Helsinki Railway Station or Rautatientori

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When you first arrive at Helsinki railway station, you will notice a building which has a very unique style. Helsinki Central Railway Station – (or Rautatientori to the Finns) is indeed one of the most iconic examples of an Art Nouveau style of architecture in Helsinki, called National Romantic style. Finished in 1919, it fully reflected the spirit of its time.

Eliel Saarinen was the architect who won the competition for the railway’s design. Already famous for his work in the Romantic style, Saarinen submitted a promising design for the main railway station in Helsinki. His first design was very much romantic, and was similar in its style to the National Museum of Finland (one of his earlier creations). However, due to the changes in the mood and spirit of the Helsinki citizens, Eliel Saarinen was asked to produce a design more functional and modern in itself. That was also the turning point in Saarinen’s career; he decided to switch from Romanticism to the styles that were reflective of the modern times. This is how the design for Helsinki Railway Station was born.

When looking at the exterior of the Helsinki Railway Station, you can notice some of the main features that made it one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world (BBC included it in the Top 10 in 2014). The station is laid out of Finnish granite – a natural resource in abundance in Finland. The roof is made of copper. Its current greenie colour is the result of the material being oxidised. The gorgeous clock tower is an element that was common for the Jugendstill style. Two pairs of statues which are holding spherical lamps in their hands are greeting everyone who enters the station.

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The station today has 19 platforms and is used to maintain good connections throughout the Helsinki region, the whole of Finland and also with Russia.

Next to the Central Helsinki Railway station you can find a stunning building called the Ateneum museum. Worth paying a visit if you happen to be nearby.

Enjoy your travelling!

Helsinki Guru ^^

 

 

 

Temppeliaukio – or “The Rock Church”

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Temppeliaukio (otherwise known to non-locals as the rock church) is conveniently located in the very heart of Helsinki, in a district called Töölö. The rock church attracts roughly half a million people each year, and is incredibly famous for its unique design. It is in fact often one of the first things that people want to see when they come to Helsinki!

The Rock church was a ground breaking project designed by two brothers – Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, locally known as the Suomalainen brothers. In 1906, the area of southern Töölö underwent the initial stages of planning, and a location for what was to be a church for the area, was reserved. However, the church was not built until the year 1969 – over 60 years later. It took a total of three competitions to create an architectural design that satisfied the parish council. But even after the design of the church was accepted, the project still faced a lot of criticism – caused by a difficult situation in the world, particularly the African unrest. Some locals tended to promote the opinion that the Töölö district already had enough churches, and the money required for its construction could be better used somewhere else.

The unrest in Africa related mainly to an unrecognized republic called Biafra. It caused many Finnish students to turn against the Rock church project. They claimed that the money should be spent on the needs of the suffering people in Biafra. On a summer night in 1968, a group of students decided to openly express their opinion, and wrote the word ‘Biafra’ on the exterior walls of the church, in graffiti. Some people believe that it was the first graffiti that was recorded in Finland.

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Nevertheless, all the uprising challenges of the Rock Church were overcome, and the project was eventually completed in 1969. To satisfy partially those who were against the building of the church, the project was built on a smaller scale than was originally designed, and all of the budget that was originally planned was not used.

The main unique feature of the church is that it is excavated directly into a rock, and the experience of entering the church is literally that of going into a cave.  These untouched rock surfaces inside are multi-purpose; they not only give a natural look and feel to the church in a very unusual way, but they also create incredible sound acoustics. For this exact reason, the Rock church today often serves as a music venue, and if you’re lucky, you can even hear an organ recital on certain days!

The address for the Rock Church is Lutherinkatu 3. By taking tram number 2 from the central railway station, you can arrive at the rock church in only 15 minutes. Alternatively you can walk there in around 20 minutes.

Whilst you are already in the beautiful Töölö district, nearby is the famous Sibelius monument – another place high on the list of places to see in Helsinki – a monument honoring a man who is closely in the hearts of the Finnish people. If you would like to try coffee and cake in one of the most traditional cafes in Helsinki (with arguably one of the best views!) you can also visit the famous cafe Regatta.

Enjoy your sightseeing of the Töölö district!

Helsinki Guru ^^

 

Helsinki Cathedral

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Helsinki Cathedral is perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in Helsinki center. Built in a prominent place in the very heart of Helsinki, it reminds us of the wealth and glory of the Russian empire. Surrounding Helsinki Cathedral is the Senate square – an area entirely different to anywhere else in Helsinki – it was built by the Russians from the 1800’s, and modeled to look like St Petersburg in Russia. If you have ever been there (or if you go) you will see how similar the two are!

Originally, Helsinki Cathedral was built in 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It also used to have a different name. At the time It was called the Saint Nicolas Church.

For a long time, Finland has been a Lutheran country. Being heavily influenced by the Swedish kingdom, the Finnish people were turned from paganism (believing in several gods) into Christianity, and then later on into Lutheranism. Lutheranism has its origins from Germany, and it was introduced to the Finns by Sweden – when Finland was under the Swedish rule. Nowadays, Lutheranism is the predominant religion that the majority of Finnish people still consider themselves as being.

Helsinki Cathedral is also a great example of the freedom that was granted to the Finns by the Russians,particularly during the first half of the 19th century. Helsinki cathedral was built as a Lutheran church from the very beginning. The Russian Tsar at the time wanted to show that he will ensure that various freedoms of the Finnish people were respected – for the first time he allowed the Finnish language to become the official language of Finland (under the Swedish rule, only the Swedish language was the language of governance). He also allowed the introduction of the first official Finnish currency – the Finnish Markka. The cathedral was a part of another freedom – religious freedom; and this was a huge statement from Russia – that they wanted to give the Finns freedom and autonomy. In fact, the Finns had never been forced to turn to a Russian Orthodox religion when they were a part of the Russian empire, and all these freedoms (for a time at least), caused many Finns to respect the Russian Empire.

The cathedral itself was a grand  project of two famous architects – the first was Carl Ludwig Engel and the second was Ernst Lornmann. The original design of the cathedral was made by Engel. His love for neoclassical style found inspiration for Helsinki, in Saint Isaac’s Cathedral – located in Saint Petersburg.

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The cathedral is a unique piece of architecture and it has some very unusual features. The layout of the church is designed like a Greek cross – it has 4 areas inside that can all be used. The second unusual feature is that Helsinki cathedral does not have any bells inside. The dome on the Helsinki cathedral was not designed to be strong enough to bear the weights of the bell. As a result, the bells had to be relocated into the building adjacent to the cathedral. In-fact, to this day, this building is the bell tower.  You can find the bell tower in a white building to the left of the Helsinki cathedral (when you face it from the senate square). Helsinki cathedral also has 12 zinc statues on top of its roof. These 12 statues are larger than life, and there are representing the 12 apostles.

In addition to that, the cathedral has a very unusual crypt that has never served its purpose. In old days, the crypt used to be a cellar where wood storage was located. Nowadays, you can have a buffet lunch there or enjoy an organ concert. The cafe Krypta  is open only during the summer months: from June until August, and is definitely worth a look.  

Today Helsinki Cathedral is the most popular tourist attraction with more than 350 000 visits each year.

If you are an architecture lover, check out this place – the Rock Church 

Enjoy the Neoclassical beauty of the Helsinki Cathedral!

Helsinki Guru ^^

Sibelius Monument

One of the must visit places in Helsinki

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Sibelius Monument or Passio Musicae is a stunning timeless composition that was opened on the 7th of December 1967. It was erected to commemorate the great achievements of the most loved Finnish composer- Jean Sibelius.

The monument was designed by a talented Finnish sculptress named Eila Hiltunen. Her project was the winning entry for the Sibelius monument competition organised by the Sibelius Society. Being an abstract artist, Hiltunen created the most original entry for the competition – a monument made of welded steel tubing standing on four legs. For the post war Finland, such a radical abstract design was a matter of a big divide and debates in the society. Finnish art experts of that time appreciated Hiltunen’s out-of-the-box thinking and bravery, whilst conservative critics felt the project was sacrilegious. At that time, some people found that this abstract work was executed in a too new technique, and was made of rather new materials. They also thought it was too much to comprehend.

 

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Today however, the Sibelius monument has become a symbol of Helsinki and perhaps even of the whole country.  It is one of the main tourist attractions in the city and something every person coming to Helsinki for the first time has on their to-do list.

The monument is conveniently located in the Töölö area which can be easily reached from the city centre. You can take bus number 24, or alternatively tram 4 or 10. These will take you to the place in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can take a relaxing 35 minute walk through some cosy and out-of-the way streets of Helsinki.

The monument is located in Sibelius park (Sibeliuksen puisto) which incidentally is a perfect place for enjoying beautiful Finnish nature and having some peaceful time like we do in Finland. If you get a bit cold or peckish, you can pop to the cosiest cafe in the area called Regatta. There you will find a great selection of coffees, locally made herbal teas, delicious pies and all sorts of traditional Finnish snacks. Regatta is also a great place to see real local Finns sitting on the reindeer rugs whilst enjoying barbecue sausages. Be ready to share a table with a friendly local as this place is popular!

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Whilst you are already in a famous Töölö district, nearby is a famous Rock Church– one of the  main tourist attractions in Helsinki!

Enjoy your exploring!

Helsinki Guru ^^