Saturday, 1 October 2016

Rastila Camping, Helsinki - Friday, 30 September

Up really early to get to West Harbour by tram and Metro. Our ferry to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, left at 8.30. We had a cabin, reserved as we went in, and it was nice because it was quite a choppy crossing and I find that the best thing to do when the ship is heaving around is to lie down. Anyway, if I'm going to be sick then I'd rather have privacy. However, all was well.

We walked into Tallinn, which wasn't far from the ferry terminal. We had a few sights to tick off. First was St. Olaf's church, a massive structure completely hemmed in by closely packed streets all around. Then we were in need of a pick me up. A café beckoned, the Bogapott. Here, we had excellent coffee and a slice of Tosca cake each. This was a meld of dried fruit and nuts on a marzipan sponge base. Definitely one to be replicated at home.

Next was the Alexander Nevsky cathedral, onion domed, and filled inside with icons and lots of gold. We then walked through to the Raekoja Plats (town hall square), lined with ancient pastel-coloured buildings, most of which seemed to be restaurants which spilled out into the square. The sight of the restaurants reminded us that it was lunchtime and we didn't fancy eating later on the ferry, particularly if if was going to be choppy. Nor were we tempted by any of the restaurants with photos of the meals on offer and/or where staff tried to get us to go in.

Having rejected a few others, we liked the look of the menu of the Olevi restaurant in Olevimägi, entered by descending steep stone steps into a cellar. It had a slightly eastern feel to it but we took to it right away. We both started with a lovely fish soup.  I then had stewed wild boar (a casserole) topped with mashed potato and a side dish of red cabbage and berry sauce. Amanda had Estonian pork cutlet. We were both very pleased with our choices and stayed quite a long time feeling very relaxed.

Emerging from the restaurant, we though we would gradually make our way back to the ferry terminal but I was attracted by another church to visit. This was the church of Saint Nikolai the Miracle-Worker, orthodox and all very ornate inside; not mentioned in Lonely Planet but it ought to be.

The ferry back to Helsinki was actually a little calmer than this morning. All in all, an excellent last day in Finland. Tomorrow we take the ferry over to Germany.

We were up at 6, and away before 6.30, on a very dark and blustery morning, to take our now familiar Metro and tram route to the Vastra Terminal, in slight trepidation this time given the weather. When we got there I went straight to the Eckerö Line Desk and booked us a cabin for both legs of the trip. Look at it as an insurance policy, I told Geoff.

It was definitely a good move. There was plenty of rolling motion for most of the two and a half hour crossing to Tallin, and it was much more comfortable to be able to lie down and enjoy the peace and quiet. The ship, MS Finlandia, can take 2000 passengers, and all the bars and restaurants, where nearly all the available inside seating is to be found, were looking pretty full. We have been so spoiled on our quiet ferry journeys!

Once we had arrived, it was great to be able to walk from the ferry terminal straight to the Old Town. The few spots of rain quickly passed, and we had alternating cloud and patchy blue skies for the rest of the day. Our first stop was St Olaf's Church (Protestant), with a roof as high as many cathedrals. From there we wandered the streets, making our way towards the Upper Old Town, where the Orthodox Andre Nevsky Cathedral and the castle are to be found. Visitors enthuse about Tallinn, and understandably so, but in some ways it is little different from other lovely towns we have seen around the Baltic.

Where it is unusual is in the way the medieval city walls, and their turreted towers, are all mixed in with the later buildings, and the large number of churches in such a small area. As well as the Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic cathedrals, there are numerous churches of all three denominations.

Coffee was much needed by this point, and we came across Bogapott, a shop, cafe and pottery studio, quirky and delightful. There we enjoyed a large coffee, and a slice of Tosca cake, a Swedish speciality that was new to us and quite delicious, all served in and on pottery made on the premises. From there it was a steep climb through an entrance in the wall and up a cobbled hill to the Orthodox cathedral.

From there we followed our noses down to the Lower Old Town via steps going in all directions and on to the Town Hall Square, with its grand buildings and restaurants, and along Pikk, the Main Street of old merchant houses.

By this time we were on the lookout for somewhere to have a late lunch that would see us through the evening as well, not wanting to risk a meal on the ship in case the crossing was a bit rough again.We looked at a few places that didn't really grab us, but then stumbled across Olevi Restaurant where a dive down some steep stairs into a cellar took us into another world; smart, dimly candlelit and comfortably furnished. The traditional Estonian menu was appealing., and we were the only ones there, although two other tables were filled while we were eating. Stefan, our waiter, was excellent. He is clearly called upon to handle any English speaking customers. We both had an amazing fish soup, then Geoff had a wild boar dish, and I had an Estonian pork dish, both very good. Strong coffee rounded the meal off nicely, and it was all very leisurely and comfortable.

We made a conscious decision not to try and do museums today, and contented ourselves with spending a while longer pottering through the streets, and a look inside St Nicholas Orthodox Church. Then it was time to brave the Friday night crowds, waiting to board the ferry, which was 30 minutes late arriving. Great to know that we could retire to our own little haven in our cabin, have a shower, and relax for the duration of the journey. Plenty of movement still, but not as much as this morning.

It has been a very pleasant and memorable way to spend our last day before starting the journey homewards, and Tallinn is definitely worth seeing. With at least three ferries doing three return trips each every 24 hours, not to mention the cruise ships, it must be a bit of a nightmare in the summer, though. The ferries are well known for their weekend booze-cruises and hen/stag parties!

Back 'home' by 10.30, and after a welcome mug of tea, ready for bed after a long and satisfying day.

No comments:

Post a Comment