Moi from Helsinki
To get to Helsinki we caught a ferry from Tallinn. The ferry is about the same size as the ferries that service Tasmania. We arrived at the terminal, checked in and joined the other passengers. All very orderly and calm until the gates opened, and then the race was on. Elbows had been honed and sharpened ready to carve up anybody that got near them……you’ve got to be first on the boat.second is just not good enough…coming second is being the winner of the losers!…..there won’t be enough seats to go around…..only four decks of seating!! Down the ‘cattle race’ we went, bags in tow, trying to keep up and steering clear of the deadly elbows. After what seemed about a kilometre we were on board and ready to set sail to Helsinki. The ship has bars, restaurants, a supermarket and duty free shopping. As we neared the end of the journey shopping trolleys filled to the brim with all forms of alcohol began lining up for the next race….more sharp elbows, but on this race to get of the ship with the precious cargo of beer, wine and spirits. We refused to be part of that race and stayed seated at our table until the decks had cleared before making our exit.
We had rented a small apartment, through ‘AirBnB’, (thanks Em) just out of the city centre, 4 stops on a #9 tram and you were there. Gorgeous studio apartment with very comfortable bed, kitchen, TV lounge etc and a washing machine, that we finally mastered – automatic and Finnish, but we managed to control it…
On the first night in Helsinki we left our apartment in search of food. We decided to do a walk suggested by a guidebook and on the way find a restaurant. It was only a short walk to the beach and we assumed the foreshore would be lined with seafood restaurants, (like it is in the rest of the world), so we began the short walk…..which became a long walk, past the water and the Yacht Club…more water on the right, expensive houses on the left….on and on…..water, houses……we gave up and turned back towards our apartment. We finally found two restaurants and made our choice……..WRONG! The room was decorated in a nautical style, there were a lot of patrons and the staff were friendly enough. Barbara ordered the only vegetarian dish on the menu, I opted for the Wiener Schnitzel. Even this fairly harmless dish was 19.50€. It will be good, there are lots of people here……The meal arrived. Barbara’s vego dish was heavy on the cabbage side, mashed potato and a globulous mess described as gravy. Mine was a piece of crumbed meat delicately placed over a mountain of mashed potato with lashings of the same brown gluggy substitute for gravy……I have to say it rated as one of the worst meals I have ever had, and fairly expensive to boot! Glad to say the meals got slightly better!
The next day I decided to get my haircut. We had seen lots of hair stylists during our tram trips in and out of the city. There were three between our apartment and the first intersection towards the city. I thought ‘I’ll go to one of them’. We walked into our chosen hairdresser and spoke to a lovely young girl, who was dressed very funkily, tattoos, face piercings and multi coloured hair. She was somewhat surprised I think, by the age of the clientele she was now attracting…I should say here that the chain of hairdressers had shops bearing the names ‘Classic’, ‘Rock’ and ‘Modern’. I was about as far away from my determined classification ‘Classic’ as I could get! I was in ‘Full on Rock’ posters of AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Sex Pistols and the like adorned the walls of the establishment. ‘Could I get my haircut?’ I said. She looked up from her seated position behind her enormous counter, I think I detected a slight whimper and hesitation in her voice as she replied, ‘O,o,O,Kay, weee, will begin in, in a…… mom….ent! (help) (I could see it in her eyes). There was no way out, I was between her and the door. Anyway, she was fantastic, told me what she had planned for my hair, got Barbara and I a coffee and got down to business, we chatted away as she put her plan into action, she did a fantastic job, I was very pleased and she, relieved! (Best haircut he’s had in years. Ed)
After the haircut we headed down to the wharf area and took the ferry out to Suomenlinna Island where we spent the afternoon wandering around and discovering the military relics from the past. The island is a maritime fortress that was built in 1748. The trip on the ferry began in a fairly relaxed way. Barbara and I positioned ourselves at what we thought was the back of the boat. It soon became apparent that this was a two-way ferry and we were at the front! Our view quickly became obstructed as a newlywed Indian couple placed themselves between us and our view, several other members of their party began taking photos and videos from every direction possible.
They posed for the cameras, mimicked the famous ‘Titanic’ pose, which I find is a strange thing to do while you are on a boat! At about this time I turned to Barbara and said in what I thought was a very quiet voice, ‘it’s a bit like being in a bloody ‘Bollywood’ movie’, Barbara cringed……the lady sitting right in front of us was very amused! We arrived on the island and spent the day walking, sometimes in isolation, breathing the fresh ‘sea air’ and avoiding the crowds of Helsinki.
Lance and Barbara