Friday, 19 August 2011

Tallinn to Helsinki

In which £9 is paid for a single glass of house wine
And starring a Finnish choir of 200 singers

The ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki was packed to the rafters with shoppers who trawled their trolleys of booze (sometimes stacked 6 or 7 crates deep) through the ‘nothing to declare’ isle and then stood queueing for buses and taxis.  This all seemed rather an unnecessary effort until much later in the evening when I sat down at a café for a glass of wine and ended up paying £9 for a small glass of house red. 

After Eastern Europe, Helsinki felt rather sterile and modern with its towering formal architecture, wide, busy streets and all the prim and properness you’d expect from a Scandinavian capital.  There’s a few nice churches (one of which is carved out of a giant rock – closed for cleaning at the time of my visit which proves the earlier point) and one towering over the main square where, on the evening I wandered around, a choir of around 200 singers were performing folk songs that the crowd below were stamping their feet to and cheering. 

To encourage visitors to spend their cash on Helsinki’s many attractions they have employed the services of a mascot called Helpi who can be seen at various locations around the city dolling out good advice and extortionately priced options.  

I ended up on a boat trip around the main islands outside the city harbour and was delighted I’d not been lured to Helsiniki’s premier tourists attraction - a fortress island – which I could see from the sea was being definitively oversold. 

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