Helsinki Card

Eastern Charm

15.7.2015 Text: Violetta Teetor Photos: Stromma
Strömma Canal Cruise

Helsinki has been called the ‘daughter of the Baltic’ and not going on a cruise in the summer months would be a real shame and while you can see a lot from a bus, the magic of water lures you into a world with a new perspective.

The Beautiful Canal Route takes you to the eastern side of the city passing Suomenlinna Fortress Island, today a World Heritage Site with its historical bastions, huge, looming icebreakers moored at the Katajanokka Peninsula, the unique Korkeasaari Zoo island the smell of which you can’t miss when you’re upwind!

And then there’s the special history of the Degerö Canal, so narrow that two boats cannot pass at the same time and so shallow that deep hulls will almost certainly get stuck here. It was in the 1870’s when the residents around here got fed up with lack of access to the larger waterways and submitted a petition to the powers-that-be for a canal to be cut through a piece of land. Their plea was rejected and they decided to take it upon themselves to fund it and build it anyway. It took 2 years and voila, there it was in all its 120-metre long, one-metre deep glory! Today it’s only used by pleasure boats but in times gone by, it was an important, strategic move to ease the transport of goods to and from here.

The canals on this side of the city wind through residential areas with stark contrasts in the architecture of houses on the shoreline. One minute you’ll pass a picturesque summer cottage, the next you’ll see a seaplane hovering on the water close to a spectacular modern mansion. Even this close to the city, it’s hard to imagine that someone could be lucky enough to own a holiday cottage with a sauna to be used at weekends and during June, July, August and maybe even later if it has capacity for heating. But then, judging by the size of the villas this is not what you might call a down-at-heel location.

Recorded commentary in Finnish, English, German and Russian will tell you stories of the why-what-when- where of the buildings and places you pass on the way while all you need to do is sit back, sip a drink and enjoy the ride. Departures from the Market Square take place every day from the beginning of May through the end of September, several times a day.

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