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003: Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia. 2012/5/4

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Last night at some point R. woke me up to tell that I should adopt a certain sleeping position to turn off the nasal music.  Well, it’s easy to cope with that: I simply took up the pillow to sleep on the sofa, which turned out to be rather short so I had to curl up my body.

The eye pad I had was obviously so effective that I was woken up by the sounds R. made rather than by the sun.  Since summer is getting closer and closer, the sun here can easily shine most brightly at 5am or so and wake up anything (well, at least anything that doesn’t wear an eye pad).  I’m not the type of person who can go back to sleep once waking up; besides, R. said it’s better to get to the harbor earlier just to be safe.  Besides, while there’s no reason to doubt M., and I guess this isn’t the first time ferry tickets are purchased this way, if something indeed goes wrong, I can at least try to get a regular ticket at the spot.

I enjoyed my coffee and breakfast – the yogurt is really solid and nice, and I love bananas –, and then I packed up carefully.  As I was to leave, I suddenly wasn’t sure where the money belt was and panicked very mildly.  I unpacked everything, only to remember after sweating distinctly over a minute of search or two where it was, and in this case the entire unpacking was totally unnecessary.  Well, what can you say? My memory and intelligence don’t always measure up to the standard I’d like them to be, so I have only myself to blame.

The problem is that when I was zipping up again the big suitcase, one of the two zippers got BROKEN.  I was horrified – first there was a crack, and now this! I should really have relied on my better instincts rather than listening to the suitcase’s owner Tz., who barely travels but assured me that the suitcase is sturdy enough.  Sturdy my ass! Now I have to find a new suitcase before something unsalvageable happens.  But don’t get me wrong – I blamed this entirely on myself and not on Tz.  I really should’ve thought this through.

The suitcase was heavy, and I held my breadth when I dragged it over a road with lots of tiny stones.  In short, it was kind of a workout to get to and onto the tram.

I got off at the right place and walked to wait for Tram No. 4 or 4T, the latter goes straightly to the terminal Viking Line ferries set off (as Helsinki Harbor has four terminals or so).  The yogurt was so good (yes, I carried the entire bottle) that at the end I poured a bit of water into the bottle so as not to waste the last bit of it – the result was a surprisingly good yogurt drink!

As I got off the tram to walk to the terminal, I suddenly realized how Finnish people created “Angry Birds” – while Angry Birds don’t bear close visual resemblance to seagulls, the seagulls do shriek in a relentlessly angry and daunting manner.  I obviously arrived early and got the ticket, which denotes something about liquors and certain numbers.  I asked the clerk what it means, and she told me it specifies the quota of liquors and spirits that can be purchased.  Well, it says “Alcohol = 10+20; Wine = 90; Beer = 110.” I don’t know what the unit is, but it sounds like a lot.  Obviously there’s some truth about M.’s warning of the likelihood of lots of drunken Finnish people on board, who understandably enjoy the cheaper prices of liquors in Estonia.  (When I had my stroll with Jesse to the Sibelius Memorial Statue, he mentioned that a piece of news report said that Finnish people are the only people that schedule their hangovers.  For example, a conversation may go like this:

A: Hey, shall we meet on a certain day?

B: I can’t on that day.  I’ll be having a hangover.

I told Jesse that at least it sounds both well-organized and honest.  I admire both qualities very much.)

I settled down to use the wi-fi and began composing Travel Journal 002.  When the boarding time came, I saw flocks of people swarmed (slowly, very slowly, as there was of course no lines at all) like migrating animals.

I guess it isn’t a very big boat, but aside from private cabins, it does have gamble machines, shops, one or two cafes, a buffet, and even a Black Jack table, as I later discovered.  One can also enjoy the privilege of “conference lounge” by paying 10 Euros, where one can enjoy a seat as well as coffee.  I was lucky to have checked the sun deck when the boat happened to pass Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, hence able to capture photos of its irregular-shaped bastions.

After that was quite some time of sitting beside a window to write and to chew flavorless bread.  Quite some people seemed to win lots of coins from game machines near me, so I decided to give it a shot.  The result was that the paper bill got stuck in the change machine, so I had to find the Black Jack dealer to get it for me. (He demanded a bank account to transfer the amount to, but as I explained that I don’t have one, he quickly took me to the cashier/information, all the while stuttering quickly probably out of nervousness.  After all most people on board supposedly don’t often have to use English.)

When we arrived (again quite some time of animal migration – the distance from the boat to the terminal’s arrival area couldn’t have been longer), I quickly found Viking Line’s counter to talk to M., who seemed probably a teensy bit shy upon seeing me but didn’t hesitate to give directions.  He told me that it’s about a kilometer of walk to Old Town, but with the ferry boarding pass I can ride Viking Line’s bus for free.  He was gladly surprised when I gave him a present, and were he not that shy I would’ve given him a hug 🙂 I wanted to invite him for a coffee, but he had to work until 7pm (while having to get up at 5.45am), and he reminded me to hurry for the bus.

The bus was packed with bustling middle-aged and senior ladies, so packed that several of us had to stand on the corridor.  Luckily the air-conditioning-free ride wasn’t too long.

The bus arrived at the brink of Old Town, and at the first sight of Tallinn I decided to give a big “Heart” sign to it – the town easily should easily win anyone over with its delicate fairytale-like charm! And even though I had to struggle a bit with the suitcase, I simply couldn’t wait to run on the street to explore.  (Oh, forget about Helsinki! Compared with the understandably very different Tallinn, the former is like a snore.)

I walked past the boutique hotel my host Mike told me to drop my luggage to, and when I finally realized it and came to the right place, I found the doors rather heavy to keep open while having to drag in the luggage.  A tall, handsome staff member in a lovely patterned vest quickly hopped down the few staircases there were and told me most kindly to leave that to him.  The big young lady at the reception was also marvelously accommodating and helpful.  A third blond porter stored my luggage for me.  When I saw the lovely door handles and hand towels (not paper towels), I decided I’m willing to sleep with someone just to stay here.  And yet another pretty girl at the bar filled my water bottle for me.  The hotel is small but lovely.  It’s only right that it’s also on LP’s recommendation list (as a luxurious option).

It was almost three, and with the much lighter load I couldn’t wait to leap into Tallinn’s arms.  As I said, under the bright sun, Tallinn is charming in her effortless way.  I decided to skip the City Museum (?), as the exhibitions don’t seem to interest me.  I checked a couple of churches: Katarina is tiny but has stunning interior, Holy Spirit is tiny with exterior probably more interesting than the interior, St Olaf’s, especially from the back, looks so uncannily like the church in Leiden (Leyden), the Netherlands, but its exteriors suggests before one goes in that it is in a bad state, so I didn’t climb the tower.  The interior is very bare, but even with the circumstances I think I got an interesting photo by using a visual trick to cover up the blandness.

The “whimsical” restaurant nAnO is near St Olaf’s Church, and indeed it doesn’t have any signs.  It was probably almost 5pm when I got there, so I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t open.  Strangely, after having had a proper breakfast and actually several rounds of eating (of the supermarket purchase) afterwards before arriving in Tallinn, I felt a bit hungry.  How can this be? I seem not to be as tough as before.  There’re lots of restaurants, and frankly many offer good prices (6 to 8 to 12 Euros for mains), and Tallinn does cater to different tastes: as far as I saw, there are understandably some Estonian, one Greek, one Chinese, some Russian, and lots of Italian.  As I stood in front of an Italian restaurant in a quieter street, the owner came out to lure me in, “Come in! it’s better to look [at the menu] inside!”

Well, talking about needs, there’re also quite some clubs with signs featuring sensual ladies.  I wonder how raunchy these clubs are.

I wanted to just finish bread, but I somehow did find Vanaema Juures, also recommended by LP, and since these days I’m a weaker person than I’d like to be, I – being tired after walking for barely four hours – opened the door and was surprised to find that the restaurant is downstairs.  Well, it’s cozy, and the food is pretty good, even though “Grandma’s roast” turns out to be more like bacon.  But it’s good.  They generously provide three kinds of bread: I thought the dark brown one is the sour kind I usually don’t like, but it turned out to be so delicious that I finished it all.  The main itself was filling, and the even the toast in it is so flavorful that I took quite some time savoring it.  The dessert “Kumu” was less impressive – it’s interesting and not bad, but I can do without it.

After a tiny bit of more roaming I returned to the lovely boutique hotel to enjoy the comfortable seat and wi-fi.  A big man in suit was probably already there chatting with people I thought to be guests, but as it turned out this big man is Mike himself.  After he finished his talks he came to me to give me a VERY firm handshake, and we headed to his spacious place, which is right at the brink of Old Town and has lovely views.  Mike kindly offered drinks, talks flowed easily, and after going over some dining options we chose an Italian place at a mall.  The Diablo pizza is very nice.  After dinner was more talk in the living room, Mike being interested in my trip and various subjects.  This was the first day in the trip that I failed to do push-ups and ab crunches (!!!) nor write the journal, although I took time to go through photos as we talked.  Mike provided a BIG fold-out bed in his bedroom, and I must have fallen asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow…


Helsinki – Tallinn渡船:8歐(這不是正常價格,請不要拿來作為參考)
Holy Spirit Church, Tallinn門票:1歐
午晚餐(Vanaema Juures):Grandmother’s Roast + 愛沙尼亞傳統甜點Kama = 11歐



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