Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend touring Helsinki, Tallinn & Porvoo

Last Wednesday our friend Bernadette came over from the States to visit with us!  We didn't really have much of a plan on what to do, but ended up having a fantastic weekend traveling in Finland and Estonia!

Thursday we woke up and decided to go to Tallinn, Estonia for the day, but the weather didn't really cooperate with us!  We were booked on the Linda Line - fast boat to Tallinn - but the sea was too rough so all the trips up to 2 pm were cancelled.  We made the executive decision to tour Helsinki instead and rebooked our trip to Tallinn for Friday.

We started out our Helsinki tour with Old Market Hall and Market Square - two of my favorite places for Finnish goods and foods!  I had to laugh at the sign below - we obviously missed seeing this when Sarah and Zann were here - because a seagull almost took off with Zann's reindeer sandwich!

Seriously - these seagulls are as big as dogs - and very aggressive!  They will definitely rob you of your sandwich!

The food inside Old Market Hall is gourmet - doesn't this look super appetizing?:)

Both Bernadette and I had read about the Finnish Cloudberries (the orange ones above) in our research on Helsinki (mine back in May and hers more recently).  They are supposed to be sooooo good - so we bought some to go along with our reindeer sandwiches.  However - note to self - they are not good to eat out of the carton like other types of berries because they are really tart!  I guess that is why people usually mention cloudberry ice cream or some other treat made with cloudberries.  So we spent the rest of her time in Finland searching for some of this elusive Cloudberry Ice Cream - unforunately to no avail!:( 

Next we headed to Senate Square, Uspenski Cathedral, and Suomenlinna - my typical sightseeing tour of Helsinki:)  Bernadette and I did go into the Sederholm House - a Branch of the Helsinki City Museum - which is across the street from Senate Square.  I felt a little more cultured on Helsinki when we came out:)

This is my favorite pic in Senate Square - thank you random other tourist - you rock!

Love this photo of Bernadette at Suomenlinna!

We finished up our day with a beer at Kappelli in Esplanade Park and shopping at Stockmann and other other shops not in the States, before meeting Nathan for a traditional Finnish dinner at Lappi. 

Lappi was suggested by some of Nathan's co-workers as one of the best places to get reindeer - which Bernadatte HAD to try before leaving Finland!  Although the restaurant was a little pricey, the food was amazing!  I definitely recommend it for anyone who wants traditional Finnish Lapland treats like reindeer and elk - this was our best reindeer meal by far!

Outside Lappi

The interior of the restaurant is very "woodsy" - for a nice cozy "I feel like I'm at the North Pole" kind of atmosphere.

From top left - reindeer, deer sausage, and elk. It was even served with "game gravy"

Tallinn, Estonia
Friday morning we got up at 6:00 am (so much for vacation!) to get to the Linda Line ferry on time.  The Linda Line ferry is the shortest boat ride to Tallinn from Helsinki and only takes 1 1/2 hours. 

Once arriving in Tallinn we weren't 100% sure where to go, so we took the 1 Euro bus into town.  This was a VERY short bus ride (as we found out - you can easily walk to the old town from the port) but if nothing else we got a map with a great walking tour from the bus driver:)  We got off at the first stop near the Viru Gate and started our tour there. 

Viru Gate is the once grand entrance to the town of Tallinn

It wasn't long after this that we started seeing "Closed on 8/20" signs on all the museums and some of the churches.  What was going on?  Estonia Independance Day.  Who knew?  We still had a great time walking around and looking at the architecture from this quaint medieval town though.  And of course all the souvenir shops and restaurants were open - they weren't about to turn away the hundreds of tourists from all the cruise ships!:)  We had a great day in Tallinn and I would definitely suggest it as a day trip from Helsinki if you are headed this way!
Catherine's Passage

I had to take a pic at the Three Sisters - a typical dwelling house combination from the 14th century

Part of the old city wall that is still standing today.

Bernadette had read that there was an amazing view from Toompea Hill, so we asked a local where it was.  He said to walk straight, climb the "ladder" to the top, and there it is.  We both looked at each other as if saying "I'm not climbing no ladder" but this is what he was talking about:)  I guess I can see how the two words could be confusing!

The View!
(You have no idea how long it took to get this pic! I've decided that cruise tourists are the worst - very rude.  Obviously they didn't know I'm not above throwing elbows:)!)

Alexander Nemsky Cathedral
This church reminds you of the Russian influence on Tallinn - it definitely looked like something that could have been in St. Petersburg!

We had lunch at Bossanova in Raekoja Plats (Town Square).  Here's Bern with her Estonian beer - Saku (even though she has a smile on her face the beer wasn't that great) - I think we will stick with the Finnish beer Karhu from now on!

We had to take the 3 o'clock boat back so we could be up at Nathan's work as close to 5 pm as possible.  Nathan's coworker, Jukka, and his wife, Katia, were so nice to invite all of us to their summer cottage to experience a traditional Finnish crayfish dinner!  The Finn's are known for their crayfish - and it is all I've been hearing about since Nathan had some last summer so I am very grateful that I got to have some before leaving Helsinki. 
The view from the summer cottage - not too shabby!

I think we burned more calories opening up these little guys than we consumed:)
They were boiled in a dill/salt water brine - soooooooo freaking good!

Girls - don't play with your food!:)

What a fantastic end to a great day - even if the toilet was outside in a hut instead of inside the house:)  Thank you so much Jukka and Katia - you were amazing hosts! We definitely owe you one!

Saturday morning we got up and decided to hit Finland's second oldest town, Porvoo, which is about 1 hour from Helsinki by bus.  Once arriving at the bus station in Porvoo you will find a very nice (I was impressed) tourist book of medieval Porvoo with a walking tour filled with facts about the old town.  Most of the Old Porvoo buildings house restaurants, antiques, and souvenir shops.  You must stop by Brunberg for some chocolate - they give the Swiss a run for their chocolate money! 

Porvoo is well known for the red ochre painted wooden shorehouses linng the river banks (they are on all the brochures).  Here is the picturesque view from the bridge at Mannerheiminkatu Street.

Everyone told us about the amazing snail restaurant so we had to try it out!  We highly recommend Restaurant Timbaali - try the rouquefort escargot it was to die for! 

After our meal, we rushed back to the bus station to catch the bus to Helsinki so Bernadette could get on her cruise ship to Stockholm.  We cut it really close and hope she made it (we figured we'd have heard by now if she hadn't:)!)  Thanks Bern for coming - we had so much fun!  Of course I probably gained 5 lbs since it seems all we did was drink and eat, but it was worth it!

Much love,

p.s. - to see the rest of our pics from the weekend click here.

1 comment:

Mary Sue said...

ok...i want that hot dog thingy...and the lobster wouldn't be too bad either...YUM!

love you both!! xo marysue

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