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Tales from the Scrapbook! This journal is mainly to post some photos of my travels.

Helsinki and Talinn

FINLAND | Wednesday, 30 April 2008 | Views [724]

I arrived in Helsinki on a wintery afternoon after a 10 hour flight from Shanghai. I wasn't totally wrecked as the time difference was only five hours so that was ok. I was still seething from being stung big-time for excess luggage!

The first thing that struck in Helsinki was how laid back the Immigration process was - it's sometimes taken longer dodging the quarantine dog down at Hobart Airport!

Thankfully all my gear arrived and I got a bit of help from the tourist info desk and then jumped on a bus into the city. It was raining slightly and wouldn't have been much over 5 degrees so I was keen to get to the hostel asap. After a bit of a search for the correct tram I found the hostel down near the port. The reception staff told me that Jazza had already checked in so I rocked up to the room to find the big fella out to it - so nothing much had obviously changed since he'd left Australia in 2007! It's fair to say he's been in a highly cultivated paddock!

We exchanged stories about the past few months and had quite a few good laughs before heading out to grab a bite to eat. On first impressions the city seemed quite good - really small though and it was pretty apparent that we wouldn't need four days here. About 10pm (3am Shanghai time!)I called it a night whilst Jazza kicked on to watch some soccer.

The next day we cruised around the city checking out its few highlights (there really isn't a great deal to see or do here - I assume it comes to life a bit more in the summer!) which included the Olympic Stadium and this island just off the tip of the port which was a fortification to stem attacks from the Swedes and the Russians. Both were OK but it was that cold it was quite a struggle to take the camera out of my bag! The one thing I really loved about Finland were the friendly people - every person we spoke to would go out of their way for us which was really good. Not to mention that quite a few of the population are glamourous blondes either, particularly around the University where we stumbled into the Cafeteria for lunch!! One night we met up with another Australian girl who was staying at our hostel who was enroute to the UK. We grabbed a bite to eat and then checked out a few of the bars around the traps. We found a couple of really decent places which were good to see and met some more friendly locals.

We had a slightly slower start the following day which was fine as we weren't catching the boat to Talinn until 12.30. I had a quick look around this local food market before going back to get Jazza and head down to the port which was really close to our hostel. The trip across to Talinn took about 1hr 40 and was really smooth (for which I was very grateful). Jazza had nailed this good deal with accom in Talinn which was a four star hotel and a nice upgrade from the hostel.

We dropped off our bags there and then cruised into the old town which is stunning. It's very small though and I'd say that two days would be all you'd need here too (although Jazza was keen to sign up for citizenship having met some of the locals!!). There is a good lookout called Toompea which was worth the climb up. Many a restaurant option to be had and some quality bars too. The locals we ran into were really friendly too (although Jazza wasn't too happy to be hounded by this girl who he wasn't that enamoured with - i was quite taken aback by this given the stories he'd told me about his travels to date!)

The following day we found a spa centre which was a great way to kick back and relax. Mind you the walk back to the hotel with piercing windy conditions soon snapped us out of that mode! It was quite funny when we returned to the hotel as we realised that the cleaning maids had disregarded our 'do not disturb' message on the door and proceeded to clean the room - in the process they had taken 20 Euros from next to Jazza's bed (we assume they thought it was a tip meant for them!!) plus they'd also thrown out a couple of business cards which had the email addresses of the locals who we'd met the night before. Jazza was more fired up than a three-quarter time spray from David Parkin! To compound matters, Jazza realise he'd lost his credit card so he had to ring back to the UK to cancel that.

We had dinner in a great restaurant which was underground and felt like it was carved out of rock. The prices here are very reasonable too. If you make the trip over here, the Stereo bar is really decent (it's all white and looks like a radio - hopefully Jazza has now twigged as to why it is named the way it is!). You can even play playstation over the bar (massive screens in the background!).

I had to fly out from Helsinki so at 8am the next morning I caught the ferry back over. It was calm once again so I was extremely lucky. I grabbed my remaining bag from the hostel and did a quick repack (which basically involved me cramming as much stuff as I could into a jacket to reduce the weight of my bags!) and then headed to the airport.

Thankfully the check-in staff were a lot more pleasant here than in Shanghai and they didn't sting me for the excess baggage this time around (although I may not have been over this time given i was taking a lot more stuff on the plane with me and i'd offloaded some shoes and stuff with jazza)and they even offered me an exit row which went down a treat.

The flight to London was pretty much on time but air traffic control meant that we circled around London for almost an hour waiting for clearance to land. Still, at least it gave a good chance to see London from the air.

So it was a bit of a reality check to arrive in London after being a tourist for the past couple of weeks but it was still exciting arriving here having been keen to do this for quite a long time.

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