We gathered at 10:15 am in the Royal Court Theater for today’s excursion titled Free Time at 3 Sites. The tour was announced, and we were on the bus by 10:20am. There were 46 guests on today’s tour and although we had a guide present, it was treated as an unguided tour.
Our first stop was the Temppeliaukio or Rock Church at 10:40am. A 5-minute uphill walk led us to the front entrance. They furnished advance tickets, so we did not have to wait to buy a ticket but did have to queue in line to enter.
The entirety of the Rock Church is camouflaged in granite with a ceiling draped in copper. It was a delightful facility to visit. We spent about 15 minutes walking inside the church and up to the balcony area via a staircase near the entrance. There was one area posted no photography, but that did not seem to apply to elsewhere.
We had 1-1/2 hours on our own at this stop and after leaving the church, we walked into a few nearby Souvenir Shops. Then we ventured off toward Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral to get a few candid photos, using a map provided in the coach.
On our walk, we saw the most amazing set of topographic maps in a little gift shop. However, after inquiring with the shop owner, they were only willing to send the maps to European destinations. I jotted down the information and hoped to search online to find them again.
We hustled back to our meeting spot and our coach departed at 12:10 pm. This was a stretch in the time allotted and gave us a power walk there and back adding an extra 6,000 steps to the day.
Next, it was off to capture the Sibelius Monument constructed of 600 hollow steel pipes. This is a work of abstract art dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Arriving at Sibelius Park in the district of Töölö in Helsinki at 12:20 pm, we had 20 minutes for the visit. It was a fascinating piece of art to study and photograph, all the while trying to grab a new and interesting viewpoint.
Returning to the bus at 12:40 pm, we made our way to the oldest hotel building in Finland, the Hotel Katajanokka. We arrived here at 1:20pm and were given 25 minutes at this stop. Inside the hotel which once housed a jail, the hotel manager gave a short history of the property. We learned that the structure is over 170 years old and affords both jail-like and traditional hotel rooms.
I found it very telling having visited Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and noticed some of these same features in the hotel. We first had an informal serving of Tea and Biscuits (self-service) then headed down the stairway to see an old isolation cell. There was also a Group Cell in the basement which had a ceiling so low that prisoners could not stand.
Returning to the bus at 1:45pm, we now headed to Senate Square arriving at 2 pm. Here we were given 1 hour 10 minutes to roam, shop, and take photos. Ironically this stop in front of the Helsinki Cathedral was also very close to the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral, an iconic Russian landmark. After taking a few photos we set off to do some shopping in the market and other shops at the nearby Esplanade Plaza.
At 3:10pm our coach was ready for the 20-minute journey back to the ship. The best views were out the left side of the coach. We traveled along the South Harbor to Olympia Terminal where we made our way to our berth at the Hernesaari Cruise Terminal (LHC).
Did you know that the entirety of Finland is comprised of 179,584 islands?
Cruise Port: Helsinki, Finland
Tour Name: Free Time at Three Sites
Cruise Ship: Queen Elizabeth
Tour Guide: Yenni