Monday, November 29, 2010

Culture Study Trip, Day 2: Monday: Helsinki

Today we toured the capital. As we walked toward and away from the Senate Square we stopped here and there to catch a glimpses of Finland’s past in the architecture that was currently being preserved. When we finally did reach the Square we saw this major memorial statue surrounded by the ‘Buddy Bears’ of each country represented in the UN. The statue was to commemorate Alexander II and his establishing the Diet of Finland and autonomy of Finland from Russia. Below his statue are other statues related to law, culture or light, labor and peace.  

Directly behind this statue was the glorious Cathedral in a neoclassical style by Carl Engel and Ernst Lohrmann. On each side of the Cathedral was the University, the University Library and the Senate House also made by Engel but in a Classicist Tradition. Later we walked around some more and viewed places like the Neo-Renaissance House of Estates, the National Bank and the art nouveau rail station made by none other than Eliel Saarinen himself along with the National Museum.

After lunch at the University we headed to the Parliament House that was currently quiet since everyone went back to their home region to take care of affairs that day. On the way there we walked past a stature of President Mannerheim, a very much-noted figure in the history of Finland. As we gave up our cell phones, got ride of our bags and coats and turned off our flash, I noticed that the building itself created this very cold, bank-like feel that I would expect at a very old American bank. It was pretty much minimally adorned with artistically laid floors and weird MP elevators that never stopped moving and had no doors (so one must be careful with stray body parts J). 

There were the usual statues here and there of past presidents and a ceremonial press room, but overall the only think that caught my attention was the stairway that had this major lighting from the windows making it seem like one was walking up into Heaven itself while some of the halls that lead away from it had dark (or black) doors that looked pretty ominous. Finally, when we reached the end of the tour we ended up in the place where all the MPs meet and deal with the nation’s policies. It was very much what I expected except for the naked statures of Past, Present and Future standing against the main wall behind the podium. The subject was appropriate but what made it a sort of scandal at the time was the fact that they were naked men with one naked woman holding her baby, the future. Personally I kind of like the artist choice but the Finnish people found it inappropriate for an area where there should be no distractions.
 After that we walked Esplanadi Street and stopped again here and there at buildings that still had restored structures of Finland past. Following that, it was off to the ferry and Stockholm.

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