Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekend in Helsinki and Tallin.

This is a bit late, but better late than never, right?
A couple weeks ago I decided to go on a little weekend trip on my own so I could see more of Helsinki and visit Tallinn, in Estonia. Tallinn is just a quick ferry ride from Helsinki, so it's a pretty easy trip to make.

Day 1

I left on a train for Helsinki early in the morning and arrived by about 10 am. I walked around for a bit and visited their Stockmann, a huge and very nice department store. Helsinki definitely feels like a big European city, though definitely more modern and industrial feeling. Tampere doesn't have that so much.
I went to the mall to snag an umbrella and got some food at the food court (very exciting, I know) to save my budget, and decided to go see the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, which was nearby. FIrst of all, the building itself is a really cool, modern design. Inside was similarly cool and modern. It's hard to really explain what it's like, but I think it is probably one of my favorite museums I have ever been to. They had tons of really cool contemporary pieces and lots of multimedia and interactive pieces, which is always fun. I think the photos do it more justice than words.

The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.

Inside the museum.

In one of the light installations. The yellow light makes everything in the room look either black or yellow. Cool!

There was an entire room of written and mailed postcards, on tables and all over the walls. Really cool.

After that, I made my way over to the Design Museum, which was neat, but not as cool as I had expected. I think that was because the current exhibition was about plates and tea. Haha.

The Design Museum.

I wandered in the general direction of the port where my ferry would be leaving from and happened upon a really cool indoor market near the water. If I lived in Helsinki I would definitely shop there. Lots of fish and meat and special candy and little tiny restaurants and cafes. One stall was selling Reindeer and Bear meat! I had a cup of tea at one of the cafes to wait for my ferry.

Helsinki market near the water.

Reindeer and Bear salami! Yummm. The Reindeer meat was 63 euros/kilo!!

Eventually I made it onto the ferry, which was actually a small catamaran. It was pretty rocky so I was glad when we finally arrived in Tallinn. Unfortunately it was dark, pouring rain, and quite a walk to get to the city center. I had a map, but sadly it did not help me find my hostel. I finally asked for a taxi once I was soaked through and could barely read the map anymore. So, of course, even the taxi driver had trouble finding the hostel. I finally made it there after paying about as much for the taxi as for the hostel. Luckily that was only about 10 dollars. The hostel was definitely a student place and kind of felt like just a big open college house. But it was clean, cheap, and everyone seemed friendly.
It was already 9 pm and I was starving so I asked for directions to a cheap place to eat. After a bit of trouble finding it in the rain, I arrived at a tiny little cafe filled with local teenagers. I got a nice big bowl of dumplings with garlic sauce and a Fanta for I think about 4 dollars. I sat in the back room and read for a bit before heading back to the hostel.

Day 2

I got an early start compared to the rest of the hostel, and headed to the nearby square in Old Town for some breakfast. I ended up in a cute little cafe on the square and had some delicious porridge with berries and a chai for about 3 dollars. In Finland that would probably cost 11 dollars. No joke.

Yummy breakfast in Tallinn's Old Town.


It was drizzling and a little bit hazy, but not nearly as bad as the downpour the night before. I wandered around the old town and spent the day popping into the little tourist shops and taking photos. I made my way up to Toompea hill for a nice view of the city. After a bit more shopping, I ended up at a hidden away Italian bar/restaurant for some lunch. I order my favorite, spaghetti carbonara, and a local light beer and hung out there for a while to get out of the rain for a bit.
I passed by a little alley filled with stalls of women selling wool mittens, sweaters, socks and scarves. I bought some really thick wool socks form a nice lady who measure my sock size by wrapping the socks around my curled up fist. Sadly, by then it was time to head back over to the port to catch my returning ferry. I was running a little late so I scurried back to the port in the rain only to find out that my catamaran had been cancelled and I would have to go to the other port (which I had just passed on the way, trying to find the catamaran port) to catch one of the larger ferries. Thankfully I made it on that ferry safely and on time, but it meant that I would miss my train from Helsinki back to Tampere. Of course. Eventually I made it back home at about 1 am, tired and exhausted, but happy that I made the trip.
I'm glad I got to travel on my own for a bit, even if it was just a couple days. It was nice to be able to just wander and take photos and not worry about a schedule. Helsinki and Tallinn are very different cities, but I really enjoyed both of them for different reasons. I would love to go back someday!

Alley near the Italian restaurant.

Where I bought my wool socks! :)

The square in Old Town.

Up the hill to Toompea.

Ciao for now!

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