Today’s port of call was Helsinki in Finland. The sky was blue and the sun was shining but it was rather chilly. We took the shuttle bus into the central city which is very nice. We had a look in the local department store – Stockmans. We then wandered down to Market Square which was bustling with vendors selling Finnish souvenirs and food. Reindeer meatballs were on the menu – mmmmm? Next stop was the Helsinki Cathedral which is the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral of the Diocese of Helsinki. The church was originally built from 1830-1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was also known as St Nicholas’ Church until the independence of Finland in 1917.
Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland – the city has a population of 616,000 with the wider metropolitan area being home to 1.4 million people. It is located in the southern part of the country, on a peninsula with a fringe of small islands overlooking the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Surrounded on three sides by water, this natural seaport is known as the “city of the sea”. Helsinki is Finland’s capital for business, education, research, culture and government.
The town of Helsinki was founded by King Gustavus of Sweden (to which Finland belonged for many centuries) as a new trading post in southern Finland and as a competitor to Tallinn in Estonia, the Hanseatic city on the opposite shore of the Gulf of Finland.
Russia’s growing power in the 18th century and the founding of it’s new capital, St Petersburg, not far from the Finnish border in 1703 were to have a decisive influence on the growth and future of the Finnish capital. Shortly after Sweden lost its position as a superpower, Finland was annexed to Russia as an Autonomous Grand Duchy in 1809. Finland declared it’s independence from Russia in 1917.
The nation of Finland has never been an independent sovereign monarchy: no attempt to establish one was crowned with success. When it finally became established as a modern independent nation-state, it was – despite a very brief flirtation with monarchy – in the form of a republic.
Unlike all other states on the European continent that were involved in the Second World War, Finland was never occupied by foreign forces. Therefore, Finland is one of the very few European countries with an unbroken record of democratic rule from the end of the First World War to the present. In 1995, Finland became a member of the EU, once again marking the start of a new era for the capital.