Helsinki, Finland’s capital, has 590,000 residents, of which 92 percent speak Finish. Many also speak English fluently and very graciously helped us with directions.
Feeling adventuresome, we rode a number 14 bus to City Centre, then walked to the Visitor Center where we found free computers with Internet connections plus a helpful English-speaking staff. We found free clean restrooms at nearby City Hall (much of Europe has pay restrooms requiring the specific coins of that country). Hint: Wear sturdy walking shoes to navigate cobblestone streets in most European cities.
Friendly locals suggested we ride the tram around a figure 8 loop. When a lady with a Beagle dog boarded the tram, I struck up a conversation. Her aunt had moved to the Phoenix area decades before, and meeting us made her feel a connection to her deceased aunt. As this charming lady pointed out local sights, she said she felt privileged to meet Americans from Arizona!
On this sunny Saturday afternoon, the streets were filled with Finns shopping and relaxing at sidewalk cafes, where they people watched and listened to live music from nearby parks.
With maps and directions from friendly locals, we found our way back to the number 14 bus stop and returned to the ship in time for an afternoon swim.
That night over cocktails, we had a lengthy discussion with a New Zealand couple. At dinner we met interesting American baby boomers from Texas and Dubai, resulting in lively conversations. HAL’s “As You Wish” dining enabled us to meet interesting people from North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and points beyond. We fell asleep early that night, exhilarated and exhausted.