Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia: Bussing The Baltics V.1

Colorful street in downtown Tallinn

I’ve been having this never-ending internal debate about whether to actively journal my travels on Facebook as I normally do, or to save them and create blog posts later, which I’ll eventually do anyway. Meanwhile, the #AdventurePartnerForLife (at home) has been wondering where my usual entries are this trip, so I figure I’ll go ahead and gets to typing while hiding out from the cold rain in Latvia… It all started with a flight to Helsinki, Finland and a ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. Then, an epic bus tour through the Baltics.


Helsinki With A Head Cold

Without fail, the hours leading up to a departure are always frenzied. I’d only been home from a conference in Austin for two days and, in that time, I went to work, packed, took a kitty to an emergency vet appointment, took myself to urgent care for bronchitis, picked up a car from the shop, and celebrated my ninth wedding anniversary.

Before I knew it, I was in an Uber on my way to the airport to meet up with my dad for another father-daughter adventure. Sick as a dog and completely exhausted. After check-in and security, I had the saddest traditional pre-flight libation ever—a beer accompanied by cold medicine. (It’s tradition!)

Traditional pre-flight libations for Finland/Baltics trip

The good news, besides going on vacation, is that the first leg of our flight was to Reykjavik. It’s an easy, overnight flight and, when you arrive, the airport is small, comfortable, and has the added benefit of smoking lounges throughout. They’re outdoors with heaters, just lovely. The second leg to Helsinki was a pretty quick three and a half hours. (A day later, we’d ferry to Tallinn, Estonia.)

I was a little nervous to hop on long flights as sick as I was. But I’d taken medicine and was able to stifle my coughing fits. (Which would undoubtedly scare my seat neighbors.) Rightfully so, too, because I’ve been pretty miserable. …And I’d say I was a tough chick in general.

The landing on both flights caused my ears to block up so badly, I was unable to hear anything afterwards. It took a solid hour each time for them to pop, prompting a huge sigh of relief each time. The whole process was a little painful, but it’s akin to clearing a sinus after three days, thanking God it finally happened. 

A Day In Helsinki

Coming into the Helsinki airport was interesting since it sits in the middle of a massive forest. The not-so-awesome part is that it’s a half hour or more outside the actual city. At least I get to travel Finland a little, I guess. (Maybe one day, actually travel it. More in-depth.) Our hotel was nice and, since my dad didn’t sleep on either flight, we opted to stay in for the evening and cater to jet lag.

This was fine by me since I was on my deathbed. I did regret the decision later when I was pacing the hotel room from midnight until three in the morning. When I woke up again around nine or ten, I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Blackout curtains do me no favors. 

After my fav European brekkie, we spent the day wandering around downtown Helsinki. Saw a couple of churches and the local marketplace, which was pretty neat. The stands inside the building are all carved wood and teeny tiny. Walked on the city esplanade.

Strolled past Parliament or some kind of government residence and was completely convinced for a couple minutes that the guards were statues. …They were real people. Everything seemed so much more spread out on Google Maps and we ended up touring everything I wanted to see in just a couple of hours.

Helsinki has a couple of islands with what look to be some cool sites just off the mainland, but we woke up late and… just didn’t feel like making another multi-hour time investment. Sooo, Helsinki… not my favorite capital city ever, but not sure I really gave it a fair try either. Don’t know if I’d be sold or bored with another day… #ChangeMyMind.

Exterior of Helsinki church in Finland

A Rollercoaster Ride To Tallinn, Estonia

The next morning, we packed up for a two-hour ferry ride to Tallinn, Estonia. I’ve never seen anything like this ferry before in my life; it was like a cruise ship. It had multiple bars and restaurants and live bands, all for two hours. Maybe because it was international? No idea, but it seemed pretty over-the-top.

There was no open seating to be found anywhere, so we spent the majority of the trip hanging out by our locker. Everyone except us seemed to know what they were doing and took all the prime spots. They were also way more expedient than we were evidently because they had coffees and beers in hand already. Better luck next time.

The sea was pretty choppy and, while I don’t tend to get seasick, I thought there was a possibility that today could be my day. I was getting that weird salivation in the back of my mouth that made me think it was only a matter of time. I tried to get some “fresh” air on the smokers’ deck, but it was the top level and the swaying just seemed worse.

Briefly debated whether a tasty alcoholic beverage would make me feel better or worse. Needless to say, I survived without incident.

Jaegerschnitzel in Old Town

We found our transfer to Old Town Tallinn, dropped our stuff off, and took a wander around the area. I just love a good Old Town, and Tallinn is pretty much the perfect European winter destination. And we passed a schnitzel restaurant on our way, which of course we had lunch at. Can’t pass up an opportunity for one of my all-time favorite meals, Jaegerschnitzel. Things were looking up!

Later, when reviewing my travel book and my “to-do” list, I realized that we saw a bunch of stuff not realizing what it was. Then missed a bunch of other stuff on the way that I wanted to see. Tomorrow would need to be a concerted effort to get back on track. And it was. 

It’s a little like my dad has ADD. I had to keep steering him back on track, reassuring him that we would see lots of really cool stuff if he would just stick to the plan; I’d researched it all. He’s more of a wanderer and I’m super structured. But it turns out I would be 100% right about this.

We found tons of cool alleyways and churches and walked up to the military fortress on winding little side streets. It was a good day with some great photo opps. (There would end up being countless Instagrammable spots in the Baltics, actually.) …And then we had dinner at the schnitzel house again. (But seriously, it’s so good.)

A Perfect Ending To A Perfect Day In Tallinn, Estonia

I was glad to get everything in that we wanted because it was downright cold. After a few hours, my muscles started tightening up and my body just… started shutting down. Schnitzel and rest—the perfect path to autoimmune recovery. And a perfect day in Tallinn, Estonia.

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Cheers, Jordan