Part 1: Finno-Ugric Fun in Finland and Estonia
Vacation 2014 began and ended with conference presentations in Paris and Oslo, so naturally I also had to travel to countries I had never been to before in Europe. I decided to start in Finland before heading over to Sweden and Norway, with a day trip to Estonia. My housemate in Australia was attending the same conference in Paris so she travelled with me for a week, and I was able to meet up with a few other former English assistants that I hadn’t seen in a few (too many) years. It was so good to see them again!
Although it is currently summer in the northern hemisphere, I was quite cold in Helsinki and Tallinn. The temperatures weren’t actually that cold – it was usually around 15 C, sometimes 18 C – but coming from 30 C in France, it was a tiny bit of a shock to the system. We had 11 C and sleet one day in Helsinki, and lots of wind in Tallinn. Good thing I brought my coat. Nearly 24 hours of sunlight was fun, except when your accommodation doesn’t have blackout curtains. I found it a bit hard to sleep since I’m used to total darkness, and when it’s still light outside at 11pm you don’t feel as tired as you should anyway.
I felt a bit lost with signs and menus in Finnish and Estonian as I haven’t really studied any Finno-Ugric languages in detail yet. However, most things were also translated into Swedish (an official language of Finland), German, English and sometimes Russian (especially on the ferries). Multilingual signs always make my day.
The Tallink ferry between Helsinki and Tallinn only takes two hours so it is a great day trip. Except for maybe the Sibelius monument in Helsinki, most of the famous sites are within walking distance in both cities and Suomenlinna fortress is a short ferry ride from Helsinki. The old town of Tallinn is also a short 10 or 15 minute walk from the ferry terminal.
In Tallinn, we had lunch at Olde Hansa, a medieval restaurant that is a total tourist trap. I still don’t actually know what I ate besides the chicken, but it was so good! We also climbed up the tower of the town hall and St. Olav’s church for great views of the old town. I bought an adorable handmade wool cardigan for my nephew and we had the best hot chocolate at Jerntorgith cafe before hopping back on the ferry to return to Helsinki.
We also took the overnight Tallink ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and it is more like a cruise than just a ferry. The main difference is that you take your luggage on board with you. There were plenty of shops and restaurants, activities for kids, a spa, a casino – everything but a pool, really. We left Helsinki at 5pm and arrived in Stockholm at 9:30am the next morning. You can book a place in the buffet restaurant for both dinner (you’ll be assigned a table) and breakfast (you can sit anywhere). Or, you can always make reservations at the restaurants or even just grab a snack at the cafés. Bonus: Both of these ferries have free wifi! And of course, both Finland and Estonia use the euro so you don’t have to change currency.
Finnish and Estonian realia will be added to the site soon. Up next: Sweden!
If you’re wondering why the blog hasn’t been updated in a while – everything has been a little crazy for me this year. I took over a French class halfway through the semester and needed to prepare for two conferences in Europe when I found out I had to move just before leaving. It was extremely stressful! Luckily we’re on break now between the two semesters and I’ve settled into my new place, but I still haven’t managed to get an internet connection.