Looking round Helsinki

As you can see from the ice floating in the harbour, Helsinki is quite cold in comparison to England; although apparently there has been a mild winter and the recent snow was the first that has fallen this year. I was glad to have remembered to bring some warm clothing. My very English shoes look silly here where it seems that everybody has walking boots on.

This morning I had an opportunity to visit the Ataneum, the National Gallery of Finland which currently has an exhibition of the work of Pekka Halonen (1865-1933).

(There is an article in English at Finnguide about the exhibition.)

After the Treaty of Tilsit between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I, Russia attacked Finland in 1808. The following year, Sweden conceded Finland to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy. In 1812, the Tsar moved the capital to Helsinki and initially, Russian rule was of some benefit to Finland. Some of the architecture in the centre of the City bears more than a passing resemblance to St Petersburg. This is a photo of the Government Palace which is matched on the other side of the square by the main university building.

The Esplanade park leads to the main harbour. The wind blows up from the harbour making this one of the coldest areas through which I walked - you can see that the snow had not melted here as it had elsewhere.

It was in this park that one of the battles was fought during the war of 1918 which is referred to either as the "Civil War" or the "War of Independence", depending on your point of view. The Whites were the Government troops, fighting for a monarchy against the Reds who were backed by the Russians. The Whites won and installed a German monarch (Friedrich Karl, Prince of Hessen) but the German monarchy collapsed within weeks as the Germans lost World War I and a republican model of government was instituted.

Along the fashionable shopping streets, there is much evidence of the influence of Finland's own designers. I was told that one of the labels for the young and trendy is Marimekko:

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