Friday, 14 September 2012

Ferry go round

Earlier this week we made a day trip to Tallinn. The 80-kilometre voyage across the Gulf of Finland only takes a couple of hours so we seldom stay overnight, just the way most of the other people from around here generally visit Estonia. It is such an easy way to have a very nice day off: you just take a ferry in the morning and another one in the evening and if you want to maximize your time ashore you can have great meals onboard both ways. There are several ferry lines to choose from and as far as I can tell, the buffet is excellent on all of them.

It was raining in Tallinn but the old town was beautiful as always. Once again we decided we’ll have to return one of these days and stay for a night or two. To visit a few museums and to really spend some time in the old town that is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

Thanks to Tallinn’s (or Reval’s as it was then called) past as the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League serving as a gatepost for trade between Northern Europe and Russia, the old town very much resembles those of the other wealthy market towns of the medieval League in Germany and elsewhere. Visiting Tallinn, if only for a few hours, always feels like you had been properly abroad, to Central Europe almost.

When the return ferry was approaching Helsinki the rain had stopped and the sun was setting. I went out to admire the scenes from the side deck. Our capital is often called the White City of the North. Indeed, with the cathedral dominating the view when you come from the sea Helsinki looks white and beautiful.

This is absolutely the best way to enter Helsinki, through the Kustaanmiekka strait by the islands of the Suomenlinna maritime fortress that is one of our few UNESCO World Heritage sites. For once, we were lucky enough to experience this passage at sunset. We happened to choose Viking Line, which is the only ferry line between Helsinki and Tallinn sailing this way from and to a port close to the city centre. However, if you make the voyage between Helsinki and Stockholm you will pass Suomenlinna every time.