You gotta love big, buff guys sportin’ pageboys and holding glowing globes. I mean, really. And you’ll find these stoic, Prince Valiant look-alikes standing guard in front of Helsinki’s Central Railway Station.
This grand old station is a marvel of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture which, when it opened in 1919, was a radical departure from the design of typical buildings in the capital. Traditionalists’ tongues must have been wagging.
After a century under the Russian boot, when independence came in 1917 architects wanted to design modern buildings which reflected the era’s social and industrial progress. And for this city and country in transition, the Art Nouveau style sweeping across Europe provided the perfect expression of new ideas.
The exterior, clad in sturdy Finnish granite and embellished with copper, is the embodiment of elements from nature preferred by those ground-breaking architects.
Beautiful, carved oak doorways, another element from nature, are an interesting contrast to intricate stucco walls.
And this station really jumps! We were nearly bowled over by the bustling crowds. Over 200,000 commuters pass through here each day, making it Finland’s most-visited building.
And it’s impossible to be over 100 years-old and not have some tasty trivia tidbits… The station has a large lounge area which was originally designed to be used by the Tsar of Russian. Well the Bolsheviks took care of him, and after Finnish independence, the government had the last laugh and made it a private waiting room for the exclusive use of the President of Finland. It’s supposedly the only one of its kind in the world.
Helsinki has an extensive collection of Art Nouveau architecture, and the striking Central Rail Station is the tour de force. And even if you don’t have plans for train travel, this unique building is a classic piece of architecture that shouldn’t be missed.
James & Terri