Tallinn…and shopping

My dear hubby booked us on a day trip to Tallinn again, and we went today. As many of you may have read, the ferries to Tallinn (day trip version) are mainly for the locals here to buy booze there. Apparently it is cheaper. Viking Line was running some pretty deep specials; our tickets were 3€ each, for a total of 6€, round trip. Heck, you can’t get to IKEA on that. For us, the allure wasn’t the alcohol, but the meat. We bought some fabulous wild boar and moose that last time, and were looking to restock. Meat tends to be cheaper. Also, my nails needed doing, and I had heard that services were cheaper in Tallinn, so we figured we head out and give it a shot. Good way to spend a Saturday.

We did go ahead and spring for the buffet on the way back, which did add about 50€ the price of our trip, but we eat out so rarely, and for eating out, that price isn’t too ungodly (plus, it gives us a place to sit out of the crowd for about 3/4 of the trip back). The buffet is great if you like fish, and only good if you don’t. They have the creamed potatoes, bread, sausage and a pretty good roast for those of us who don’t like the things that swim in the sea, and if you like wine, you can get ‘wine on tap´’ at the beverage station at no extra charge.

Wine on tap

Wine on tap

We sat in the bar on the way there, listened to some karaoke; there were some pretty good singers! Towards about two hours into the three hour trip…well, there were some pretty drunk singers, too. The opening act, per-karaoke, was a guy singing mostly classic country songs (Johnny Cash, some Elvis, etc), and he was actually pretty good. I enjoyed the karaoke mainly because I would watch the screen and try to figure out the words to the Finnish songs. Yeah…I got about one in a hundred, if that.

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We got off in Tallinn with the rest of the herd (mooooooo), and walked over to the ‘mall’. We found our usual (hahaha, I love saying that for our second visit) meat counter, and let her talk us in to wild boar roasts, moose sausage, garlic cheese and about four pounds of filet Mignon. The whole thing came to about 70€ total, which is not bad at all.

Then we headed up to the salon for me to get my nails done. The price wasn’t great, but it was maybe 5-10€ cheaper than in Helsinki. So I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time, but it wasn’t the great deal that others have said it was. It might be that you have to actually go into the city for the better prices. We only had 3 hours, and I didn’t want to chance it. I opted to get my nails cut down short and just a clear gel on them, until the two I broke off grow back.

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On our way back, I picked up some more of the ‘cat’ bowls that I had started collecting for my eldest, including another bowl and plate for the other two to fight over.  In addition, I found the wool inserts for my wellies that are like 7€ in Prisma for just 2€ there. So all in all, a nice little shopping trip.

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Tallinn haul

 

On the way back, we sat upstairs to wait for our seating time, and Wellu quizzed me on my Finnish. Oh, I still have such a long way. I need to go back to just studying the vowels. I am having a really hard time remembering ö, y, e, a, ä (I’ve got ‘i’ down pat), and additionally, I am having a really hard time hearing a double letter when a word is spoken at a regular rate. I guess it’s just a matter of training the ear to hear that little ‘stop’.

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When it was time, we headed to the dining room and took our place at the feeding trough. It wasn’t anything special, just decent food, although none of it was actually ‘hot’ by the time I dug in. Still, it was nice to have a place to just veg after walking, before queuing up with the herd to head off the ship.

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Fish, fish…

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…and more fish.

After the meal, we signed me up for a Viking Line card (free, and gives me access to the specials, too), and wandered around the shop a bit. Didn’t buy anything, but saw some candies my mom needs.

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Nothing more of note…got home, walked the Shiva dog (who had missed us all day!), and am going to shower and head to bed. I think I will sleep in tomorrow. 🙂

And the snow is gone

One day. It was exciting, though. Well, for a Southern gal, that is. Everyone else was probably like, “Eh.” and moved on. 🙂 I woke up late this morning, and when I went to the window to take the picture, most of the snow was gone, with just the memory of it all in small white lines against the grass. But I’m sure it will be back.

October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

We were going to run in to the City Center together to get his new credit card (I mean, of course!), then catch some lunch, and then I planned to come back to study some more. We got in to a long conversation on the bus about long and short sounds, and it went round and round until it was finally clarified that those terms mean something very different in Finnish and in English. Pronunciation is going to be the hardest thing to get right in learning Finnish. There are plenty of websites, blogs and YouTube videos dedicated to learning Finnish, so I won’t go into it here, except to complain about how hard it is!

Some guy interrupted us, saying in a thick Russian accent, “You two back there speaking English. Russian state will collapse in two years!” then he turned back around. Not sure what that had to do with our conversation of the long i and short i sounds, but hey, whatever. 🙂

We did some walking around the city, at lunch at his favorite place, went to Stockmann’s so I could buy an English version of the Helsinki Times, and then made a break for work and home.

I just love the Tiger stores!

I just love the Tiger stores!

Helsinki city corner

Helsinki city corner

I did the laundry, made the bed, washed the dishes, and generally played a bit of Suzy Homemaker. (Fun Fitting in to Finland Fact (FFn2FF): there are washers, but typically not dryers. You wash your clothes, then hang them up to dry. Either outside on the line, even in the freezing weather, or in the drying room, or bathroom. Means you really need to plan your laundry day!) Then I sat down with my reference cards on Vowels and Dipthongs, practiced those, watched some YouTube videos, looked at some of my textbooks, and then cried in despair.

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I did call up Avery, and we had a good, long chat. It was really nice to talk to someone from back in the old country. Sigh. Back in the day… well, not to get all nostalgic and stuff. But yeah, today I had an attack of the homesickies, and was feeling blue for a while. I decided to try and snap out of it by doing something constructive, so I made some amendments and additions to my reference cards, and went to reprint them. I decided to label my printer with what direction to feed the paper in to do two-sided printing, and in rummaging around for my EU plug adapter, I found money. SHOPPING! Boom! Good mood returns!

For dinner, we decided to break out the wild boar that we bought from Tallinn. Oh. My. God. It is so tender, so delicious…I could have eaten it all in one go. But we didn’t, wanting to save some of this deliciousness for tomorrow! I have decided that this is my new favorite animal. We also bought some moose sausage, so we might have those for tomorrow. I will certainly report on that.

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I’ve been chatting with the kids off and on today, just general stuff. I think we’re all feeling the miles, but it should get better. I do miss my girls. However, for now, we’re kicking back, with an exciting Friday night, catching up on episodes of The Flash. A bit slow to start, but the reviews I’ve read said that it really has potential, so we’ll see.

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.

One Month!

Today is the one month mark of my arrival here in Finland, land of a thousand lakes. In summary, I am really enjoying it so far, and feel like I am slowly starting to settle in. During the course of my day, I might puzzle or wonder at something or other, but overall, it doesn’t feel like a totally alien place, just a new place, with a few different routines that I need to get used to.

  • Mail delivery on Sundays. And every day by 10am
  • Automatic bottle recycling machines (and like ,40 per bottle, woot!)
  • Walking everywhere (and why, oh why did I forget my FitBit charger?!)
  • Uberfast internet
  • The friendliness of people
  • Hanging clothes up to dry
  • The washing machine in the bathroom

That’s just to name a few. It is by no means an exhaustive list.

To celebrate this one month anniversary, I went to IKEA. Where else? 🙂 I took the 550 bus from Viikin tiedepuisto (the ‘monkey’ bus stop), to the Itäkeskus shopping center. From there, I hit up the Otto (ATM) and got some cash, then walked over to where I thought the IKEA bus would come by. Turns out I was right (yay me!). When I got there, there might have been about five people waiting for the bus. By the time it actually arrived, there must have been forty! And while Finns tend to queue up calmly for just about everything else, they do NOT form an orderly line when it comes to IKEA! 🙂

I had brought my handy-dandy cart, and was ready for some serious shopping. I got some things I hadn’t planned on, and didn’t get other things that I had meant to (save those for another trip!), but all in all, a successful journey. Especially since I actually found measuring cups! Upon leaving, I figured to take the 74 bus all the way back to Meripihkatie since I had so much stuff. It usually runs on a :10 and :40 schedule, but for the last run of the two o’clock hour, it changes to 2:38…guess who watched it leave? The next bus came at 3:18pm, and I managed to get on without losing all the goods.

The IKEA haul!

The IKEA haul!

Managed to also disembark without issue, and strolled on home. I love my little IKEA cart (thanks, Mom!). It has come in handy so many times.

Got home, put most everything away, remade the bed, restuffed the duvets, and stood back to look at my handiwork. Pictures forthcoming at some point. The place is really starting to shape up.

Today’s weather was pretty chilly. I don’t think it got more than about 39°F, but with the layers, it wasn’t really all that bad. As a matter of fact, I felt overly warm once I was on the bus, but comfortable at the bus stop. It helped there was no breeze today, and it was slightly overcast.

I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for the second week in November, which will be nice. Hopefully I can start my prescriptions so I don’t run out.

Wellu also emailed me with a surprise trip – we’re going to do a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia next week. I love Tallinn, so I am looking forward to it. The boat is serving wild boar roast on their buffet, so we’re definitely doing that. He said that as far as what we are going to do in Tallinn, he was going to leave that up to me. Such a sweetie…we’re going to go peek into all those little shops so I can look around.