We managed to get a free IKEA bus into Helsinki city centre, and repaid them by eating 5 hot dogs, 2 calzones, 1 ice cream and 1 drink for a romantic dinner. I enjoyed walking through the Tori Quarter with its little lane ways and hidden cafés. It reminded me of the lanes back home in Brighton. I found a crafty shop offering a free felting workshop so left Craig and joined a table of pensioners. It was all in Finnish but I worked out what to do and when I finished my chicken design the ladies all looked at it in awe. It was rather good. Especially compared to the angel my 80 year old neighbour made and managed to cut her finger and smear blood all over her ‘masterpiece’.
Helsinki, like all Scandinavian Capitols, is known for it’s cutting edge design, the shops are legendary and there’s a whole area dedicated as the ‘Design District’. Above Senate square was the grand Tuomiokirkko Cathedral which was painful to look at without sunglasses due to it being a bright white. It had a large onion domed roof, but inside looked unfinished and totally bland.
It was a nice city, but I prefer the old towns full of character. Saying that, I love how the city has heaps of events on. It was ‘Restaurant Day’ when we were leaving for our ferry. It’s a day where anyone can set up a pop-up restaurant, even in someone’s house. I particularly like the idea of the twice yearly ‘Cleaning Day’ where everyone has a spring clean and it’s out with the old, turning the entire city into a giant flea market.
So, after nearly two months, we’re saying farewell to Scandinavia, and hello to the Baltic Countries – It’s all about to get very Eastern European!
We got the ferry across to Tallinn, and as it was Sunday, found free parking very close to the Old Town. It’s surrounded by a 2.5km defensive wall with beautiful big turrets and pointy terracotta tiled roofs. The medieval area is set on two levels, lower town and upper town, the latter from which you get views across the city with orange and red roofs, church spires and skyscrapers in the distance. Within the walls are beautiful pastel coloured, 15th century buildings, cobbled streets and hardly a car in sight.
The 19th century Russian Cathedral was of a similar style to Helsinki’s Cathedral with the onion domes, but these ones were jet black. They reminded me of Mosques, but I was grateful that they didn’t have the speakers around the building, I had a flashback of being woken day after day in Indonesia by the morning prayer blaring out the speakers.
I found Tallinn a very enchanting city, they really embraced the medieval theme with workers dressed in costumes. A lovely little eatery had long wooden tables, big candles and giant wooden beakers to drink from. The women wore long dresses and pixie shoes, while the men had tunic’s and leggings.
There was an event on in Raekoja Plats which is the main square with market stalls and alfresco dining around the edges. On a modest stage were 5 young lads, in medieval tunics and long black boots. I didn’t catch the band name, but they were great, playing folk style music with a ska-twang. They had a violin, two accordions, base guitar and drums and they even did a reggae version where the violin was turned sideways to make a ukulele style guitar.
What a lovely city, and a great start to Estonia. The roads however are diabolical, full of potholes and wonky sections; how an earth is a policemen supposed to tell a drink driver from a sober person avoiding potholes?