HELSINKI, Finland -- Tervetuloa!
That's Finnish for "Welcome!" It's all part of a crash course in Finnish culture undertaken by yours truly in the past 36 hours.
I landed in Helsinki at 8:30 a.m. Sunday local time after an overnight flight on Finn Air and hit the town running -- OK walking -- in an effort to stay awake all day to get on Finnish time. With such an early start I was able to hit up most of the tourist spots on a beautiful, sunny yet cool day. Before calling it a night, a bit more than 12 miles were logged during a six-hour walking tour of the magnificent downtown.
The highlight, though, was the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress on the outer edge of the harbor. Reached by a short ferry ride, the sea fortress is a series of fortified islands established in 1748 to protect the coastline. The stone fortifications are a monument to the industry of their builders and the island is a treasure trove of Finnish military history. It also is a hot bed of activity for enthusiasts of the game Pokémon Go, and avoiding the roving bands of Finnish children on the hunt provided ample excitement.
All the walking also helped build up the appetite and allowed for a guilt-free meal that featured small portions of moose meatballs, pulled moose meat and bratwurst, as well as boiled baby potatoes in a creamy garlic sauce and lingonberry jam. What a fantastic meal, consumed at an open-air restaurant while looking out at the harbor.
For my next adventure, if time allows, I may have to take advantage of the new sauna built at the harbor, right in front of where the cruise ships dock. When you finish with the sauna, there is the option to jump into a collection of sea-water pools. On Sunday most people were walking around in sweatshirts or jackets, yet several hardy swimmers were frolicking in the water.
The opportunities to see the city will be a little more limited as the business at hand started Monday with Team Finland's first practice in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Hartwall Arena. The Finns ran through a 90-minute session before meeting with the media. Team Finland will be young but is not lacking in confidence, especially from forward Patrik Laine, who was selected by the Winnipeg Jets with the No. 2 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. I'll have more on him later today.
Touch base again soon. Having a great time!