A Travellerspoint blog

Finland

A good anniversary story needs a great Finnish...

it's also in the Tallinn!

snow -17 °C

We celebrated this year with a short trip to Helsinki. We had not been to any of the Scandinavian countries before so we were very interested to venture a bit further North.

As our plane descended in preparation for landing we could see huge snow covered expanses, dotted with houses and towns. The plane had a nose camera which enabled us to watch the landing. It is a strange experience to watch your plane speeding towards a, seemingly, small strip of gray tarmac in a sea of snow. The pilot got us there (of course) and I felt like shouting out three cheers... one for the landing, one for the snow, and mainly one that we were on another holiday!

We took the local bus into the city center. Our hotel was situated right next to the Central train station, which is where the bus terminal is so we were checked in in no time.

We threw on a few more layers of clothing before heading out for a walk around town. We had crossed a bridge over a frozen river, on the bus trip, and were keen to have a closer look. We walked through parkland behind our hotel which was covered in a thick blanket of snow. I stopped to make a snowball only to find that the snow was too powder dry to form a ball. The snow was falling all day, but not in big flakes like in London, small icy drops which bounced off our coats to the ground. Nothing gets wet. We had woolen beanies on but the snow just bounces off and they stay perfectly dry. Probably why it is so popular, as outerwear, with sheep!

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We got to the river and found it was frozen. Several people were walking across rather than using the bridge. A group of guys skated past us in the middle section. A woman and her dog crossed from the boathouse to the opposite bank. Jen then scientifically tested the integrity of the ice by throwing a couple of small pieces of ice, left by the snow plough, at the surface. At maximum velocity the projectiles shattered into tiny pieces and skidded along the thick ice.This was followed by a short conversation about fearfully hammering away at the underside of the ice having been swept away after falling though a thin spot. Suffice it to say, vivid imagination versus reality often ends in a first round knockout. We walked to the bridge.

The 19th started with a ferry trip to Suomenlinna which is an historic sea fortress. It was included in the Unesco World Heritage List in 1991. Suomenlinna is only a short trip from the dock at Market Square in Helsinki, where we boarded our Ferry. We could feel the bow breaking through the icy waters as we cut a trail to the island. We arrived at the island and those who travelled with us quickly scurried away. We took a few photos as the ferry returned to Helsinki. We only ever saw two other people as we walked around the island. Which meant we didn't have to hurry and we didn't have anyone in our shots...nice. Neither of us had ever been in a place which was so cold before. I had foolishly neglected to wear thermal long johns, I generally save those for wrestling, BAD IDEA... I found the going pretty tough when exposed to the windchill. We had gloves, jackets and beanies on but just couldn't stay warm.
Suomenlinna was striking in it's silence. Only the sound of our steps in the thick snow and the occasional yelp as one of us slipped around on an icy patch of ground. We walked from the dock to the Fortress, cannons aimed seaward, and to the King's Gate. We warmed up with a hot drink before the return ferry trip. We highly recommend a visit in winter, despite the cold. This is a really beautiful place.

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The next day we rose early in order to catch the 06.05 bus to the Norfolk line ferry terminal. We took the slow boat to Tallinn, which was... let's say interesting. We boarded the ferry at about 07.30 and found a quiet spot in the lounge bar at the stern of the craft. Shortly after we found a seat, and to our suprise, the bar opened and the majority of the passengers started downing beer, wine and even cognac...in significant quanitity. We settled for coffee and a roll. The engines started up and soon we were cutting a path through the frozen waters in the direction of Estonia. It was facinating to see where the ice ended and the open water began. A little further into the journey a live trio emerged from behind a heavy stage curtain and started playing what I think is best described as "easy listening polka". It's basically polka performed as subtly as a polka can be performed with a clear understanding that it is 8.00 in the morning. Couples rushed to the dancefloor and 30 mins into the set it was like so many other small clubs or pubs in the world... a tortured band playing to a bunch of pissheads who were combining a general lack of balance with random thrusting of limbs in something vaguely resembling dance. Imagine Oliver Reed on "Dancing with the stars" that should paint the picture. We found the whole thing enormously entertaining... to a point. Ultimately we retreated to a quieter area until we docked in Tallinn, Estonia.

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We had the weather gods on our side and the sun shone brightly from the blue skies above. Tallinn is a very pretty town with a distinctly medieval flavour. The photos speak for themselves...

As dusk approached we made the return trip, arriving back at Helsinki in the dark. We grabbed something to eat before venturing out for some night photography.

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Our final day was spent taking a last leisurely wander around the main town before the trip back to London.

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We really enjoyed our first Scandinavian visit. It was quite a contrast to the other countries we have visited thus far. We are now planning a longer trip exploring this part of the world next winter. Finland, Lapland in particular, has a great deal to offer and we are very keen to visit again.

Posted by StephenJen 14:11 Archived in Finland Comments (6)

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