3 Weeks in Scandinavia

Jun 26th, 2012, 05:34 PM
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3 Weeks in Scandinavia

So, I'm back from my amazing 3 week trip in Scandinavia with my dad. It was epic! And since not many people on this board know the finer details of traversing these beautiful countries I thought I share my trip report with you all. As you know, my report last year was super-detailed and quite sadly, I didn't get time to finish it, so this year I'm going to approach it a little differently. Instead of a day-by-day report, I'm going to focus on how to navigate the transport/excursions/sites within each city, and if I do a Daytrip, full detail will be given. So first up: Helsinki!

I think, just to put things into perspective, it needs to be stated that we had forty hours in transit between leaving home in NZ and getting to Helsinki

Helsinki is a beautiful city. We found ourselves based (all the hotels for this trip were booked using booking.com) in a superb hotel (the Scandic Simonkentta) that was located right in the city centre, just a couple of blocks walk from the central station. Our first major surprise was the weather! After experiencing a beautiful European spring/summer last year I was quite shocked to find that Helsinki, in early June, is not very warm... I had brought a couple of spring-weight jackets with me and was VERY glad to have them!

On our first day in Helsinki, we walked up Mannerheim Street to find the venue that Dad's conference was being held at later on in the week, then caught the 7B tram down to Senate Square and explored the main area around and about. As I walked around the corner, off the shopping street and into the square, I was stunned! The gorgeous white Lutheran Cathedral dominated the view as the early-morning sunshine warmly lit the historical buildings. Pigeons flapped around, landing on the statues and the church-buttresses as I started to ascend the stairs up to the cathedral. It was a truly glorious morning (the only one we had for the rest of the weekend)!

The interior of the cathedral is pretty unadorned, but beautiful nevertheless. After seeing the Lutheran cathedral we decided to wander along the quaint old streets and make our way to the Orthodox Cathedral. The water sparkled brilliantly as we admired the harbour, but not quite as brilliantly as the golden onion-domes atop the Orthodox cathedral! We crossed a quiet "bridge of love" full of padlocks - silent declarations of affection, before reaching the small hill whereupon the cathedral sits, boldly and splendidly for all visitors to Helsinki to marvel at. In stark comparison to its neighbour, the Lutheran cathedral, this church is breathtaking on the inside! I mean, it's no St. Peters or Snt. Chapelle, but the frescoes and gold-leaf are something worth seeing. Photography was allowed in both churches, which was very welcome to us with our specially chosen cameras.

As we meandered over another bridge, heading this time for the market square in front of city hall, we were suddenly bombarded by the sights and smells of various street-vendors, each with something unique to sell, whether it was handicrafts, fur-hats, or hand-knitted Star Wars characters. The street food suddenly made us very aware of how long it had been since breakfast... We didn't have lunch though, we resisted and bought tickets for the "canal" boat tour of the harbour instead. It was just about to embark and we figured that lunch could wait til two anyway.

It was the hop-on-hop-off tour company, which operates in all of the Scandinavian capitals. There are many companies running the same tour, but we went with this one because the sales-girl was friendly and the boat was leaving just as we decided to go on the tour. Good marketing! They were all pretty much the same price, so it didn't really matter. The tour was excellent! The info was prerecorded, and it was broadcast over a loudspeaker for all the boat to hear in at least eight languages (English included), I thought that it was much better than having to wear ear-buds the whole time. It was very chilly and windy on the open-deck up top, but Dad and I weren't going to miss the photo-ops just because it was cold! We thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the little areas around Helsinki's waterfront, there are more saunas than anyone could be bothered counting! Saunas are very important to the Finns.

After the boat tour, we wandered back up to the square and found a great little pizzeria for lunch We then proceeded to do both routes of the hop-on-hop-off bus before the weather packed it in at four. All-in-all, a brilliant first (very full) day in Helsinki! (did I mention that we only got to our hotel at 2am the same day...yes! We are crazy! And also, we woke up at seven...jet-lag...nahhh).
Irishwhistler90 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2012, 06:23 PM
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Glad you enjoyed Helsinki.

The Uspemski Cathedral ( Orthodox) offers great views back to the Market Square .
Percy is online now  
Jul 8th, 2012, 03:13 PM
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Thanks for your report - I am in the early stages of planning a trip to Sweden and Norway and am very excited to hear about the rest of your trip!
travelingaunta is offline  
Jul 8th, 2012, 07:05 PM
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So, I'm actually busier than I thought... Day 2: Daytrip to Turku and Naantali.

We actually went and got the train tickets on the evening of Day 1, standard procedure, you take a number and wait until it flashes on the screen. We had to wait about 20 minutes, but it was good to talk to a human being about the tickets rather than just trusting machines....

We booked ourselves tickets on the 7am train, so that we would be in Turku by 9, because the 8am train took too many detours, meaning that we would not have reached Turku until 11am, which, in my opinion, was wasting daylight....figuratively. Bleary-eyed, and still rather jet-lagged, I awoke at 4am and tried to be quiet until 5am (quite unsuccessfully, much to Dad's disgust), so we headed on down to the station at 6. And....it was pouring! Quite torrentially pouring! We didn't have umbrellas, so we hailed a taxi that was waiting outside our hotel and rode it down the road to the station (it may seem ridiculous, but it saved a soaking). Once inside the station we got coffee and croissants for breakfast and climbed aboard our train. We debated the rain situation and decided to hope that it would clear...

It was a somewhat sleepy, two-hour journey, but all very smooth. Unfortunately, the rain was still persisting. Upon reaching the station in Turku we were quite surprised by how small it was. There was hardly anyone about, and no information in English....hmmm. A lady very kindly helped us by pointing things out on a large map that was on the station wall. I felt my heart sink a little...I had expected a bit more multi-lingual-ness.

It was of course still raining, so we hailed another taxi and got the driver to take us to the Tourist Information Centre. The taxi driver was a woman, which is less common, and she didn't really speak English either...great. We made it to the I-site without any problems and the ladies there outfitted us with maps and opening hours, but more importantly, they told us (in very halted English) where we could buy some umbrellas (which we could see were going to be very crucial pieces of equipment today). So we wandered toward the shops and browsed the local Stockmans! I couldn't see the umbrellas and guess what....the sales assistant couldn't speak English! I had made a bit of effort to understand basic Finnish, but it IS hard when it's only your second day.... Dad sort of signed umbrella to her and she clicked upon noticing the state of our garb. So we bought two small umbrellas for 8 euro each, which we decided was better than one big umbrella for 16 euro.

Feeling much drier, we boldly walked along the riverbanks, making our way toward the Turku Cathedral. The whole city was fairly empty due to the weather, so we had a good look at the old-style square near the Cathedral and walked around the entire perimeter of the church before realizing that we needed to open the front door...(entrance doors are usually open...right?, but I guess with the rain and all...). The Cathedral is stunning! Best of all, we had it all to ourselves. The desk lady said that we were the very second people she'd had come in all day. It is beautiful to be in a medieval cathedral all alone with only silence for company. It adds another level of depth an intensity, you can almost hear time pass, if you know what I mean. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but we paid 1 euro each to visit the museum on the upper level. Worth it for the view down..... Photography is completely allowed in the church, and completely not allowed in the museum (unless you promise to only take photos looking down into the church, not of the artifacts). I loved that church

Seeing as it was still raining, we decided that a visit to the Aboa Vetus/Ars Nova museum might be a good idea. We had to wait for about twenty minutes until 11, when it opened. We had morning tea at the cafe there and then headed on into the Aboa Vetus part of the museum (the Ars Nova bit was closed for renovation that day, but we didn't mind, not really being fans of modern art anyway...and we got a reduced ticket). It's really cool! They have excavated a whole sector of medieval Turku and you can walk around inside a couple of the houses and the chapel. Everything is in English as well as Finnish, Swedish, and German, so we had no trouble reading and exploring everything. I would really recommend the museum for any medieval enthusiast. I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway!

We now walked back across to the other side of the river and hailed a taxi on the main road near Stockmanns (Turku does involve a lot of walking!, the distances weren't super accessible). We got him to take us to the great Turkulinna or Turku castle, which was a good idea as it was still raining and it was actually a good 2-3km. The castle is stunning! I mean, just wow! The courtyard is very medieval..., I really liked it! It was really different to any other castle I've visited. Be aware that this castle has many, many, many flights of stairs, some shallow, some steep, some long, some short. But, it is worth the stairs! There are some very nice frescoes, a lot of really neat passageways and arched halls, and fully furnished rooms. It was one of the more interesting castles that I have visited, mainly because you could actually explore pretty much all of it! Ok, I will admit that my legs were shot for the next three days, and that we completely overdid it...it was really cool though! I don't regret it!

We decided to walk from the castle back into town past the old ships and the maritime museum. It was, shock, actually sunny as we walked along the bankside and people started to appear. No toilets anywhere though, we had to wait until we were almost back in town before a public restroom made a timely appearance... Our plan was to make our way to the bus depot square and to catch a bus to Naantali, where we fully intended to spend the rest of the afternoon/evening. By the time we walked all that way it was almost 3-3:30 and we were running slightly behind schedule. We just got the 3:30 bus! Half-an-hour later we were in Naantali! I must admit, upon first sight I seriously wondered if we were in the right Naantali. It was all very urban and I had expected seaside views. We asked a random where the seaside was and they just pointed down the street. So we kept walking, even though by now, our legs were putting up a severe resistance to movement. The weather wasn't too bad just now, so the stroll was pleasant, though we were greeted by a somewhat overcast marina, not the fabled "sunniest town in Finland". We stopped by the info centre and picked up a map, people in Naantali spoke a LOT more English that those in Turku, obviously it sees more tourists. We wandered up and had a look at the church (just the outside, it was closed for renovation) and then wandered toward the old sector to start our little exploration of the wooden houses/shops. Sadly this was short-lived. A howling, freezing, pelting wind and rain picked up leaving us fighting our umbrellas and squinting while shivering, so we decided to seek dinner. We had dinner at the fancy restaurant on the waterfront and it was quite delicious. It was still raining, so we stayed for dessert, which on the whole was most satisfying indeed. The weather got worse, not better over dinner so we made the painful but nessecary decision to abandon Naantali. We hoped to get back to Turku in time for the 7pm train back to Helsinki, even though we had tickets on the 9pm train. The weather had defeated us at last. We got the restaurant to order us a taxi, but it took half-an-hour to come! It was not great! I was getting anxious that we would miss the 6pm bus back to Turku, but the taxi pulled through and we sprinted aboard the bus just as it was going.

Once back in Turku we walked to the station (the weather was better here) and paid 5 euro each to change the time of our tickets, which to us, was more thn worth it! It meant an early night, which we really needed, and it upon reaching Helsinki, the weather was beautiful! We walked in the evening sunshine back to our hotel from the station and marveled at the weather. Did I mention that the sun doesn't set until midnight in Helsinki in summer. Makes for beautiful evenings. In all, we had a very fun day, even though it was a bit wet. I thoroughly recommend Turku, especially to those who love medieval history. I recommend saving Naantali for a sunny day....
Irishwhistler90 is offline  
Jul 9th, 2012, 05:31 AM
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Great beginning! I remember your trip with your grandmother and how much I enjoyed that report. I was disappointed but realize that life gets in the way of fun stuff. Thanks for sharing and please continue! (And share your photos, too, please.)
irishface is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 07:29 AM
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Enjoying your report! I don't know a lot about the Scandinavian countries, but would love to go some day. Which country was your favorite? I wonder if the weather is better in July or August than June?
Kwoo is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2012, 04:09 PM
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Sorry about the long breaks between posts....

Days 3-8: Helsinki All Over

On Sunday morning (Day 3) we had decided in advance to go to Suomenlinna or Sveaborg (the island fortress), and at nine in the morning, the weather was quite lovely, We headed on down fom our hotel to the market square to buy tickets on the water bus, where we met up with some fellow Kiwis and Aussies (also in Helsinki for the conference). Halfway to the island the weather packed it in again and we stayed in the saloon, not quite wanting to die of pneumonia on the open top-deck today... The tickets were 8 Euro each, not the 5 Euro I had been expecting, but I think that's because we were on the water BUS not the water TAXI.

Once off the boat, we headed to the info centre, picked up some maps etc, then headed toward the fortifications while the weather was still just overcast. It's grand fun exploring! We explored storerooms, barracks, and tunnels on the way to the main fortifications, which were all fascinating. And just as we reached the heavy artillery guarding the main walls looking seaward, the rain and wind started up. The guns are very impressive, and the view is lovely, even when skies are grey. Once we were standing above the hillside quarters (that to me looked rather like militarized Hobbit houses) the weather was getting a bit intense, so we headed down off the battlements, hoping that it would offer more shelter. It was one of those "oh, look at the time...time for lunch" moments, so we made a bee-line for the pizzeria (which offered shelter, food, and warmth!). We split a pizza, which for some reason cost an additional 3 Euros, and passed an hour gradually warming up. The pizzeria is actually really cool, because it is situated inside one of the barracks tunnels.

When we thought the weather had improved a bit, we ventured back outside, finding our umbrellas, once again, an invaluable purchase. We explored all around the rest of the fortifications, the King's Gate, and even climbed up on to where the flag pole was proudly standing. After we had seen EVERY fortification in the area (My dad is a military history enthusiast) we headed back to the info centre to watch the movie and look at the exhibits. The movie was informative, but rather dry and the exhibits were five second glance-worthy, so we didn't spend too much time in there.

We decided to see the church and that would have to be it, as the weather was not being friendly at all. It was quite cool seeing all the buildings and seeing the outside of the church, but we'd had enough. We headed back to the ferry gangway and waited a few minutes before returning to Helsinki, where we had a quiet evening just relaxing.

The next three days Dad was at his conference and I was bopping round Helsinki, occasionally joining the organized "accompanying person" programs and mostly doing my own thing.

On my first morning alone I managed to get lost. I took the 7B tram from Finlandia Hall (where the conference was being held) intending to get of fat Senate Square, but....the tram never stopped at Senate Square! By the time it had bypassed the square and gone to the next stop, we were in the business district and I had a teensy weensy panic moment. I didn't know which tram to catch to get back (it's 7A, which I found out the next day...) so I wandered over to a taxi terminal and tried to catch a taxi back to Senate Square. The first driver couldn't understand English and pointed for me to go to the next cab, so I did. This next driver was a lot younger (quite good-looking), spoke English fine, and was happy to take me back to Senate Square. I must admit, I played the damsel in distress thing up a little (just a very little). Anyway, he took me back to almost Senate Square then told me that if he were to take me any further, it would take him 20 minutes and he didn't want to rip me off. I said I didn't mind,but he insisted that I get out and he would give me directions so that I couldn't miss it! (sweet guy). So I just walked up past a park and found myself walking up the street that led past the national library and into Senate Square (I had never been that way!). Then I saw the reason WHY the tram hadn't stopped and why the taxi driver had made me get out....the Square was packed! It was Finand's flag day and armed forces day, and there were countless crowds of spectators and military personnel in the square!

It was actually pretty cool! I found loads of different vantage points to take photos, went souvenir shopping in market square, watched a jet show, got squashed in the crowds, then got lunch at a Picnic store before returning to Finlandia hall for an arranged tour of the city.

The tour took me and some other lovely ladies to the Rock Church, the Sibelius Monument, and past lots of other places. We had a mayoral reception dinner inside city hall later in the evening.

The next day I went shopping! One of the other kiwi ladies and I did some shopping in the huge mall near our hotel, then visited the national museum (very cool), then the national library (also very cool!) and rode the 7B tram full circuit, to see some different parts of Helsinki. I recommend doing this as it gives you a glimpse of the poorer areas and shows you the "normal" side of Helsinki vs. the Tourist side.

The day following, a whole group of ladies from the conference and I went out on the bus to Seurasaari Open Air Museum. It's very easy to get to actually, and well worth the effort. We got there a bit before it officially opened for the day, so we just wandered round and took pictures. The squirrels are super cute and friendly. Word of warning: there are some horrible drop toilets near the entrance that nearly all of us used because we didn't think there was a better option. We were wrong! Further down there are some proper flushing toilets...so don't use the drop toilets! They are disgusting and worthy rivals of the Asian squatties! The museum itself is really neat and the employees are friendly and informative. I very much recommend a visit if you have time.

We had a gala dinner in the evening, so we spent most of the afternoon getting ready for that.

On day 7 we went to Tallinn with a conference excursion, but I'll treat that separately in the next post.

On day 8, Dad and I had our final day in Helsinki (we were boarding the cruise ship ferry Silja Symphony to Stockholm as part of the conference later in the afternoon). We wandered around the market square, spent a leisurely hour sitting people watching in the esplanade, and visited the church with two spires. (I forget it's name just now but I think it's St. Johns). It was fun exploring a different area of town and the church was alright (nothing amazing comparatively), and..,the weather was absolutely PERFECT. We just meandered today, saying farewell to all of our favourite Helsinki haunts, taking photos of all the places we regularly passed by, and generally having a pleasant day. Then it was farewell... But that's another post...
Irishwhistler90 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 07:21 AM
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Still enjoying your report! I loved your "damsel indistress" expression. And why not? I was not above that ploy in my younger days. Now it's the little old lady card that I have to play.
irishface is offline  
Jul 24th, 2012, 03:24 PM
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Day 7 - Tallinn, Estonia (with conference group)

Nice early start after a very late evening... We found ourselves aboard the Tallink ferry just before 10am. The ferry terminal was VERY crowded and not at all equipped with any decent shops or cafes. We got aboard and made our way upstairs, trying to find the breakfast buffet, which was included in our ticket price (conference organized). Dad and I then became quite Hobbit-like eating second breakfast, and morning tea, all the while just hanging out in the buffet room with our fellow conference-goers. It was quite good actually, because the buffet deck was facing forwards, so we had a magnificent view for the whole crossing. We began feverishly practicing the two songs (one in Estonian, one in English) that the whole conference was supposed to learn to sing for the mayor of Tallinn at the Song Festival Grounds later on in the day. I had learnt them well in advance, so it fell to me to teach everyone else (all the Kiwis and Aussies that is...the Finns and Estonians knew them anyway for the most part).

Once the ferry started visibly approaching Tallinn, we all migrated to the sun deck, which while chilly, offered some stunning views even though it was at the back of the vessel. With the wind in my hair (and my jacket collar upright) I glimpsed my first sight of Tallinn: a tall pointy, modern tower, hazy in the distance. Once we had reached the port, we all headed below again to queue for exit. I need to mention the fact that the ferry terminal gangways are quite unrealisticly long! You have to walk miles to and from the ships!

Once out of the terminal, all the different groups were to find their assigned buses (we were given bus numbers upon receiving our ferry tickets). Our bus had all of the English-speaking conference-goers, which while nice, excluded us from everyone else and didn't encourage cross-cultural friendship. We had an organizer and a tour guide, both of whom managed to mess up getting us to the right place at the right time. I wasn't very impressed. We were supposed to meet us at the Song Festival Grounds with all the other groups, but somehow we got dropped at the top end of the grounds (furthest away from the shell) and our tour guide insisted that we were the first ones there and that we had to wait for the others. When we heard the sound of voices singing our songs down on the shell we ditched the guide and hurried down the hill to join our comrades. Thankfully we had only missed half the practice session and were there in time for the actual performance. It was quite fun singing in Estonian (and our conductor was quite a hard case with a brilliant sense of humour...), though the mayor was rather rude and wasn't at all interested in hearing us, even though we did represent something like forty countries! So, we all came away with a rather poor opinion of Tallinn's mayor...

After the singing we had lunch inside the Song Festival hall (and the food was not great). We were supposed to be finished by 4pm (yes, that's right....no lunch until 3:30pm!) but there was NO WAY that was going to happen. So, we were reunited with our bus and guide to start our tour of the old town...at 4:30pm! We now had officially an hour to tour the old town! We had he option of sticking with our guide or exploring on our own, but we decided to stay with the guide. Mistake.... Our guide was Russian-Estonian and she had a very sharp, high-pitched voice and accent, which began to grate after a while. I don't like to be judgemental, but I think if she had just stopped talking for two seconds it would have been more bearable!

We walked through the bustling, crowded streets of old Tallinn, trying desperately to enjoy this beautiful city, but the hoards of tourists and the rigid schedule weren't helping matters! We went into the Orthodox Cathedral on Toompala Hill for five minutes, before the priest got angry at us for taking photos (most of us didn't see the sign, and those who did chose to ignore it....). We then got to the lookout area, where we had five minutes to take photos, and the view there was quite spectacular! Our guide then led us down a bit further and we went into the oldest church for about two minutes before it closed. There were some interesting people wandering around Tallinn: a man in chain mail with a giant sword, ladies in full medieval garb, vendors selling ye olde remedies and foods, and a young coin minter. But as fun as that is in most places...in Tallinn it just felt a little bit touristy. Plus, there is no such thing as a cheap souvenir in Tallinn's old city. Every singe shop had prices that I cringed at, no matter how nice the item was, the price-tag guaranteed that I wasn't going to buy it!

Finally, we reached the main square with the town hall. Our guide released us and Dad and I made a quick escape, heading straight for the town hall tower. It was open for about another twenty minutes and I was determined to climb it! Phew! It is a hard climb!!! The stairs get narrower and deeper as the tower gets higher, and near the top I was almost climbing vertically! But boy oh boy! The view was worth it!! It always is.... The afternoon sun on the rooftops, the shadows, the clouds, the beautiful ocean in behind, it was a gorgeous day. We waited a good while before braving the descent...then we had to make our way toward the bottom of the old city, to meet up with the bus that would transport us back to the ferry terminal. I truly wish that we had been able to spend a proper day in Tallin's old city, not just the rushed hour and a bit at the end, because there was so much more to see and explore there! I just feel like we didn't really get an accurate version of Tallinn and in hindsight, we should have just explored by ourselves without the guide.

We got a lovely view of the city from the sun deck of the ferry on the way back to Helsinki, because of course, it faced behind, and behind is where the city lay. We decided not to have tea until we got back to Helsinki, because the food on the ferry was a bit scuzzy. I played my tin whistle in the bar as entertainment for all of our friends and I felt a bit nostalgic, because for some, this was it. A lot of us were going our separate ways the next day, though the majority were continuing together to Stockholm. There was lots of joking, toasting, and general good-naturedness amongst our Australasian contingent that evening, and a beautifully sunset-lit Helsinki welcomed us back for our final night.

And that, was my experience of Tallinn. Not the best, but not terrible. It better than nothing I think, but then I think perhaps not, perhaps it would have been better to skip Tallinn and save it for another time, I dunno. It's unlikely that I will be back in those parts for many years, if ever, so I conclude that it was better to see it than not to.
Irishwhistler90 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2012, 12:04 PM
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I'm enjoying your report. We're leaving in a few days for Scandinavia and would love to hear more.
jrjcolllins is offline  
Jul 30th, 2012, 01:15 PM
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Hi Irishwhistler90,
I think you had a very rushed day in Tallinn and did not get to fully enjoy it unfortunately. We spent 1/2 days there, staying just outside the gate, and really enjoyed it, especially roaming around in the evening and early morning.

The 'ladies in full medieval garb' were the waitresses and shop owners for the Olde Hansa restaurant/shop. The shop, which sells local handicrafts and blown glass, and the restaurant are located in a building from the 1500s, which has always been a shop.

On the second floor of the restaurant are very well preserved murals depicting life 500 yrs ago. Our meal was wonderful. The menu consists of typical meals from the 1500s. There are huge wooden tables and chairs, with only candles for lighting. I didn't think my eyes would ever adjust to the darkness in order to read the menu. Our meal was delicious. I felt like I had stepped back in time.

We spent majority of the day roaming in and out of antique shops. We also climbed the church tower for the views over the city. Stunning. I hope you are able to return to Tallinn one day without being rushed, as I think you will really enjoy it more.
michele_d is offline  
Jul 31st, 2012, 10:00 PM
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Ok, here goes... A full description of the ferry/cruise ride from Helsinki to Stockholm!

We had to be at the terminal by 4pm on Friday the 8th of June and pretty much all of our Australasian group (all staying at the Scandic Simonkentta) had the same bright idea of taking a taxi, which created a shortage of taxis... We ended up sharing, squashed in the backseat with piles of luggage! We got there though and it beat walking and/or public transport. Our passports were checked, the conference organizers gave us our tickets and on board we went! (After another miles-long hike through the terminal walkway). A photographer took our photo as we walked under a cleverly placed sign and then I got Dad to take a picture of me with the Moomin who was greeting people as they came aboard (c'mon, why not?). At this point I had little excitement chills! This was the first time I had ever been on a cruise ship (or for that fact any ship) for an overnight journey!

The ticket-checking staff told us which lift to take to best find our cabin. The lifts are soooooo cool (I should say elevator, but hey, where I come from, we call it a lift)!!!! They are glass, so that you can look out at the promenade deck below as you soar up to your cabin-floor. We were on deck 10, in cabin 10609, which was a lovely little cabin with two single beds and two fold-out bunks above, which was just what we wanted. Needless to say, after we had dumped our luggage and used the bathroom, we headed straight for the open deck: deck 12!

The view was absolutely stunning! It being such a beautiful day, the skies were blue, the ocean was inviting, and Helsinki was postcard-perfect! I took loads of photos! We walked the entire perimeter of the deck, then settled in with some of our friends to wait for our departure. While we were waiting, some very 'Rio Carnival' looking performers danced in a Conga Line across the deck, advertising their show which was in the deck 13 nightclub at midnight. Very festive. Then.....we were officially leaving Helsinki!
I felt so fond of the city by now, it was almost sad to leave, but the gorgeous weather gave us a beautiful sight to remember her by.

As we slowly made our way out of the port, I took loads of photos! Suomenlinna looked her best and from that height, there was a very detailed view of the island fortress. Once there was nothing more to see except for ocean, we headed back below and found some of our Aussie friends in the English pub right at the forward end of the promenade deck (deck 7). We had some drinks and Pringles chips, chatted, and generally had a good time until 6:30, when we all went back to our cabins to get ready for the conference champaign party at 7pm. It was held in the deck 13 nightclub, which, by the way, has a stunning 360 degree view, and it continued until eight, when we all headed down to the restaurant on deck 6 for dinner (conference provided). It was a good dinner! We even got to singing and toasting, and some had one too many glasses of wine, but it was the final conference dinner after all.

It was about 11pm by the time we cleared the restaurant, so we went back to our cabin for our jackets and went out on deck to catch the sunset. It was truly magnificent! I even got Dad to take some photos of me stretching out over the side with my hair flying loose like Rose from the Titanic (Ok, I had planned this from the minute I knew we were going on a cruise ship....), and it was divine! We headed to bed after that, even though some Finnish girls tried to convince us to join them in the nightclub.... We were planning to get up at 5am to view the Archipelago and drunken parties aren't really our thing anyway...

I slept really well! Woke at 5am, only to find that it was overcast, foggy, and threatening rain. Darn... We bundled up warm, got out our trusty Turku umbrellas, and went on deck anyway! We saw a bit...not quite the amazing view we were hoping for, but nice to see all the same. Then the rain and wind started and we decided it was time for breakfast. We had the buffet, which was prepurchased with the conference and it wasn't too bad, not brilliant but not horrible. We braved the elements again for a few more photos then sat inside the covered corridor on deck 12 and just watched the islands go by.

I had really wanted to take photos as we came into Stockholm, but the weather was too dreadful, so we just waited in the exit line with our luggage. And there we were! Waiving goodbye to the Silja Symphony, and saying hello to Stockholm, Sweden. We had until 2pm with the conference, going on an architectural/construction bus tour, being shown the new park by the medieval museum, and having a delicious lunch at the Cafe Opera or Operakallaren (overlooking Gamla Stan from across the bridge... It was seriously THE best lunch we had the entire conference. I recommend. After that, our real Stockholm adventure began....
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