No person in their right mind would ever wake up at 3am on a Friday, and yet just last week that was me. Catching the 5:50am flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam to transfer to another flight to Helsinki resulted in a very exhausted travelsmith. However, the sleep deprivation did not stifle my excitement as I walked through the airport nearly attacking my friend Katie with a hug when we were finally reunited after more than a year of not seeing each other. Getting the chance to visit one of my high school friends, especially after being away from home for so long, quite possibly provided me the best feelings. I have never been so grateful to gossip and chat and have meaningfully meaningless conversations in my life.
When I first arrived in Finland, I was blown away at how different it was from the rest of Europe I had seen so far. Sure it was still very European, but there was something distinctively Nordic about it. From the weather to the people, Finland lent a very unique experience. Roaming about Helsinki, finally travelling with a partner in crime, I desperately tried to soak in everything I was seeing while also catching up with Katie. We had a good few years of gossip to go through, and being the chatty Cathy’s we are, most of the trip did not hear a quiet moment.
The first day in Helsinki consisted of exploring some churches, visiting markets, and eating a ton of food. I was very surprised to find that reindeer and elk meat was a common occurrence. Sure it makes sense given their abundance up North, yet it still shocked me. In the spirit of being adventurous, I even humored Katie and tried some reindeer meet. While I am still a little disturbed at the fact that I did this, I must say it tasted just like any other dried jerky type meat- it just made me a little more sad to eat it. Needless to say I won’t be missing it or seeking it out when I return to the United States. After a few more hours of walking around and popping into some shops, my lack of sleep got the better of me, and we ventured back to Katie’s apartment to get some well-deserved sleep.
However, our spontaneous decision to take a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn (Estonia) on the Saturday meant leaving at 5am, and hence my sleep deprivation did not get the attention it truly deserved. Feeling like walking death on the boat, I desperately tried to stay awake and not get sea sick. Two hours later, we finally touched land again, and Katie and I rushed to get off the satanic boat which caused us to almost lose our breakfasts.
My first impression of Estonia, to be honest, was not the best. I could definitely tell the difference between Western and Eastern Europe, economically that is. However, the further we walked into Tallinn and the closer to the old town we became, the more I fell in love with it. Tallinn’s old town looked like it came out of a fairy tale. Impressed immensely by the beautiful rooftop views, I feel as though I took enough pictures to fill a small album.
Mine and Katie’s day in Tallinn consisted of walking around the old town and popping into any shop that caught our eye. Seeing the mix of Nordic and Russian influences on the city was a really interesting experience. From Vikings and reindeer to babushkas, Tallinn’s culture proved rich with diversity. After hours of exploration, Katie and I finally realized it was time to venture back to the boat… Where on the way home we decided to get roaring drunk.
Being drunk on a boat is not a pleasant experience. Sure when you are with one of your good friends, drinking is all in good fun, but the head spinning from alcohol combined with the rocking of a boat provides for a two hour journey which consists of: “Oh God… This was a terrible mistake…”
Nevertheless we survived and remained vomit free, even happening to make friends with a random Finnish man who had lent us a bottle opener. Exhausted from the events of the day, we crashed out, vowing to work off our alcoholic sins the following day.
Sunday morning we groggily awoke and dragged ourselves to the gym to try and undo some of the damage our gluttony from the previous day. Sweating out our sins, we both felt a great deal better about ourselves when we returned home to shower and eat breakfast. A few hours later, Katie took me to her grandparents apartment up the road. Her grandmother is quite possibly the most adorable person I have ever met. She didn’t speak a word of English, yet she welcomed me, fed me, and attempted to have a conversation with me, using Katie as our translator. I enjoyed every moment of her hospitality, and fell in love with the delicious Finnish meal she prepared for us. Since it had been a while since my last proper home cooked meal (nearly a month since the last was when I was in Germany) I was truly grateful to eat something prepared with love.
To be honest, I didn’t really want to leave Katie’s grandparents’ house. They were adorable and kind, and I could have spent hours listening to their translated tales. Yet, with time ticking, I needed to venture to the airport and make the journey back to Edinburgh. A few hours train journey later, Katie and I enjoyed a final Starbucks together before a strangely non emotional goodbye. With the promise of her visiting in just three weeks’ time, we mentally prepared ourselves for another weekend of mischief and bonding soon to come.