The last two ports of call on my recent cruise were the capitals of Finland and Sweden respectively. I hadn’t done any research in advance, so I didn’t know what to expect of Helsinki. I thought it might be rather an anti-climax after St Petersburg. But in fact, I liked it very much. As always, a sunny day helped a good deal, and my only regret was not managing to fit in a boat tour round the city’s waterfront – always a good way to see a place.
Such a tour was a real highlight of the final stop, at Stockholm. A full day’s excursion took in the Old Town (very appealing, if not quite as magical as Tallinn) and the Vasa Museum, featuring a rescued and restored ship, before a long journey around the waterways which provided a spectacular perspective on a very green and attractive-looking city.
I’ve not read any Finnish crime stories, but of course Sweden has become a key location for some of the best and most popular books in the genre, something nobody would have foreseen a generation ago. I’ve had the impression of a rather melancholy place, a view perhaps inspired by Martin Beck’s ulcer and Wallander’s gloomy ruminations, and no doubt in winter, when the weather is cold and wet and the nights are long, it can be rather bleak. But last week, sunlit Stockholm seemed to me to be quite magnificent.