the last day of the trip
11.08.2016 - 30.08.2016 62 °F
OK – now, on to Helsinki. The trip here was uneventful and the whole day yesterday was taken up with getting here. The flight was only one hour long but was right in the middle of the day so there couldn’t be any touring activities scheduled before or after. Everyone was pretty low key and stayed close to the hotel until we all wandered about ½ mile to have dinner in a part of town I really like. To be honest, we are not staying in as nice a hotel as J&J and I stayed in before. It is friendly and clean and the rooms are good size, but the location sucks. I just hope that after the rest of the ladies tour Helsinki, they come away with as positive an opinion of it as I did four years ago even though they don’t have the advantage of a great location. I have heard from a few that they really enjoyed their tour of Helsinki today and they did get to see the Sibelius Monument. I am jealous because it is an amazing sculpture that you have to see and wander through and under to get the whole effect. Pictures don’t cut it.
However, Tallinn was delightful. Our private guide was Eva who has been guiding for fifteen years and is a knowledgeable, enthusiastic proud Estonian of 32 years old. She met us at the boat dock when our ferry arrived and walked us up to the old town – a beautifully preserved, walled, medieval city which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I was surprised at how big the old town is – many cobblestone streets curling up and around a hill, on top of which sits the Parliament building, some embassies and a 100+ year old Russian style cathedral built during the time when Estonia was part of the USSR. (As you can imagine, they are not particularly fond of the building.)
We spent three hours with Eva, wandering the town, learning about its history, Estonia’s history and what it is like today. Fascinating. This tiny country has a population of only 1.3 million, of which 1/3rd live in the capital, Tallinn. Estonia boasts a pretty healthy standard of living with a high education level. Tallinn also boasts a lot of tourists, there were two or three cruise ships in port yesterday. It’s no wonder – the medieval town of Tallinn can handle a lot of people, it is a big piece of charming and undisturbed history, some dating back 500 – 600 years.
After Eva left us we had a very nice lunch at an Italian restaurant in the old town, did a bit of shopping (no buying) and then went about finding a cab to the dock of our replacement ferry. You see, the weather was not good yesterday and the ferry that we had booked for the return trip to Helsinki cancelled our particular crossing. We felt those choppy seas on the way in, so that was not a big surprise. But what to do now? Can we even get back? As it turns out, the other major ferry service operates huge ships that always make the trip, no matter the weather. And what a ship it was! We found ourselves in a large, multi-tiered, amphitheater-like Las Vegas styled cocktail lounge to pass time during the two-hour crossing. At one point a three-piece band entered the stage area and proceeded to play a variety of Estonian, Finnish and American songs, including “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” in Estonian. Now, that was special. (I should have recorded it, it was pretty funny.)
About the weather. The beautiful warm, sunny weather that we enjoyed in Bergen and Stockholm has come to an end. By the time we arrived in Helsinki, the temperature had dropped to the low 60’s (which for some is heaven, for me that is a bit cool) and cloudy rainy weather had set in. It is admittedly inconvenient to be touring far-off places in the rain, but what can you do? You open your umbrella and enjoy the wonderful sights while you take care not to poke out someone’s eye with an umbrella rib while traversing the narrow walkways. That’s what you do, and you have fun doing it. The only dicey part is trying to hold an umbrella and focus your camera at the same time. But I got a few good shots:
So, now it's time to go home and it will be a long, trying day. Getting to Sacramento from Helsinki involves a couple of connections which doubles the risk of something going wrong, like late flights and missed planes. A small price to pay for making wonderful memories.