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July 18th 2007
Published: July 18th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

We’ve been bad about updating our blog lately - sorry! We've got good internet access again, though, so we'll get all caught up in the next few days.

From Tallinn we took an hour and a half ferry ride across the Baltic Sea to Helsinki. The ferry was great and even offered opportunities for those interested to buy cases of vodka and beer at “low Estonian prices.” We didn’t partake, although in retrospect that might have livened up our stay in Helsinki.

Helsinki was a much more modern city than most of the places we’ve been this summer. It's surrounded by water, with several bays and inlets. The streets were very quiet, almost eerie sometimes - I'm not sure how much of that is just the way it is and how much is due to the fact that many Finns were on their summer vacation when we were there. Luckily after our dirty hostel in Tallinn, the one we stayed in in Helsinki, called Hostel Erottajanpuisto (say that three times fast), was great. They even did our laundry for us for a few euros and had a good kitchen that we used to cook some dinners.

True to the stereotype, Helsinki was pretty expensive. When we got in we were both starving but couldn't find anything we could afford, so we had our first lunch at McDonalds, and even that was more expensive than we’re used to. We spent the afternoon walking around and seeing some of the city's big landmarks, including Senate Square and a cool Russian Orthodox church.

On our first night we met up for dinner with Jason’s roommate from when he lived in India, Kris, and Kris’s girlfriend. Jason and Kris had fun catching up and we learned some interesting things about Finland. One was that anyone in Finland can send a text message to a certain number with someone's name and find out how much they made the previous year (assuming they made over 30,000 euros). You can also text in a license plate number and find out who owns a car, then you can text in their name and get their phone number, and then, as Kris's girlfriend said, you can call them and yell at them if they cut you off on the road. The whole idea behind this, especially the income one, is to have a more equal, transparent society, which I can appreciate, although I don't think we'll be adopting that system in the US any time soon.

The rest of our time was spent exploring the city - we went to a modern art museum and a design museum, and did a little bit of shopping (mostly of the window variety). One of the highlights was the Kauppatori, a big open air market on the harbor where you can buy all sorts of good stuff and where we had salmon and reindeer for lunch one day.

Our last full day there was pretty rainy and we were getting kind of tired of having to spend so much money, so we spent a few hours just hanging out at the hostel and relaxing. Finally the weather cleared up late in the afternoon and we went out for a walk along the waterfront. We ended up stumbling on a beautiful cafe in a park where we split a tiny bottle of sparkling wine and a piece of apple cake looking out over the water - perfect! We had been a little down on Helsinki before this because it was so expensive, but the last afternoon really changed our opinions.

On our last morning before we headed to the airport we did a quick trip out to Suomenlinna, a fortress island built by the Swedish when they controlled the area. We definitely didn't have enough time to really enjoy being out there, but we spent some time walking the trails and exploring old tunnels.

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