Exploring the Baltics

The view outside is that of lush forest green, a remarkably different landscape to that of the old town of Tallinn, Estonia, which I spent much time in. It forms a contrast to the pale and grey sky; which is probably nature’s way of giving us a heads up to spring, but quickly reminding us that we are not quite summer yet. I am currently on route to Parnu, with Riga, Latvia being my destination- the third of four Baltic countries I am visiting this trip. The Lux Express bus is superb with free wifi, and while the morning coffee I took at the local canteen near the bus station is still taking its effect, I thought I can spend some time blogging…

While I’ve always knew that Tallinn is a beautiful city, I remained sceptical by what I see on travel websites. To an extent, I was quite right- the place that prompt marketing buzz words such as “disney-esque”, or “fairy tale land” seems a little oversold, especially when many of its streets become wrought with drunken British stag parties. That is not to say didn’t enjoy Tallinn; in fact I like it a lot. But having been to many European cities, I am unfortunately struck by a case of travel deja vu.

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Old town of Tallinn

What I definitely enjoy Tallinn is of its size. Small and compact, the old town can be seen in its entirety in probably 4 hours. It gives one the time to slow down foot steps, feel its medieval walls, and get purposely lost in the search for the next ‘wow’ moment upon a wrong turn. It also gave me the chance to sit down, sip a cup of coffee and read about its troubled history. With Estonia entering this century stronger than ever, I can’t help but admire the tenacity of its people.

The additional time also gave me the time to hop onto a ferry for a short ride toward Helsinki, Finland. Unlike Tallinn, I knew nothing about the country (besides its excellent educational system, the creation of the annoying Angry Birds, and for being a Scandinavian country; the last of which turned out to be factually ambiguous- Finland, while culturally similar to other Northern European countries such as Sweden, is sometimes regarded as a Baltic state).

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Helsinki Cathedral

 

With close to a million people, Helsink is a huge city (by European standards). I had a day, and covered its main sights, which includes the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral and the military fortress island of Suomenlinna. I also ventured out and visited the Kotiharjun sauna, which is Helsinki’s last wood burning public sauna (the word sauna, is originally a Finnish word). Being stark naked in a roomful of middle age Finnish men, all of whom seem to know each other, with me being the obvious odd one out- it’s an experience I won’t forget any time soon!

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