Monday, July 26, 2010

Last day in Tallinn

Part of the wall that surrounds the upper village.

Sunday, July 25th was our last day in Tallinn. Before we checked out of our hotel, we decided to do a little more sight seeing. It has been really fun doing all these tourist things, I never really pictured myself as one of "those" tourists! Anyway, the only part of the old town we didn't see was up about 200 stairs, so before it got too hot, up we went! Most Embassies are in this part of town, including the Canadian one.

Jerry took this picture of course, but it does show that I was there too! Up at the top of the old town, you can see the Gulf of Finland in the background.

A peacock butterfly, there were loads of them on these flowers.

We got on the ferry heading back to Helsinki, a two hour ride over 80 kilometers, and then caught the commuter train to Hanna and Tommi's house, back in time for a really wonderful dinner and then bed!


July 26, 2010

Today is our last full day in Finland. We will be jumping on a flight tomorrow and heading to Dublin for one week. We got back late yesterday afternoon from a three night trip to Tallinn, Estonia by ferry from Helsinki. We stayed all three nights in the old town of Tallinn at a very nice hotel called the Baltic Imperial. It was nice to stay right in the old town to see the sights and not have to go to far to get back to our room each night. The first day, we went on a 3.5 hour bike tour to some of the sights outside the old town. Our tour guide was a very colorful young man who described himself as definitely not patriotic! It was quite interesting listening to him tell about Estonia`s history.

The next day we took it easy, explored around the old town, ate at an outdoor cafe, and snooped around in the shops. Saturday the weather looked like it would rain but we decided to take our chances anyway and head out of town again to see the open air museum, an 80 hectare piece of land with original buildings reconstructed and showing the way life was in Estonia in the 18th century. And yes we got rained on, but it was so warm and a welcome relief from the heat we have had. We didn't mind at all. Below is a new thatched in progress...
and a stone building used as the blacksmith's shop.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Viking Center and Bengtskar Lighthouse

Yesterday we drove about 2.5 hours southeast from Helsinki to go to the Bengtskar Lighthouse, on a very small island in the Gulf of Finland.  We had to get on a boat that first took us to see the Viking Center on the island of Rosala. Below is the sign showing the road ends ahead.

We toured the centre, had a traditional Viking lunch (fish soup and dark Rosala bread) and then got back in the boat for another 45 minutes to see the light house. It is steeped in history and has a very colourful story. Today it is no longer a manned lighthouse but still is in operation with an automatic light.
After getting back from our boat ride, we got back in the car and drove to the small town of Fiskars for dinner, and I am sure you can figure out what they are famous for. The town has done a fantastic job of keeping the old buildings in good repair and it is now a worthwhile tourist stop. Unfortunately for me, the store that sells the scissors was closed by the time we got there.
So, tomorrow, Thursday, we will be off to Estonia. I am looking forward to a ride on the Tallinn Ferry, we will let you know how it goes.

Touring around Helsinki

Wednesday July 21, 2010
We spent Monday in Helsinki. First we got on the train from Hanna and Tommi's house and took about 25 minutes to get into downtown. Our first stop was at a travel agent to purchase tickets on the fast ferry for our trip to Estonia. We are heading there tomorrow and will stay three nights in Tallinn, one day renting a car to travel the countryside, and the other two days to explore around Tallinn.

After that we jumped on a tram and got off at the farmers market which is close to the ocean. We wanted to catch a boat to the small, historic island of Suomenlinna (a UNESCO site). This little island was used by the Finnish military as a maritime fortress. Lots of history here and very much worth the trip.
When we got back to Helsinki, we got on a tram again and took a trip right around the city, ending up in a waterfront park, and then to the shipping docks for a nice cold beer. Helsinki is much more lively than we thought it would be, lots of people having fun and moving about in the downtown area. There was an outdoor concert with a heavy metal band and a ton of young people sitting around listening, eating and drinking. We explored a few shops, had some dinner and headed back to Rekola on the train to Hanna and Tommi's. Just like worried parents, they were waiting up for us as we arrived about 11 pm.
Yesterday's activities will be on a new post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Enjoying Finnish hospitality!

Monday July 19, 2010
Well, we have been gone from home a full week now and so much has happened it is hard to know where to start. Of course, our flight over to Helsinki went very well and our baggage arrived at the same time we did, but we never expect this miracle to happen. Hanna and Tommi were waiting for us at the airport, and we were happy to get to their house to relax after traveling for about 20 hours (although the flight was only 14 hours). Jet lag was a problem, but a bigger problem was the length of daylight, so it did take us a good 5 days to get around to Helsinki time. Below Jerry, Tommi and Hanna wave from the top of a lookout tower in the town of Kotka, close to Helsinki.

On Wednesday we drove east to Kotka to stay at Hanna's parent's summer cottage on the Gulf of Finland. It is a really wonderful, rustic (electricity but no running water) cottage right on the water where we enjoyed late nights, good food, saunas and swimming in the warm 28 degree Celsius water. Hanna and Tommi have three very nice children. Below their eldest, Effie, is picking wild blueberries to make a tart which we enjoyed later with vanilla cream...... yum!

We are off to tour around Helsinki now, so I will continue this post later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Off to Finland... but Splendid Mane has to stay home this time.

Monday July 12, 2010
We leave this afternoon on our three week journey to Finland, Estonia, and then Ireland. We will be back on August 4th, when we will be quickly packing up Splendid Mane to go for our much anticipated one month journey to Seymour and Belize Inlets, just off of Queen Charlotte Sound.
But in the meantime, on our Europe trip, I'll get the occasional post in here and there, so check back every so often.