RESTLESS IN HELSINKI, 60.09.60N, 24.57.70E
Restless of Auckland
Roland and Consie Lennox-King
Sat 1 Aug 2009 09:57
Mid-July we were in Finland, we said goodbye to Seewolf II, Red Robin, and T6, and left Mariehamn on the Aland islands, where we had the storm and rescue excitement, to sail on towards Helsinki, with kiwis Prue and Wog on board with us. There are a hundred thousand islands in the archipelago between Stockholm and Helsinki, but who knows whether they have them all on the charts! Any one but locals stay on a thin green line on the charts, where the depths have been measured. Deviate at your own peril as there are many uncharted rocks. This means short tacks, unless you are lucky and have the wind behind you.
We sailed and motored to Degerby, Huso, Kokar, Otterbote (a bronze age 3,000 year old seal hunting settlement), Krakskar, Korpostrom, Gullkrona, Gloet on Hitis island, Kapellhamn, Hango, Algo, Skedo, and to Barosund where we met up with Pinocchio (from Scotland) and had lunch and dinner together. Then we sailed and motored on to Vorno and Utterholm, where we met up with Jester of Lisia, and celebrated kiwi Warwick's birthday together with Penny, Stuart and Jenny. We set off in beautiful sunshine to sail to Hirsala for a last night out in the archipelago, anchoring among the rocks.
We arrived in Helsinki on 23 July, and tied up at the welcoming NJK (Nylandska Jaktklubben) where the harbourmaster had rushed out to buy a NZ flag to put on his welcoming flagpole. We had a lovely dinner in the 1900s clubhouse, and purchased ferry tickets to take a day trip to nearby Tallinn, Estonia, the next day.
The early morning ferry took us across the 50 miles to Tallinn, where the 1980 yachting olympics were held, whilst Estonia was still part of the USSR. The old city is a medieval walled town with cobbled streets and colourful renovated buildings with turrets. We walked around the lower city and then walked up the hill to see the upper city before walking back to the harbour and taking the ferry back to Helsinki. It is a very well preserved piece of history and really worth seeing.
One day is not enough to see Helsinki, we had been recommended to take a round trip on the tram and we went to the spectacular underground church cut into the rock, and to the amazing white cathedral up on the hill. By that time we were hungry and went to the dockside market to eat the local deep fried fish about 1 inch long and had to fight off the seagulls. We had an early night after smoked salmon for dinner on Saturday 25 July, as we were catching the 7 o'clock train to St Petersburg. As it was, our taxi did not show up and we had to hoof it to the station.
Russia! Well, what is there to say, it is the trip of a lifetime. The planning of the 4-day trip was done for us by Prue and Wog and our NZ travel agent, Ken Were, who got the visas and booked the train and tour guide. I have never walked so much in my life. Tourguide Anna met us each morning and we went by metro or by taxi to the St Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage!! and the Peterhof!!! The queue for each site is hours long, but Anna took us through the exits with no waiting. St Petersburg is built over 42 islands, with canals and bridges connecting it together. It is a city of churches and palaces in all ranges of colours. We learned that many of the buildings are reconstructions as the city was thoroughly bombed. We could not miss the signs of buildings crumbling just out of sight.
The Hermitage with its 3 million art treasures is unbelievable - what words describe it? Da Vinci, Gaugin, Matisse, Michaelangelo, Picasso, Renoir, Rembrandt, these are some of the words, thousands of them, picture them, all hanging in opulent white and gold rooms.
The Peterhof? The completely reconstructed palace of Peter the Great, with treasures of all sorts, furniture, chandeliers, silver, gold. And fountains - hundreds of them. Tourguide Anna told us it was a childhood dream to walk in the gardens and hope to find the magic stones that would set off a secret fountain to soak you.
The Peter and Paul fortress - burial place of the Romanov family. We walked to the Church of the Spilled Blood, soaked up the atmosphere at the Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, walked up the 262 steps to the top of St Isaac's cathedral to see the view of the city, photographed the Church of St Peter and St Paul. We went to a Folk dancing show at the Nicholaevsky Palace, we ate in little Russian cafes, had Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Kiev, Borscht and Palmeni, tasted the vodka and Russian chocolate. Did we miss anything? Yes, probably, but we saw a LOT.
Oh, I forgot to say, we saw weddings everywhere, gorgeous girls posing and walking the streets as if they were a catwalk, and the men? The first night we were in Russia was Navy Day, and the streets were full of young sailors waving the Russian navy flag and drinking vodka, each with a pretty girl on his arm. Anna told us the birthrate is lower than the death rate, and life is still very tough for the man in the street.
We returned on the train to Helsinki, a 7 hour trip, partly because of border formalities on both sides, Russia and Finland, which take over an hour and a half, and woe betide if your papers are not correct. Nobody speaks English, and there are armed guards to march you off. We were relieved to find Restless at the NJK waiting for us, and we fell into our bunks, ready for the next part of our trip. We are now at the furthest point from NZ for this year, we checked with the RNZYS, and their coordinates are: 36.50.10S and 174.44.71W in a direct line we are 9,211 miles away, but roughly 12,000 miles to sail it via the Panama canal.
Our plan is to sail south from here to Stockholm, Gotland, Swedish east coast and on to Kiel, where we will go through the Kiel canal to Holland. We are trying to find a good boatyard to leave Restless in for the winter, while we return to NZ for the summer there.