Saturday, June 23, 2012

Eurotrip 2012 - Day 9 (6/23) - Tallinn

Our activity for this day was motivated by 2 things. First, we had already knocked off a lot of the interesting Helsinki attractions the day before. Second, most things were closed in Helsinki that day due to the midsummer holiday and festivals. We asked the hostel worker at the desk for recommended day trips, and she mentioned Tallin (the capital of Estonia) and Porvoo (a medieval style town with old wooden buildings). We decided to walk to the bus terminal to check out the bus schedule for Porvoo, and to the boat terminal to check out the schedule for Tallin. The bus terminal at Kamppi was first - we found out that the Porvoo bus leaves every hour on the hour. We then walked to the Makasiiniterminaali to check on the Linda Line boats. The next boat to Tallinn was to leave at 12, but the last boat back that day was at 5 (due to the holiday). Since the ride takes 1.5 hours, that left us about 3 hours to explore the city. The boat schedule was to return to normal the next day, but the seats were all sold out in the directions we would want to go (to Tallinn early, and to Helsinki late). But then Steffi, in a typical stroke of brilliance, suggested that we take the 12:00 there that day and a morning boat (10:00) back the next day. Tickets were available for this, so that's exactly what we did.

We boarded the boat a little before 12 and arrived in Tallinn a bit late - closer to 2. It was raining fairly hard when we arrived, so we almost began regretting our decision (especially since it apparently had not yet begun raining in Helsinki). After taking a moment to gather ourselves and take shelter from the rain as much as we could, we took a taxi to the city center. I think this taxi driver also wanted to be a Hollywood stunt driver, but he eventually got us to the tourist info center in the middle of the city. We were glad that he took us to such a convenient place, but we later found (the next day after taking another cab back to the port) that he apparently took us the long route to squeeze an extra €4 or so out of us (~14 vs.~10). At the tourist center we found out that a bunch of things were also closed in Tallinn due to the holiday (though I'm not sure if it was the same holiday). We thought about changing tickets to head back to Helsinki that evening, but decided against it since the rain was about to hit Helsinki as well. Instead we headed for a nearby shopping mall which was open.

The mall had a Vapiano restaurant, which Steffi likes (and I had never been), so we ate there. After eating and drying off a little bit we went out to proposition a taxi driver to drive us around town for a flat fee, but he declined (or didn't understand what we were asking). So we went back into the mall and looked around a bit. We bought a dry shirt for Steffi and then started looking up some potential hotels for the night. By that time the rain had mostly subsided, so we headed out to check out some sites that Steffi had looked up on the tourist map. We walked through the Old Town past the Nilguliste Museum, then through the Town Square (next to Town Hall), then found St. Catherine's Passage, then went up and walked the longest remaining section of the town wall. From the wall we spotted the Baltic Hotel Vana Wiru, so we went to inquire there. Their price of €99 for a twin room for the night was better than we had been offered at another place (and than we had seen online for other nearby hotels), so we took it.

After checking out the room we went out again in search of some supplies. We found another mall that was even bigger and got a bit distracted by shopping. We eventually regained focus and found the supermarket in on the bottom level and bought some supplies (toothbrushes, etc.) for the the night as well as some food to snack on. We left the mall as they closed around 7 and walked back to the hotel to lounge around in the room for the rest of the night. The TV had some channels that were in English, so we watched part of a movie and ate some of the food we had bought. We also watched Spain beat France in the Euro quarterfinal match before going to bed.

Observation of the day: Both Helsinki and Tallinn have bus terminals beneath their main shopping malls. It's kind of a neat idea.

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