Finland (3.14.10 – 3.18.10)

I arrived in Vaasa, Finland around 8:30PM… two hours later than the scheduled arrival. Once I was off the ferry, I decided that I needed to get into town, so I got a taxi in, and was horrified when it came time to pay, and I had to fork out 14 Euro for a 3km ride. I had told myself that I would hitchhike from Vaasa down to Helsinki, but when I had formulated this genius plan, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I was due to arrive in Vaasa after night fall, and thus hitchhiking would be even more of a bad idea than usual. As this was the case, I had the taxi drop me off at the bus/train station, and once there, I was horrified to discover that the next bus directly to Helsinki was due to depart from the station at 6:30AM. TEN HOURS FROM THE TIME AT WHICH I WAS STANDING THERE. And, I might add, it was -10C at this point. The waiting room was closed, so, in order to keep warm, I went for a walk around the city. I passed a McDonalds, and decided to go in, because I knew that this meant free wifi. I got a shake… you’d think that ice cream would be the last thing I would want considering how cold it was outside, but it was awesome. I talked to my parents for a bit, and then left to head to the Irish pub that I had passed, where I knew that I could stay and drink until closing time which was 2AM. At 1:45, I left the pub, and wandered around town for a while… I ended up back at the bus station, and at 2:30, a bus pulled up. I checked my map and decided that since the bus was heading South, I would just take it because at least it would head in the general direction in which I needed to go, and I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting at the station for another four hour. At this point, the temperature was -17C, and standing still was not an option. I confirmed with the bus driver that the bus was heading south, and mentioned that I had been waiting for the bus to Helsinki, but I was too cold to wait. Upon me telling him this, he said that he could sell me a ticket all the way to Helsinki, and I would only need to wait for about ten minutes at a bus station around 6AM. I was thrilled, and got on the bus, only to fall asleep almost immediately. Around 6AM, I got off the bus, and as the driver had promised, waited for only a few minutes before the connecting bus arrived. Around 10AM, the bus arrived in Helsinki, and I wasn’t due to meet my friend Saana, who would be hosting me for the next few nights, until about 4PM. I went to a coffee shop and hung out for a while, so that I could use the internet and kill some time as it was still fairly early. I spent the next few hours wandering around Helsinki, and at 2:30, Saana texted me and said that she had gotten out of school early, so she could meet me at the train station in twenty minutes, instead of later. We met up in a coffee shop in the station, and caught up on what we’d each been up to since we last saw each other in Dahab, in Egypt. Saana had to head to work for 6PM, and told me how the restaurant where she was working was right on the edge of a park, and sat on the bay, so the view of the sunset was truly spectacular, so I must come by one night. After chatting for a while longer, we decided that I should go by then and there, so I went with Saana to the restaurant, and settled myself at a table, where I proceeded to enjoy the view, and catch up on internet things for a while. Saana was amazing and would periodically stop by my table and bring me free food! I ended up staying longer than I had originally intended, and eventually, it reached a point where it made the most sense for me to stay until Saana was done with her shift so that we could go back to her place together, and that way I wouldn’t get lost on the way to her apartment. She had school in the morning, so it was bed time after she had shown me around the apartment, and told me where I could find everything that I would need.
On Tuesday, I woke up and had breakfast that consisted of food that had been brought home from the restaurant the night prior. I then headed out to explore Helsinki. I wandered around the city for a while, which was really not much unlike most big cities, with some picturesque churches scattered around the cityscape. I then took a ferry from the harbor to a collection of six islands, called Suomenlinna, where an old fortress remains. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I walked around several of the connecting islands. It was so cold that day, that when I was listening to my iPod, it shut itself off because it couldn’t function in such sever weather. After a few hours spent on the islands, I took the ferry back to mainland and as it was getting dark, I headed back to Saana’s. She was working late again that night, so I stopped by the store to pick up food so that I could make myself dinner. I ate, and spent a while chatting to friends back in AZ. When Saana came home, she was ready for bed, so we called it a night.
On Wednesday, Saana had advised that I go to Porvoo, a city about an hour outside of Helsinki, as she said that there wasn’t a great deal of stuff in Helsinki that was incredibly unique to Helsinki, so I should check out Porvoo, which is a really cute, quaint little city, so I did just that. I took the bus there, and shortly after my arrival, I remembered that it was St. Patrick’s Day. We were already planning on going out for drinks that night, but realization meant that we would have to at least make a stop at Molly Malone’s, the Irish pub. I enjoyed Porvoo immensely; it was small, but quite enchanting, with a string of rust colored buildings that line the river, which at that time was frozen solid. The buildings in the old town are all charming, in various pastel hues. After I felt I had seen enough of Porvoo, I headed back to Helsinki and returned to Saana’s. She had planned dinner for the night, and we were to have reindeer!!!! She cooked and the meal was delicious. The reindeer was prepared in a cream and beer sauce, and served with mashed potatoes and elderberry sauce; it was an absolutely fantastic meal. We were joined by her friends Heta, and Ellu. After dinner, which was accompanied by a considerable amount of wine, we headed for Molly Malone’s. When we arrived, there was a line, which they declared that they had never seen before, and I told them that it was only because of St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that they were entirely unfamiliar with. We had a most excellent time at the bar, dancing, and drinking Guinness and Irish Car Bombs, as one should when celebrating St. Patty’s Day. The bartenders were surprised and delighted when we ordered Car Bombs, a drink that I had to introduce the girls to, and one declared that we were the first ones all night to order them! I can’t believe that I didn’t manage to get a picture of all of us, but we were all too busy drinking our beers to think of such things, but I can assure you that a good time was had. We had to leave the bar a little after 1AM, because otherwise we were going to miss the last bus back to Saana’s, and none of us wanted to have to pay for a taxi home. I sought the bed immediately upon our return home.
The morning was rough. Really rough. My ferry was due to leave at 8AM, which meant that I had to wake up at 6:30AM, repack and say goodbye to Saana. The poor dear actually woke up to say goodbye to me! I took the Metro to the end of the line, and fell asleep. I had to be woken up when we arrived at the end of the line… lucky for me, I needed the last station. I then left the station but was clueless as to where to head from there to get to the port, and the longer I took, the less time I had to get to the port in time to catch my ferry to Tallinn. As the minutes ticked down, I decided that I should get a taxi, because otherwise I was going to miss the ferry. I ran into the building and checked in with mere minutes to spare. I was so late that I don‘t think that they actually should have let me check in, but they did, and I made my departure. The ferry started moving, and I took advantage of the free wifi, and talked to Jen while attempting to ignore my ferocious hangover… which is really not an easy thing to do when you‘re on a ferry. The ride was three hours long, and before I knew it, it was 11AM, and we had arrived in Tallinn, Estonia.

The gorgeous Lutheran Cathedral in the Senate Square.

The view of the Suomenlinna islands from the harbor in Helsinki.

Standing on one of the Suomenlinna islands, looking at another of them. SO MUCH ICE!!! My fingers would turn into icicles whenever I got out my camera to take a picture!

The fortress walls

Boats in the dock at Suomenlinna

Underground passages in the Suomenlinna fortress… they continued on into complete darkness, so I stopped once I couldn’t see anything ahead of me… I don’t do well in pitch black.

The rust colored buildings on the bank of the Porvoo River.

Pretty pastel buildings in the Old Town. 🙂

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3 responses to “Finland (3.14.10 – 3.18.10)

  1. Sounds absolutely freezing! Also, amazing. I was so glad we got to talk that day… and yes, you were the MOST hungover ever. Oh, Liz Miller. I love you and I miss you and I can’t wait for the next posts!

  2. Do you have any idea why the church has a question mark drawn into the snow? Just curious.

    I am so so so jealous that you were in Finland and Estonia. So so jealous. I hope Estonia was amazing, I want to go there so bad!

    • I have absolutely no clue why it was done, but apparently it was done early in the winter, and stayed like that for months! I think it’s probably just thought provoking street art of a sort, but that’s just supposition.
      Estonia was definitely rad, as was Finland, but I enjoyed Latvia even more. If you go to Estonia, I would highly recommend spending some time in Latvia as well.

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