Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Esplanade Park

This is the lovely Esplanade Park, a leafy confection linking two of Helsinki's most stylish streets near the harbor. It's lined with restaurants and populated by street entertainers.

While we were there, the Esplanade Park was lined with dozens of bronzes by Manolo Valdes, one of my favorite Spanish artists. These are called "Las Meninas," after the Velasquez painting in the Prado Museum. These sculptures are traveling to various cities and I felt very lucky that we happened upon them in Helsinki.

Next, a tour to Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a 260-year-old sea fortress. Fortification began in 1748 as a defence against the Russians when Finland was under Swedish rule. While it worked for 60 years, it eventually fell to the Russians because they took the overland route instead of approaching from the sea. It remained in Russian hands until Finland became independent in 1917, but it was by then little more than an administrative and logistical center since it had been badly damaged by Anglo-French troops during the Crimean War. Today, a small colony of about 900 people live on the islands year round and it even sports a respected art college.
The old prison...

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