The Cathedral is the most iconic building in Helsinki. The cathedral was designed by C.L. Engel and built in the 1830’s and 1840’s. It stands proud on a hill overlooking the Senate Square and the busy streets of downtown Helsinki. The cathedral layout was originally the shape of a Greek cross, making it very slender and tall-looking. Architects in Engel’s time would joke about the thin church and make bets about it falling over in the wind. After Engel’s death the towers in the intermediate directions were built, to make sure the cathedral would be strong enough. Also the 12 apostle statues, made of zinc, were added at this point.
The church benches were upholstered in the 1960’s and the material is still in mint condition: no fading, no wearing out and no signs of the 50+ years of being sat on. What is this magic fabric made of? It is made of the hair of Polish horses! The look and feel resemble vinyl or a safety belt.
Melkki is a closed, military owned island in the archipelago of Helsinki. The island of Melkki is pretty close by, one kilometer south of the island of Lauttasaari and five kilometers southwest of the Market Square.
In the 1830’s Melkki was bought by a mr. Benedikt Brenner, a wealthy merchant and shipowner, who lived on the island with his large family until his death. In the 1880’s Melkki was expropriated for military use and it served as a part of the Suomenlinna fortress. Since the 1950’s it has mostly been in recreational use of military personnel. There are dozens of small summer cottages spread throughout the island.
The name “Melkki” most probably derives from the Swedish word for ‘milk’, ‘mjölk’. The island has its fair share of white sandy beaches (by Finnish standards at least!) so the name seems quite appropriate.
The Commandant’s House is a well air-conditioned building on the island of Vasikkasaari. It faces panoramic views of the Helsinki skyline and Suomenlinna fortress. Built in 1870, it used to be the home and guardhouse of Russian soldiers. It is also called the “White House” but obviously most of the plastering is gone. The ruins of an ice cellar is also worth a look. There is a boat connection during the summer season from the market square. In addition to the “White House”, check out old oil containers, a light house and charming summer cottages.