Tallinn, Estonia…and snow!

OMG…it is really snowing here! I mean, I knew it would, but I am still just amazed at it. And a bit scared.

But first, about Tallinn.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Wellu and I left for Tallinn aboard one of the Viking Line ships. Tallinn is an easy day trip from Helsinki, and a lot of Helsinki-ites (?) head there to buy alcohol. You’ll see them board with folding carts, empty suitcases and duffel bags, and return with cases of beer and cider, all loaded down (and many are simply loaded, too! 🙂 )

Tallinn is a very old city, and the place we were to visit is a walled older city within the city of Tallinn itself. The original Tallinn, if you will. The old town is actually listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded sometime in the 1200’s, so it’s pretty damn old.

You have to line up early in the terminal, because the seating is a bit limited on the ship, and you want to get a good seat for the approximately 2.5 hour ride there. We managed to snag a decent seat in the corner of the bar area, although the view out of the window wasn’t too great. And it was too cold to go outside and take pictures, so all you get to see is the interior!

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The ship had a trivia contest, although we didn’t enter (we should have!), but we played along and got most of the questions right. They post them up on some video monitors located around the bar area so you can see the questions. Which are all in Finnish and Swedish, of course.

I was feeling a bit nauseated when we got to the ship, so I went to the bar and ordered a Coke and some chips to settle my stomach. I tried to order my Coke (and glass of ice) in Finnish, but since she confirmed and spoke to me in English after that, I guess my Finnish was lacking. Darn it.

We just sat and read for bit, and then another couple came and sat with us. After a while, we struck up a conversation. She was Rose, from Beijing, China, who was visiting her friend, Harold, in Helsinki. It was her first time to Helsinki, and first time going to Tallinn. She plays keyboard and guitar in a band in China, and later, they are going to go visit their former keyboardist in Frankfurt.  We had a rather enjoyable conversation, and then split up to go stand in the herd to get off the ship.

Relaxing on the outward bound trip

Relaxing on the outward bound trip

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March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins

Once we got off the ship (and through the terminal), we walked the short distance to the entrance to the walled older city. We didn’t really have anything on our itinerary, just wanted to take a little day trip somewhere nice. I wanted to take the time to finally poke my head into all the little shops that I had to pass by before, and I wanted to go to the market, maybe find some Christmas gifts to take back.

Unfortunately, the market wasn’t going on, but I did get to do a lot of window shopping. Lots of linen, lace, wooden carvings, amber, and wool items. Go figure. 🙂 We popped in to a few of the more unusual shops, although I had to admit that some of their prices were very high. My personal quest was for a wooden butter knife and a bread basket. I have bought probably two dozen of the butter knives as souvenirs for friends, but I never kept one for myself! The bread basket is actually this thicker cloth that ties at the corners to lift the sides and keep the bread inside. I just like the look of them.

I have to pause here to say that I just went in the kitchen to refill my tea, and it is really snowing outside. Real snowflakes, coming down from the sky and sticking to the ground. It’s really winter! Okay, back to the blog…

In any case, found the butter knife (after several stops), a really nice birch and juniper utensil, that I am excited to have in the kitchen. Also, got Sam a dice bag handmade with an Estonian pattern. Not sure they mean it as a dice bag, but that’s what I´m calling it for Sam. Also bought these adorable wooden cat window hangers, that are decorated with amber pieces. All made in Estonia, by hand. Very cool looking!

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My favorite piece is probably what I got for Stasia, which is a hand-painted ceramic bowl with a cat in it. There is a series of these bowls, made by a local artist, Helina Tilk. I got Stasia the ‘Dandy Cat’ one, because I loved the look on this one’s face. I plan to get her the set, a few pieces at a time, if she likes this one. They are dishwasher and microwave safe, although hand washing is suggested, of course.

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We did a bit more wandering, mainly down side streets that we hadn’t traveled in our visits here before, admiring the architecture, and then stopping in at Drakon, for a ‘decent bowl of elk soup’ and some moose sausage to cut the chill. The soup was actually more than decent, and the sausage was VERY good. There are no utensils, we drank the soup out of the earthenware bowl, and ate the sausage with our fingers. The interior is low, dark, and with heavy wooden tables and stools. It is what I imagine a tavern would look like in the Middle Ages, and it was very much that feeling in there.

After that, we did a bit more walking, then headed back to the ship. We weren’t in a huge hurry to get seats this time, as we had reserved seating for the 6pm buffet. We did meet a very nice lady where we did sit, and while she couldn’t speak English, apparently Wellu and her got along famously, chatting for about a half hour until we were ready to go eat.

And let me tell you…this was a feast! Apparently, it was ‘wild game week’ or something, because they had some fabulous foods to choose from. There was a huge selection of fish, which is not my thing, but there was herring, salmon, caviar, shrimp, and more, all fixed up multiple ways. The salad selection was also pretty extensive, but again, not my thing, with beans and mushrooms, and green stuff. 🙂 All of this was locally sourced and fresh, and you could really tell.

Main course selections is really where the action was. There was roast boar, boar sausage, reindeer steak, reindeer mousse on rye, reindeer sausage, creamed potatoes, roast beef, and more. It was a veritable carnivore’s dream! I had just a taste of everything, and it was all very good! The dessert selections were really good, as well, and I did well on that table, too.

Carnivore platter. Reindeer, boar, beef, chanterelles, potatoes, and more. Yum!

Carnivore platter. Reindeer, boar, beef, chanterelles, potatoes, and more. Yum!

Dessert plate: blueberry mousse, macaroon, chocolate ice cream, brownie, and some other sort of mousse.

Dessert plate: blueberry mousse, macaroon, chocolate ice cream, brownie, and some other sort of mousse.

I left the dining hall feeling like all I wanted to do was curl up and hibernate for a while, and let my food digest. Alas, we were still about a half hour from Helsinki, so we sat in the lounge and listened to the live band, who were actually quite good. When we got in, it was dark, of course, and getting colder. We got home, and I just about crashed into bed. I slept for a good, long while.

I’ll make a post about the snow, separately, since this one turned out so long.

It was a damp day

Today started off with a drizzle, had some actual rain in the middle of the day (ironically when I was going to lunch), and then let off towards the evening, although the rain is supposed to continue throughout the week. I’ve started taking pictures each day, as the leaves are changing ever faster.Although, this picture is just one of the sunrise. You get the full spread of pictures on Tuesday. 🙂

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Last night, we went out to a very nice restaurant with some of Wellu’s collegues for a farewell dinner for the Hungarian researcher that had been visiting for the past few months. We had some fabulous food, and my dinner was especially good: I ordered the wild elk, with the garlic potatoes and creamed cep mushrooms. The meat was garnished with lingonberry sauce, and I devoured the whole thing!

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Earlier in the day, I made my trek to IKEA, which I had not visited in some time (at least a week!). I managed to get in the ‘card only’ line, but didn’t realize it, but fortunately, I had my new debit card with me! It works like a dream!

Today was relatively quiet. I met Wellu and the rest of the astronomy department at the Chinese food restaurant at the Arabia mall, and listened to Petra spin tall tales about Finland to the Italian researcher across the table. Then amazingly enough, I heard an ‘unaccented’ voice at the end of the table. Apparently there is a visiting (?) researcher here from Minnesota. He said he’s been here six weeks and picked up none of the language. Join the club!

Afterwards, I hung out at the mall for a bit, then headed home to do some organizing and cooking. I was going to make some Mexican stew, but we ended up with steak and fries, instead. Oh well, there is always tomorrow!

For record’s sake, I took the 73 to the Kumpulan Kampus stop, and then took the 70T back to the Meripikahtie stop. Tomorrow, I will take the 73 to the Sörnäinen stop, then get off and walk to Moniheli. Coming back, the walk is a bit more, as the return bus stop is not just right across the street, but a few blocks away, as well. But I’ll take the same bus (73) back home.