Published: June 16th 2008June 16th 2008
Its skyline is fading in the distance and two lovers look as pensive as I feel.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS about Estonia.
The other day a lone sea gull approached me when I was eating a sandwich in Tornide väljak (square). The bird seemed a little more reserved than its western cousins -- somewhat like the Estonian people who seldom look you in the eye or acknowledge you, a stranger, in the street. However, in the countryside, when I cycled past a group chatting by a fence or in front of their farmhouse, and raised my hand in greeting, one or two of them would usually give a curt nod in reply.
There are many more blondes here than I had expected, although I've noticed that on some of them the roots are showing. There are also many more smokers (often young women) in public places than you'll see in North America.
Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most during my two-week stay in this country was listening to the language. Just hearing a female trolley driver in Tallinn sing out the names of bus stops into her microphone is like listening to poetry. Estonians roll their "r" on the tip of their tongues with gusto, and nearly every word has it's emphasis on the first syllable. It has a
Disembarking Finns with their loot
of cheap Estonian booze. Either Finland is dry or their alcoholic beverages are expensive.
beautiful rhythmic quality. 16 June:
AFTER BUYING SNACKS for my approaching trip, paying for bus fare to the ferry terminal, and purchasing a new plastic bag because the one I had hauled all the way from Victoria was falling apart, I get to the ferry terminal with 7 Estonian Krooni and 40 senti (74¢) remaining in my pocket. Pretty good balancing act, don't you agree?
On the Tallink Silja Line ferry from Tallinn to Rostock one has many options, from sleeping in a room with two dozen reclining airline-type seats, all the way to private luxury cabins. I know better than to go "steerage" class, so I opt for an A-class (with window) cabin accommodating four passengers. Only there aren't any fellow bunk mates. I've got this cabin all to myself! It even has a desk with internet connection and a bathroom with shower just like a proper cruise ship!
We make the two-hour crossing to Helsinki, and I have an hour and a half to tour Finland! Quickly I jump on a city bus, get off at the main train station, wander around like a blind man in a porcelain shop, and hop on a tram
Seems like a bicycle-friendly city, judging from these hundreds of two-wheelers waiting for their owners in front of Helsinki's central railway station.
back to the harbour. I don't see any of the famous modern Finnish architecture everyone talks about; the buildings are just like you see in photos: big, square and squat. But I get a sense, a feel, of this place nonetheless. At 6 pm the city is humming; lots of people walking, sitting in sidewalk cafés, taking the many crisscrossing trams...
At 8:15 pm we're off across the Baltic Sea heading west. A few islands off the shore almost look like the treed Gulf Islands on Canada's west coast, except I see bright, multi-coloured beach huts lining the shore of one, then bare rocks, then just water. For a while I see other ships -- freighters plying the same route we are embarking upon -- then just the sea.
There are more photos below