June 23, 2010

When we got off the plane in St. Petersburg tonight at 10:30 p.m. I realized we had been in three different countries in as many days (4, if you count the U.S.!)  At the end of the evening tonight, we decided that though we are sad to have missed the chance to take the train across Finland, we sure made the most of our last day in Helsinki--and had a ball!

The first order of business was to find the monument to Jean Sibelius, Finland's most famous composer (I think).  This meant taking public transportation (with which we had become quite comfortable) out to a little park where it is located. It's kind of a cool setting

The cool thing is that over to the left, just out of sight in this picture, there is a trio of a French horn, trombone, and trumpet playing snippets of Sibelius' music.  We stayed long enough to hear Finlandia before we left.  To the right--sort of--of the big monument there is this:

Now, I don't know about YOU, but what I see is Sibelius' head being pooped out the back end of a flying pig!  (I did not share that feeling with any Finnish people I met!)

From Sibelius, we decided to go to the Farmers' Market.  I have been wanting some of those great cherries we saw the other day and thought we might get some fruit and sit in the park.  We did buy fruit (cherries and strawberries)...

...but instead of going to the park, Mike and Char decided to order at a crepe place there on the plaza.  Great idea.  Char and I each had raspberry crepes, while Walt and Mike each had chicken/mango crepes.  All were fabulous.

Then we were so close, we had to go and check out the Uspensky Cathedral, perhaps the most famous (or at least most recognizable) building in Helsinki.  When I saw how high up the hill it was and that it was accessible by stairs, I sent the others on their way and decided to wait at the bottom.

But then I thought--when will I ever have this opportunity again?  and I knew what Jeri would say if she were there.  So I checked out the stairs...and they really weren't bad.  I started climbing and before I knew it, I was at the top.

It was beautiful.  Having visited the Lutheran Cathedral 2 days ago, I have to say that when it comes to gaudy splendor in churches, the Catholics (especially the Orthodox Catholics!) have it all over the Lutherans!

Then we caught another bus back to a few blocks from the hotel.  We have mastered Helsinki public transportation.

The flight to St. Petersburg was uneventful and the drive in from the airport was notable mostly (for me) because the very first sign I saw in Russia was...for KFC.  I have lots of other thoughts about arriving I was going to wax eloquent about, but it's pushing 1 a.m. and I'm fading fast!

We got set up in our room on the Kirov (pix later) and were happy to receive a message from Marta's sister's in-laws, who are on the Surkov which is practically touching our ship.  We hope to get together with them, perhaps tomorrow, sandwiched in between a tour of The Hermitage and a performance of Swan Lake at night.

They had a late supper for all 40 of us on the bus and we had fabulous beef stroganoff (somehow MUCH better than the microwaved stuff we had on the ferry last night), spaetzel, and a bunch of other stuff, ending with a sinful chocolate mousse (or, I think Char would prefer to think of it as "moose."

(Oh yeah--the wine comes with the dinner, at
no extra charge)

Internet connection is VERY VERY slow, so I probably am not going to be doing much more than posting a journal entry each night (assuming that goes ok--I'll find out in a few minutes).  But we are very excited to be here and eager to start our Russian adventures.

I took this photo at exactly midnight, from the "Sun deck" of the Kirov, where it was deliciously cool, but still shirtsleeve weather.

We are truly in the Land of the Midnight Sun, and lovin' those White Nights!


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