The ferry ride over from Tallinn takes only a couple of hours so it is more like a commute than a journey, yet when we land we are now in Scandinavia, in some ways a world apart from Estonia. But this is not really a huge leap. The languages have a similar origin and both countries have suffered under Russian domination for all too long. Helsinki has a great mix of old and new when it comes to city development so I’ll be showing quite a bit of each as Eva, Suzi and I walk along the streets of the city center.
We find our apartment easily because it is across from the wooden “teacup”, which actually is the Kamppi Chapel, a place of quietness.
All underneath the main plaza and surrounding office buildings is a gargantuan shopping complex with restaurants, grocery stores and just about everything else. Here in Helsinki one doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in the bracing outdoors.
We enjoy walking the streets in the older part of town, mostly dating from the turn of the 20th century.
Of course, it isn’t long before we are thinking of a place for lunch. Here’s a place, not with a lot of exterior charm but the sign calls us in.
We take a walk through embassy row, passing the well-fortified US embassy with numerous signs to not take photographs. The Russian embassy is relatively modest, protected by a more normal size fence and has no threatening signs. As much as the Russians are disliked, it’s the Americans who cower in fear.
We walk over to the harbor area with the 18th century island fortress in the distance.
We meet up with Suzi’s Finnish friend, Jarno, who gives us a guided walk among some contemporary buildings and into his childhood neighborhood.
We have now run out of time. Eva and Suzi board the train the following morning to the airport. They fly to Germany to spend a couple of weeks on Hallig Hooge, their fourth consecutive year there.
I leave the next day for San Francisco. First I take an afternoon train to a hotel one stop from the airport in order to catch an early flight to Amsterdam for my connecting flight to SFO. The train runs through immaculate landscape for many miles, then submerges into solid granite the final third of the way. I exit deep underground.
It is nearly a half mile walk to the hotel, out in the countryside, so very nicely situated.
Because there are no options for dining out, I take the lowest priced (though still high) option on the hotel restaurant menu, a pizza.
The next morning I must have breakfast at 4:30 in order to catch the 5:00 shuttle bus to the airport. Hot breakfast is served later but I could still indulge in a first-rate German style breakfast any time after 4:00. It was quite enough, indeed.
And, oh yes, I had a great night’s sleep in a neat and orderly room. It couldn’t have been better.