After a nice stroll around Tivoli’s lake, we went to a restaurant inside the park itself to try typical Danish food. Ulrikka ordered different dishes so we could try every dish. The food was really nice and we all are to our heart’s content along with some Danish tap beer.

After dinner we walked towards Ulrika’s house and had some coffee. After a while she drove us to see the Beer Factory. It was closed however managed to have a glimpse of the same.

She then dropped us back home. It was a nice evening spent with Ulrikka and her friend, Blair from UK.