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Friday, September 23, 2005

The Grande Finale

So by this time my trip was almost over, however, I still had one more country to get a taste of.

Thursday morning I woke up and Juha and Wai-san took me to the harbor to catch my boat that would take me to Tallinn, Estonia. The line to check in for the boat was horribly long and the woman in front of me was extremely annoying. She kept trying to talk to me in whatever language it was she was speaking and I just kept ignoring her. She then kept talking to random people in the line, all of which seemed to not want to talk to her either, and so she just kept saying things out loud. Then once she was the next person to the window, after waiting forever, she starts saying things to people behind us and letting them in front of her. Then after they opened a window up next to us, that line quickly formed and for some reason she changed over to that line even though she was the next person in our line and she went to the very back of the newly formed line that was now just as long as our line. Didn’t understand her reasoning for that, but I was happy to be rid of her and to finally get up to the window to get my ticket.

So once I got through all of this I was finally able to board the boat. I was at this point very tired and very hungry. I walked around the boat looking for a place to sit but the only seats were in the bars or the restaurants. Since everyone was smoking in these places I decided to look around for seats somewhere else. However, I never found any seats except for outside, and before I knew it all seats were taken and people were seating on the floor. I tried sitting outside for as long as I could but I kept getting too cold and had to go inside. I then walked around looking for food but could only find greasy lunch type stuff and since it was only around 9:30 in the morning I really just wanted breakfast.

By this time the boat was starting to be tossed around quite a bit and I was starting to feel it. I guess the sea was really rough as the day before all smaller boats to and from Tallinn had been canceled due to rough waters. I didn’t think I was getting sea sick yet but figured I was just too tired and hungry and needed to eat something. I discovered the buffet they had that was 12 euros. I figured if anything it’d be nice to have a place to sit for a while so I quickly made a reservation.

I waited around for my time at the buffet and at 10:30 was finally able to enter. However, the buffet room seemed to make me feel worse and by the time I got my food and got to my table I was barely able to eat it. I managed to eat a little bit but I was only getting sicker and sicker and before I knew it I had to run to the bathroom and throw up. I managed to get back to the buffet and have a cup of tea and then left. So basically I paid 12 euros for a cup of tea thus making it my most expensive cup of tea ever.

I then went back to the bathroom since I felt best there and wasn’t sure how my stomach was going to be. After a while when it seemed we were almost there I went down to where my locker was and camped out on the floor where I actually felt much better. Then thinking we were about to dock I took my suitcase out of the locker and started falling asleep on it. It was then announced that due to traffic we had to wait to enter the harbor for several minutes. This was quite annoying since we left Helsinki 45 minutes late.

I drifted in and out of sleep for the 15 minutes we waited outside the harbor. And then at last, an hour after we were supposed to arrive I was able to get off the horrible boat and go find my hostel.

I managed to find it rather quickly despite a crappy map, no directions, and no address. When I did find it though it didn’t look too appealing from the outside and since I was in a horrible mood after my boat ride and just not feeling that great I seriously considered going to a hotel I had just passed. However, knowing I needed to save money I decided to go ahead and go in since it was only one night. Turns out it was actually a very nice hostel and one of the nicer ones I’ve ever stayed at. Just goes to tell you not to judge a book by its cover.

I got myself situated in the room and was finally feeling better so I then set out to see Tallinn. First stop was lunch of course since I finally felt as though I could hold something down and I was still starving.

Unfortunately though while eating lunch it started raining and well would basically continue for the rest of the day/evening. This made things very unpleasant, especially since it was rather cold as well.

Trying to avoid the rain I headed to the Museum on the history of Tallinn. Not a fantastic museum but it was alright. Afterwards I headed out and just walked around the city looking at its churches, walking along the wall (the old town is a walled city from medieval times) and finding great views out over the city. During my walk I stumbled across a large mall where I ran to seeking shelter as the rain had started again. Inside the mall the first thing I found was a Tex-Mex restaurant called Amarillo. This actually made the second Tex-Mex restaurant I found in Tallinn, very exciting. So after walking the mall a bit I decided to check out the Tex-Mex place. Not really feeling their menu, they put a lot of pineapple in their food, I decided to stay and just have a drink and plan my next step.

By the time I had done this and was ready to set off for the restaurant I had chosen the rain was really coming down pretty hard. I managed to get to my restaurant only to find out they didn’t have room inside for poor wet and cold me. After my back up restaurants failed I finally stumbled upon a trusty Irish pub. I went in and had myself dinner and a few drinks. Towards the end a band came on and they actually reminded me a lot of home as they had a sort of Texas sound to them oddly enough. Kind of made me homesick.

After dinner I went back to the hostel and went to bed. The next day I was set to leave but not till 1 so I had some time in the morning. I ventured back into the old town and found the pharmacy which is apparently the first pharmacy in Europe. I got myself some breakfast and then headed back to the hostel to pay and grab my bags and figure out how to get to the airport.

I eventually found the bus that conveniently took me right to the terminal at the airport and a few hours later I was heading back to Paris thus putting an end to my 2 week Scandinavian adventure.

So in summarizing my trip I’d have to say I had a great time. I was very pleased with my planning and have convinced myself that I’ve become a pro at planning vacations (in Europe at least). I can tell you that Scandinavia is expensive but gorgeous and filled with great people. I enjoyed each country and each had its own special quality to it but all were very green and have locations with the sea and the islands.

Norway was more of the outdoorsy kind of place with fantastic scenery and the fjords were amazing. Copenhagen was a nice city that had the big city feel going on and had some great architecture. Stockholm was probably my favorite as it somehow has managed the big city feel and yet maintains the nature feel as well. Helsinki was much calmer compared to Copenhagen and Stockholm but was every bit as enjoyable. It had some lovely areas and of course some great views of the sea and its islands. It was a really great city for just relaxing. Tallinn had its medieval old town which I of course loved since it gives off that quaint old feel that you come to expect from Europe. I only wish I could have seen it in better weather. However I was lucky enough to have had fantastic weather for my entire trip up until that last day so I can’t really complain. So all in all I’m walking away loving Scandinavia (and Tallinn) and I highly recommend to everyone that you consider visiting it. I know I said it’s expensive but it’s worth it, and if you go to Helsinki this year you’ll have the added bonus of being able to visit Wai-san!

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