The short amount of time we spent in Finland certainly wet our whistles – despite the fact we were wrapped up in toques and jackets on what locals consider a ‘warm’ day (10-15C), we would absolutely love to return and spend more time exploring
. Not only did the city of Helsinki impress us with its understated sophistication but its people and culture were some of the most warm and inviting we’ve met. Not to mention that for the first time in months we were able to brush our teeth using the sink and drink the tap water – it’s the little things that one starts to appreciate after a while. We spent our limited time exploring as much of the city as we could on foot – beautiful neo-classic buildings, lively harbour-side markets, churches and parks, you name it, Helsinki’s got it. And of course, no visit to Finland would be complete without an experience in their most famous export, the sauna (pronounced saw-oo-nah and enjoyed naked, of course). We would have liked to enjoy some of the local cuisine such as sautéed reindeer and deep fried herring however with Finland boasting one of the highest standards/ costs of living in the world (pricing was similar to what we expect in Calgary, but in Euro), we opted instead to make full use of our in-room kitchenette, a feature that ultimately went a long way in rejuvenating our travelling spirits – nothing like successive home-cooked meals. The likelihood of that happening in the next few months, we figure, is slim-to-none so we enjoyed it while we could.
Eastern Europe has treated us well and while we are sad to see many of our creature comforts go we are extremely excited for a change of scene and to experience first-hand what Asia has to offer. Its been a long road to get to this point... but we’re ready.
* turns out even though they were technically considered ‘free’, Finland was still forced to pass political policy and elected figures past a Soviet inspection during the time of the USSR.
Our final stop in 'Eastern' Europe ended up not even really being classified as former eastern bloc at all – at least that’s what we thought*. With our flights to Beijing finally sorted out, we made our way from Tallinn to Helsinki, Finland for a few days of Nordic life before returning to the hot and humid world well-below the 45th parallel. The ferry ride, while uneventful overall, turned out to be an exciting way to travel as we were able to watch massive swells crash against our very large ship... we say massive because if we were able to feel that boat rock, those waves were something to write home about. As we dodged the numerous islands and finally docked at Helsinki Harbour, we couldn’t help but feel a bit like we’d returned home for a few days...