This post is not as long or as exciting as most of the others. Simply because we didn't spend a lot of time in Helsinki.
We hadn't booked an excursion for this one; there wasn't really anything that grabbed our attention and we figured we'd be ok walking around on our own. The cruise company operated a shuttle from the port to the city center, and everything about our plan worked perfectly. Except for the pouring rain. Literally, it poured rain the entire time. But we did get a nice feel for the city.
I'll tell you what really kept us going was singing this song from Monty Python's Spamalot:
We walked down one of the main streets to the city's old center, called Senate Square. There's a large cathedral (Lutheran) and the old government buildings. We then walked through the market square where there are lots of street vendors selling food and crafts. It was nice, but again, the rain made it all kind of a bummer. On the way back to the shuttle we managed to do some shopping--and found a three story shoe store--but we probably only spent two hours at most in the city. One interesting point: while walking around we noticed packs of students acting strangely, dressed weird (in animal costumes and like clowns) and some off behavior. When we finally asked the bus attendant what was going on, we learned it was the initiation day for the freshman university students, when they have to wear costumes and perform tasks all over the city assigned by the upperclassmen in their colleges.