06.02.2010 - 12.02.2010 -10 °C
Today was time to check out the rive gauche. Walked over the river with the aim of getting to the imposing TV tower on an island in the river. My intentionally circuitous route took me past the ferry terminal where there were no vessels but many people trying their luck ice fishing. Some were armed with huge corkscrew type drills and all seemed quite happy just sitting there waiting. Got stuck walking along a highway due to the lack of bridges, and also bridges that lacked any facilities for pedestrians. I decided to go down to the iced over river instead which got me where I wanted way faster and also much more peacefully. On my way I saw some crazy guy cut a whole in the ice to take a quick dip. The TV tower ended up being closed, and only open for tours anyways. On my way home I exchanged my remaining Lats for Kroons, which is a great currency in that it is pretty much all note based so very easy to exchange.
Geared up for my last long distance bus trip and arrived at the bus station to wait for the bus. I was pleased to find it was actually the type I paid for with wifi for most of the journey, which was quite slow due to a full load of passengers. There were also video screens blaring a bizarre combination of music videos, though very much 80’s focussed. Again we had to stop at the border. A kiwi backpacker sporting the jesus look got the third degree from the authorities but we were eventually on our way again. I successfully managed to get to me lodgings via the Tallinn tram network in peak hour. Located at the port, everything was closed so I briskly walked into town for supplies. The accommodation is a steal, cheaper than some hostels I walked past, plus the wifi is superb.
Tallinn’s old town was the main target today and I arrived to find it the touristiest place in the baltics. I was surprised to see touts and even asian tourists in the low season. I’m glad I came in winter, as this place would be absolutely overrun in summer. That said it is quite nice and I did manage to find some quiet streets to myself. Up the top where the pink parliament building is there were some decent views out across the Baltic sea and to the city. I was again satisfied by Hesburger and also the largest regular beer can I have ever seen.
My final day in the Baltics I hit up the museums that were now open, as in winter their hours are very limited. First up was the Estonian maritime museum located on a corner of the old town in a tower along the old city wall. Aptly named Fat Margaret’s tower, the museum was deceptively large and with decent amount of English. The place was deserted so people missed out on the great views from the open-air roof six floors up. It was interesting to see the large number of wrecks recently located off the coast, with connections to the HMAS Sydney team. Next stop was the east side of town where there is an old castle and park which had many ice and snow sculptures. It was cool to see a snow sculpture being made right there by a local pro. On the other side of the park was the flagship Estonian art museum, the kumu. This building was the most expensive public building in the country to build. The collection starts out with classics at the bottom and then as you work your way up through the building the pieces become more contemporary. The vast majority of the works were Estonian, however most studied and worked overseas at some point in their lives. There was a temporary Finnish pop art exhibition which was a good laugh. The shop was closed for “commercial reasons” and I was intrigued to see people getting wedding photos taken in the building. I guess it does stand out in architecturally bland Tallinn. That said there is definitely a more Scandinavian feel about this country with Finnish heard a fair bit, also their language is related. Walked home via the strange abandoned heliport just next to my hotel, which is now a great tobogganing spot.
Off to the ferry terminal this morning where I arrived to find check in had stalled due to technical problems. Getting the manual procedures happening took some time and I eventually got my boarding pass and made the long walk to the fluoro coloured Superstar. We left slightly late due to the additional manual processing time. Unfortunately the huge ship is designed for sleeping, shopping and eating, not short trips so it was difficult to find some corner where you could sit without having to buy something. I found somewhere and found that the boat wifi was slower than the terminal wifi. A young businessman sat down at my booth and we got talking about the woes of the European economy. He was on his way to pitch to investors in Finland for capital. The voyage grew more turbulent (and noisy) due to ice and this caused further delay to our arrival time. We disembarked and I scored a free taxi ride to the main station as my new acquaintance was heading nearby anyways. It was strange seeing Helsinki blanketed in snow, as when I was here last it was autumn and still green and sunny. I resisted the temptation of the Finnair bus right where I got out of the cab and went across the station to the public bus for half the price. It took longer but it was interesting to go through the dormitory suburbs and then through Vantaa itself. Got to the airport and walked to my hotel to find a package waiting for me, just like the last time I rocked up at a Helsinki hotel; weird. Very Finnish room and loads of info promoting the sauna. Bought supplies with me from Tallinn, as airports aren’t known for cheap food, especially in Finland. It’s also good to be able to confidently drink tap water again.
I write from the silver wings lounge after a very quick checkin and security, thank you sapphire. The lounge is thankfully much emptier now than my last peak hour visit, so I can actually see out the windows to the dark runway plus there is abundant food. Wifi also way better now. Got my bags checked through to Alexandria but will have to get boarding passes in Amsterdam. Boarding in 10mins.