Trip Start May 20, 2010
95Trip End Jun 03, 2011
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To start, our journey to Helsinki took considerably longer than expected. Dusting off vodka hangovers and Karaoke nightmares, Kristin and I headed to the port of Tallinn to buy our tickets on the ferry to Helsinki
We showed up around noon to Terminal D to buy our tickets and were promptly informed that the next available ferry wasn’t until 5:30 that afternoon. With a tip from the girls at Terminal A, we grabbed our packs and made the long walking journey to the other port, arriving just in time to find out they had sold the last ticket. Exhausted, we piled the packs back on and raced back to Terminal D to luckily secure a spot on the 5:30 ferry. Finally, around 8pm, we arrived at the hotel and happily collapsed into the comfortable setting.
Anya and Petra were also heading to Finland for the day and we planned to meet them at the hotel
Down below the cathedral, there was a massive square that was filled with a circle of objects. It was only when we got closer that we realized that each was a bear. As part of a UN program, cities are chosen each year to display a set of bears representing each UN-recognized country. We wandered around the set, taking in the random assortment. We found the US, represented by a statue of liberty bear and the Slovenian bear, which basically looked demonic. There were ones depicting key sites, cultural aspects, and even a map on the Moldova bear’s stomach with a professor pointing out, “this is Moldova” to an EU backpacker. My favorite, though, was Cuba, who sat at the end of the square smoking a massive cigar. After taking plenty of fun photos, we finally called it a night and got some sleep.
The other main highlight was our second night there. After working all day, I met up with the girls for our last dinner. However, unable to find a suitable place and with Anya and Petra’s ferry departure time creeping up, we decided to postpone dinner for another time. As the girls walked off, Kristin and I looked at each other, and both decided dinner could wait. Helsinki is known for its sauna culture. I believe the country has about as many saunas as citizens and it’s a natural part of their daily life to sweat their problems away in a blissful heat
Well-rested, we finally set out for dinner. When you’re in Finland, you have a number of options for what you can eat. Speaking from personal experience here, it’s very difficult to decide whether you want Rudolf or Blitzen or Dasher or Dancer or….well, you get the idea. Reindeer is the national delicacy and Kristin and I set off on the sole purpose of finding (and eating) Santa’s little helpers. After walking around for a while, we found a great little restaurant and ordered two different varieties of reindeer. Kristin’s was minced and really good, but mine was amazing. It was a tenderloin, cooked perfectly and cut in two parts served over garlic mash. And, to end this overly drawn-out analogy, reindeer may be good at pulling sleighs, but from now on, I’ll take mine on a plate.
With this quick trip to Helsinki, our time in the West was finished and the next day, we would set off into the world of “I don’t have a clue what’s going on” and begin our 3-week adventure across Russia.