The overnight train arrived back in Helsinki early on Sunday morning after a long week up north in Lapland. There wouldn’t be any time to rest, however, as this was the start of a week of fun in northern Europe. I left the train station for a hotel a few blocks away to meet my friend Steve, who had agreed become my travel buddy for the rest of the week. I had last seen Steve 4 years ago, but after only a couple hours together it quickly felt like we had seen each other a week ago.
Our first destination was the island fortress of Suomenlinna, off the coast of Helsinki. Originally built in the 18th century as defense against the Russian military, the fortress has evolved quite a bit over the years. The island is now a living community and historical monument to the relatively short history (by European standards) of Helsinki. Many locals visit the island in the summertime to have a picnic and enjoy the water.
After dinner in Helsinki and with the help of some friends from ISR school we happened to run into that night in the city, we made a last minute decision to explore outside of Finland. We hopped on a ferry the next morning and made the 2.5 hour trip across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia.
Visiting Tallinn was absolutely the correct decision. Tallinn is one of the oldest capitals in all of Europe and their Old Town is a beautiful, well-preserved medieval city. We only had about 3 hours (enough to check it off the list of countries I’ve visited!) but we could easily have spent a couple days there. We hustled through a quick loop of the city in the drizzling rain to catch a glimpse of as much as we could, but there wasn’t even enough time to sit and enjoy a meal in one of the charming little squares. Before we knew it we had to board the ferry and head back to Finland.
The next morning we had plenty of time left in Helsinki to finish exploring the city. The city is very clean and quite modern, and is also extremely walkable. A few cathedrals and one more taste of Finnish cuisine (e.g. salmon, reindeer, moose, etc.) at the seaside market square wrapped up our first couple of days.
That afternoon we caught a very short flight to Stockholm for the remainder of the trip. I’ll save the rest of our journey for another post.
Until next time…