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20 July 2011

A Packed First Day in Finland

Day 51: Sunday, 10 July 2011

My first day in Finland was one of my longest days, full of so many different encounters and interesting people, and was a very good day overall. (Having non-stop daylight makes it easy to keep going well into the night - but more on that later.) I am yet again amazed at how much I've been able to see, thanks to couchsurfing! It's truly amazing.

The day started early, in Tallinn. I woke up at 6:30am, got my stuff quickly together and was out the door with Charly by 6:40. He rushed to work, and I ambled with my two full bags to the ferry terminal. I got my ticket and joined the big crowd of people pushing onto the boat. The ferry was a big ship, like a cruise ship, with at least 8 levels for cars and cabins. The ride was 2 and a half hours; I charged my laptop, contacted my host in Helsinki, and read a bit of On the Road. Nearly into Helsinki, a young man approached me and sat down at my table. His name was Alex, Bolivian but living in Helsinki. He was part of a Christian missionary group traveling around Eastern Europe to "spread the good news of Jesus Christ." I deflected his proselytizing by telling him about my amazing journey so far. He gave me some tips on what to do in Helsinki and a small religious pamphlet that they were passing out on their trip.

The ferry docked and I walked around for a few minutes to get my bearings. I then called my host, Topias, and asked him for directions. I took the tram to his place, accompanied by an incredibly drunk old man who was sloppily trying to grab the poor woman sitting across from him. It was sad to watch but also extremely entertaining - welcome to Finland in the summertime!

Topias had his friend Tuomas over, both recovering from a big night out, and the three of us quickly went out for some brunch. We went to a bar called Pacifico, which was somewhat Latin/Mexican-themed but felt like a local underground rock music venue. The people there gave off some good vibes, nonjudgmental and friendly. The brunch cost €10, but was all-you-can-eat, and, most importantly, they had Cholula hot sauce! Oh how I missed you! I had the most amazingly spicy meal since that curry in Manchester…

We explored a nearby park and the Linnanmäki amusement park, which was small but had some interesting coasters.

Then we rushed back because Topi had just gotten word from a friend that they were going to an island that afternoon, and the ferry was leaving in less than an hour! So we rushed ahead to the bus station, saying bye to Toumas along the way. We just missed a bus, and it looked like we wouldn't make it, when we Topi's friend said they could drive us to the ferry terminal. So we got off the bus, and after a minute, Janne and Otto swept in to pick us up. The car was running out of gas, so it was a fun ride to the ferry pier. We made it on board, and I met Ellena and Manu.

More Estonia

Days 48-50: Thursday, 7 July 2011 to Saturday, 9 July 2011


My second day in Tallinn was spent shopping, lazing around, and then exploring on foot. I slept in a bit, so Erko had gone to work and Davide had gone to the festival. It was midday and I wanted to get some food. Since I had not found anywhere to eat, I walked to the shopping centre just across the train tracks. It was a big suburban-style mall with lots of modern conveniences. Inside was also the big supermarket, where I bought some groceries (cereal, milk, pasta, and sandwich supplies), shampoo, and a new pair of sunglasses since I left my other pair in Nottingham.

I made some sandwiches for lunch and then walked out into the city. After spending some time wasting online, I walked through the upper part of the old town, seeing plenty of fantastic views from the ramparts of the old city walls. There's the iconic Russian Orthodox church, and plenty of fantastic postcard images of the very well-preserved old town. Two girls were walking around dressed up like Russian nesting dolls. I encountered a loud group of maybe 50 American girls on some sort of school or sorority trip. Then I walked around the eastern periphery of the old town, passing through some nice parks before returning to the shopping mall. There I searched for some cheap food, walking up all 5 floors before settling on a pre-made sandwich bought in the supermarket downstairs.

I walked all the way back to the apartment and shared some dinner with the housemates. Herring and potatoes. That's Estonian food. Everyone was just eating outside.

Friday, 8 July 2011

I made breakfast: eggs and bacon. It was a nice and sunny day, so I went to the beach. Erko also decided to go, so I joined him, Marta, and Ibsen. They had an extra bike for me to use at the house!

So we all biked through the city to the prison complex near the port where we settled in by the water. There was a sandy beach perched above the actual rocky shoreline, and the water was murky and cool, but fresh. Waves came only when one of the big ferry or cruise ships pulled in to the nearby port.

We shared a couple ciders and the girls played around in the sand before we headed off. Erko had to leave early because he had to get to his friend's place in the countryside.

The girls and I checked out a nearby pub/café that was a London city bus originally. Then we saw a bit more of the TunedCity festival, which was going on at the Kulturiikatel nearby. It's an abandoned factory that they're trying to make into something artsy. A man was playing recordings of ambient noise and answering questions about it.