10 October 2018
In Helsinki, day two. We decided since we have a very short time in this city to do one of the jump on jump off city tour buses that are to be found everywhere in cities these days. We set off around 9.30am and stopped off first for breakfast in a small cafe. Then we headed off down Esplanade Park in search of the tour bus office, where Ju knew she could buy our tickets at a discount.
We didn`t find it, but we did find the harbour, with huge ferries, and the herring market, an amazing hotch potch of stalls on the cobbles, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to clothes and souvenirs, and fishing boats backed up to the quayside selling all kinds of seafood, fresh, smoked, packaged and loose. Still no tour bus office. So we marched back up Esplanade Park following our iphone satnav, but no luck. Finally we tracked it down to the square with Helsinki Cathedral in it, so we duly claimed our discount and climbed on. An hour and a half of city tour, history, anecdote and reflections on the national psyche. Punctuated by an Australian tourist sitting in the bus behind us informing the whole top deck that her friend had just died of various horrible diseases, so that had made her decided that the nest egg was for now, the rainy day had arrived, so she had set off on a five week trip to do the bucket list and see all those places she really wanted to. Thankfully she got off quite quickly after that.
We got off the bus intent on finding lunch, but on the way I spotted the Marttinnii Knives shop, so we had a look in there. When I was here in 1990 I bought one of these little beauties, which I still have, and made the mistake of having it in my hand luggage when flying home. I still remember the shock of being isolated in a security cell for what seemed like ages while they checked out my identity, followed by the ignominy of having the knife all packaged up in a big box and loaded on the plane as hold luggage. So this time I decided not to buy one. Shame! But they are gorgeous, with lovely smooth carved wooden handles and leather sheaths. Used by the Sami people in the north, originally, and now everyone can buy one.
Lunch was a delight, from one of the stalls in the market, with two of the stallholders treating everyone to operatic renditions of `come and buy our lovely freshly cooked seafood lunches` in impenetrable Finnish. We succumbed to fried salmon with baby potatoes and mixed vegetables, and dill sauce. Yum!
After lunch we looked at a bit more of the market, then set off to locate the ferry to Tallinn, which we will need tomorrow. A long walk later we discovered the other harbour, and bought our tickets for tomorrow, in a huge soulless terminal with not even a drinks machine for punters except the other side of the entry barriers for ticket holders. Bah humbug, we thought, and walked back to the hotel, via a branch of Lidl conveniently placed across the street, where we bought some coke and grapes, and soem Portuguese Pastel de Nata for old times`sake.
Some hours later we went back to the great restaurant we discovered last evening, just up the street from the hotel. Ju described it as a kind of upmarket Wetherspoons, but the food was several notches up the standard from that chain. So good we went back!
Having done over 15000 steps by Ju`s iphone app we are having an early night!
The Eastern European Odyssey Continues.....