A Travellerspoint blog

Day 90

Our Last Blog entry for our European vacation

sunny 24 °C

Our last blog entry for our European vacation.

Wednesday June 29th we got up and got ourselves organized, had lunch and headed to the airport where we turned in our Skoda Fabia.

We got checked in to Iceland Air for our first two legs of our journey back to Canada.

Airplane in Helsinki Airport

Airplane in Helsinki Airport

Both flights left the airport late which meant that when we deplaned from the first flight the second flight was already loading. We were pretty stressed as we needed to go through a passport control but luckily there was a special line for Canadians and United Kingdom passport holders. We got through that pretty fast and walked with all speed possible to our departure lounge. We were among the last six people boarding the plane.

Then the plane sat on the tarmac for at least another 1/2 hour so who knows if we could have still made the flight if we had taken the time to find a washroom.

We arrived safely in Toronto and went through all the steps through customs despite the fact that all of the self-clearing kiosks for passport control were out of order, so we had to stand in the big long line and then go through customs and then claim our luggage and find the Air Canada check-in, which is another gong show even if you use their self check-in kiosks, as you then have to get in the big long line to baggage drop-off. We survived. Just go to your happy place and all will be well. We had a few minutes to browse the shops and sit to catch our breath before our flight was called for boarding. We got home a few minutes early even after all that. We arrived home 25 hours after we got up on Wednesday morning. We had sunshine most of the day as we followed the sun west across the earth. We changed our watches back 9 hours during the trip.

We got our luggage unpacked, brushed our teeth and collapsed into bed.

We still woke up at 7 AM which is our habit. We spent the day dealing with banking and shopping and yard work. We got a chance to speak with our neighbours and let them know we were OK and to catch up on what was going on with their lives. We also had a chance to talk with grandchildren and siblings.

Our niece and nephew had explained to us about the white bear looking character that children in Finland love. There is a series of books written by Tove Jannson which is very popular with Finnish families. You can buy these books in English as well. You can also buy almost anything with Moomin on it. We thought you all would like to see what Moomin looks like.

Moomin

Moomin

We also learned that Finnish women (our niece said Finnish war brides) invented a dish drying rack which is installed in a cupboard that hangs over your kitchen sink. You wash your dishes and then stack them in this dish drying rack, close the doors and go on with your day. Every place we stayed at in Finland had this feature as well as many other Scandinavian countries. Yeah women!

Dish drying rack Finnish invention

Dish drying rack Finnish invention

We have our mail held while we are away and in the past this has worked very well and the day after we get home our mail is there for us. Not this time and the posties are going on strike tomorrow so who knows where our mail is and how long it will take for us to get it. We are not impressed.

As a wrap-up to our trip we thought we would share a few observations.

Traffic lights:

First you have a green light, then a yellow light and then the red light. Before the green light appears again you will get a red and yellow light at the same time and then the green light. Be ready to go when the red/yellow combination appears as the cars expect to be moving when the green shows up.

Driving habits:

You will get a lot of horn-honking in Italy, in particular, but some other countries as well but not in Finland, as it is against the law to use the horn for anything other than warning of approaching harm. We found that all of Scandinavia has much calmer drivers.

There are NO right hand turns on red lights anywhere in Europe so don't even think about it.

There are roundabouts most often instead of traffic lights although there are traffic lights as well. You need to learn which lane to be in to exit on the exit you want. The easy ones only have one lane. You must signal when you reach your exit so the other cars know what you are doing.

Most cities will have a no-traffic zone that you may not drive in even if your GPS sees a road there and insists that you drive there, and if you bypass that street will take you around and try to get you to go there anyway.

There are environmental zones in some cities and you must have your car inspected and have a sticker that says your car is within the environmental specifications.

There are toll roads in many countries. You must purchase a sticker for your car for that country which pays for so many days of tolls or, as in the case of Norway, register on line and Norway takes the tolls from your credit card as you go through those areas.

There are very few parking spots on street, in parking lots or parkades. All parking spots are small. We would need two spots to park the cars we drive at home.

Some parking garages are subterranean.

Cars are all small. If you plan to be in an area with hills and mountains you need to think about the size and power of the motor in that small car or you will be in first gear before you get to the top of the hill or mountain.

Bedding:

Most Europeans, but not all, will have two sets of bedding on each bed meant for two people. Each person gets a bottom sheet, quilt and a pillow. These will both be on the same bed sometimes with separate mattresses or pad type mattresses.

Buildings:

A lot of the stairs in buildings will be circular, which is an added challenge to haul your suitcase up to your room.

There are few buildings with elevators and if there are elevators, except for the newest buildings, they will be very small.

Air conditioning is almost unheard of. So is central heat once the owners of the buildings feel that summer has arrived. We did have some nights of being too hot even with the windows open and some nights we were too cold and we had to wear our clothes to bed.

They have the best windows in most buildings that we were in. No screens on those windows so be prepared for bug bites at night in some areas. We should have such windows in Canada, maybe there are but we have not found them.

You may find a washing machine in your accommodation if you are staying in a vacation rental but almost never a dryer. You need to dry your clothes on racks placed out one of your windows. We found that tracking down a rare laundromat was the best way to go.

Bidets are in every bathroom in Italy. Sometimes found in other countries but for sure in Italy.

Men wear:

Men wear what we would call capris or clam diggers or pedal pushers. They look very casual but we are unfamiliar with that as we are used to men in pants or shorts.

Women wear:

Women wear scarves a lot. Sometimes for warmth and sometimes as an accessory. There are thousands of them for sale particularily in market stalls.

It was a great introduction to Europe, a great 90 days but we are still happy to be home.

Posted by A-RPoulton 09:36 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 89

Our last day in Finland

sunny 24 °C

Yesterday was our last day in Finland. Today we are getting organized and leaving our apartment before noon to return our car to the rental agency and to board our first flight of three that will get us back to home.

In the morning we drove to the Marimekko factory store. Marimekko is known world-wide for its beautiful designs. They sell fabric, bed and table linens, clothing and purses and bags. They also have a line of paper napkins (serviettes). While we were very impressed with their fabrics, colour and designs, there was nothing that jumped out and said "buy me, buy me" so we left the shop empty-handed.

We drove back to our apartment and had lunch. After lunch we were reading the Lonely Planet book Finland which our niece had lent us. We discovered that there is a medieval city 30 kilometres from Helsinki named Porvoo.

We drove out to Porvoo. It was a warm and sunny day. We had a very pleasant afternoon wandering through the ancient streets and looking at the market stalls and popping in and out of the shops.

Porvoo 1346 to 2016

Porvoo 1346 to 2016

One of the stories about Porvoo in the Lonely Planet book states that the King of Sweden was passing by Porvoo and the local citizens wanted to impress him so they painted the riverside buildings with ochre.

Finland has been ruled by Sweden and Russia at various times.

Riverside buildings originally painted with ochre to impress the King of Sweden

Riverside buildings originally painted with ochre to impress the King of Sweden

The city is also known for its cathedral. Porvoo is the seat of the diocese of Borga of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. This church was built in the 15th century. Our niece said that she toured this cathedral as part of her architecture training when she was a student here. The roof is known for its unique structure.

Front of cathedral

Front of cathedral

These are some of the sights we saw in Porvoo.

Street scene of wooden buildings

Street scene of wooden buildings

More upscale homes in Porvoo

More upscale homes in Porvoo


Bar and grill boat

Bar and grill boat


Boat shaped planter

Boat shaped planter

We stopped for an ice cream treat and then walked back to our car. We took this picture of the river on the opposite side of the bridge from Porvoo.

View of the river on the other side of the bridge from Porvoo

View of the river on the other side of the bridge from Porvoo

When we got back to Espoo and our apartment we got ready to have supper/dinner with our niece and nephew. We spotted this art work near our parking lot as we waited for our nephew to pick us up. How could we have missed this when we were in and out of the parking lot for four days?

Art work by our parking lot

Art work by our parking lot

We went to a popular restaurant in downtown Helsinki that is famous for its traditional Finnish menu. We had a tasty supper and great company. After supper/dinner we drove to our niece and nephew's apartment to meet their cats and enjoy a lemon-flavoured dessert. We had a tour of their apartment building. The basement of the building has bomb shelters in it which is used today as storage. The storage structures must be so constructed as to be removed within twenty-four hours of any declaration of war. Our niece says she finds it odd to have to design buildings with bomb shelters even today as it is part of Finland's building code.

All too soon it was 10:30 PM, it was still light outside and time just slipped away. We got a ride back to our apartment and said our goodbyes. We had a great time in Finland.

Posted by A-RPoulton 00:47 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Day 88

A ferry trip to Tallinn, Estonia

rain 21 °C

This morning we drove over to the Silja ferry terminal and caught the "Super Star" ferry over to Tallinn, Estonia. This is our 14th country on this trip. This is a two-hour ferry ride.

Reta took pictures from an outside deck of a few of the islands we passed on our way out of Helsinki harbour.

Passing islands on the way to Tallinn

Passing islands on the way to Tallinn

Passing islands

Passing islands

When we arrived at Tallinn the weather was grey and foggy. We had lunch at a burger restaurant. We then found our way to the "old town" and a few shopping centres. After lunch we had continual rain, so it was not fun visiting the market stalls which sell crafts, but we did our best.

We stopped in a restaurant for a drink and decided to return to the ferry terminal.

When we got to the terminal we found that a ferry was heading for Helsinki. It was not the ferry we had booked passage on but a ferry belonging to the same company. We were able to transfer our tickets to the earlier ferry.

We spotted this "royal" couple posing with ferry passengers as we walked to our ferry.

A Royal couple on stilts in Tallinn

A Royal couple on stilts in Tallinn

After boarding the ferry we went to the shops and picked up a few items and then went to one of the better restaurants on board the ferry and had a great steak supper.

We found a place to sit in one of the lounges. The rest of the passengers in that lounge were focusing on a soccer game between Spain and Italy. Italy was winning 1 to 0 when our ferry docked. We found out on the internet after we got back to our apartment that Italy won 2 to nil. Spain was the European Champion for the last eight years and have now been deposed. Quite a "feather in the cap" for the Italy team.

We had one problem when we got off the ferry. We were at the "Olympiad" terminal and our car was at the "western" terminal. We had thought of walking back to our car but as it was pouring rain we chose to hire a taxi. That was certainly the best decision as it turns out that these terminals are three kilometres (45 minute walk) apart and it would have been very miserable in the rain.

So now we are back in our apartment and dry and warm.

Posted by A-RPoulton 13:06 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Day 87

A day around Helsinki

semi-overcast

This morning our niece and her husband picked us up and we toured their home city of Espoo and Helsinki.

Lunch time found us at Haltia, The Finnish Nature Centre, which is on the west side of Espoo. We had an excellent buffet lunch and were able to get a table on the deck to enjoy our dessert and coffee (for Reta, water for Art).

After lunch we toured the nature centre. Construction started in 2011 and was completed in about 18 months. We could not find the date that the exhibits opened. This is a relatively new centre. The exhibits were all very interesting and very well done. We enjoyed the displays and even crawled into a bear's den.
View from Haltia, The Finnish Nature Centre

View from Haltia, The Finnish Nature Centre

We had not been able to get a good photo of typical Finnish fences so we were happy to find one at the centre.
Example of typical fence in Finland

Example of typical fence in Finland

There was also an excellent exhibition of nature photos done by 60 women from Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Art noticed that the exit area had a display of hiking boots strung from the ceiling. His comment was "Isn't that a kick in the head". So Reta took a picture of him but he said he was really too short for the picture to be effective.

Hiking shoes decoration at nature centre

Hiking shoes decoration at nature centre

There is also a tower that gives you a good view of the surrounding nature. There are also many interesting hikes that can be taken from the nature centre.

We then moved on to a tour of Helsinki and a stop for a drink at the top of the tower on the Hotel Torni. We enjoyed our drink with views of the city and surroundings. Reta left her camera in the car, oops, so, sorry, no photos from the top of the tower.

We continued our tour past some beautiful old homes, the harbour and back to our apartment.

We had a good day with our niece and her husband and very much appreciate all the things they shared with us.

Posted by A-RPoulton 12:23 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Day 86

A stop at a Bronze Age burial site

semi-overcast 24 °C

This morning we left Rauma. We had a restful night in spite of the festival. Our fellow hotel guests were very quiet when they returned from their music festival.

We drove to the Sammallahdenmaki World Heritage Site. Archaeologists feel this area of about 36 hectares was inhabited from 1500 - 500 BC. There are about 30 burial sites. The findings show that bodies were cremated and then placed in pottery and covered in rocks. Some of the burial mounds did not produce human remains while others did. The archaeologists had the remains tested which gave the time frame that this area was occupied.

We felt that some of the caches had been opened and then closed again to give today's visitors the impression of what these sites might have looked like.

We had a nice walk in the woods wandering from one site to another. We did not visit all the sites.

Bronze Age burial cache

Bronze Age burial cache

Reproduced Bronze Age cremation site

Reproduced Bronze Age cremation site

Bronze age burial grounds

Bronze age burial grounds

We took a picture of what typical Finnish forest looks like.

Typical Finland forest

Typical Finland forest

Reta liked the puffy yet lacey moss that we found as we wandered through the woods.

Interesting moss

Interesting moss

Larger patch of moss

Larger patch of moss

Today we traveled through forest with rocks and lakes and then into an area similar to "parkland" Saskatchewan where agriculture is practised.

We found our apartment in the city of Espoo which is a suburb of Helsinki.

Posted by A-RPoulton 10:13 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

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