Postcard from the Gulf of Finland

We welcome ‘postcards’ from church members who are away from Manchester. This Summer Fr Ian starts us off:

Toompea - Tallinn old town

There are regular ferries across the Gulf Of Finland from Tallinn, in Estonia, to Helsinki in Finland. Today I made the journey to spend a day in Helsinki. In many ways Estonia  and Finland share a great deal – their languages are similar to each other –  both are totally incomprehensible to an English speaker (e.g. how do you pronounce the Estonian word  kuuüür?) People of both countries have Scandinavian looks – pale skin, blue eyes and fair hair. Lutheranism and Russian Orthodoxy have had a significant part in both their histories, and both countries include wife carrying among their popular sports.

However, their capital cities are so different. Tallinn has an old medieval city, with spires, querky little streets and the local businesses play up to this with a sense of fun and character. Near the port in Tallinn are derelict former Soviet factory buildings reminding the visitor of a troubled past. In contrast Helsinki is a busy Scandinavian city with modernist or neo-classical architecture. It takes itself seriously.

In contrast to both as I traveled on the 2hr ferry journey I read  The Summer Book,  by Tove Jansson. The book tells (in a semi autobiographical way) of an elderly grandmother and Sophia, her 6 year old granddaughter as they spend summers on one of the hundreds of tiny islands in the Gulf of Finland. Each energise and stimulate the other, each has words of wisdom, fun and sorrow as they live and play together, and try to understand life.

On the ferry I met a Finnish couple with their young daughter – her sense of fun, her curly long blonde hair and laughter helped Jansson’s story come alive, and showed another contrast in this fascinating part of the world.



About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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