Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Night to Remember


While in Stockholm, we made the decision to skip Finland and go directly to Tallin, Estonia. Nothing against the Finns; we just decided we wanted to get the Eastern European leg of our trip started post haste (and we had used up extra time in the fjords).

To get there, we had to take a 17 hour boat ride upon the Regina Baltica, a ferry/cruise ship. This is a huge business here, with two huge fancy ships going between Stockholm and Helsinki and then another set of ships going between Stockholm and Tallin. Tallink, the company that runs that route had one boat that matches the Helsinki boat for luxury and then a much, much older one. Given our budget, you can guess which one we chose.

Since we were trying to book cabins two days ahead of time on a weekend, we had to get a lot more expensive cabins than we had wanted (more bread and water for dinner!), but even then, they were steerage class. But more about that later.

Of course getting to the boat itself was the hardest part. We took the metro out to the dock only to find out that we'd gotten off at the wrong dock. Given the fact that we had about 15 minutes before boarding concluded (they shut it down 30 minutes before leaving), we were a little worried. After Becca stopped two separate cars in the middle of the street and got conflicting directions, we happened upon a stroke of good luck. She flagged down a taxi and uttered the magic words "How much would you charge to get us to the Tallink boat on time?" The taxi was off and running. The taxi driver, taking great pity on the two wayward backpackers, gave us the 5 min ride free of charge. We made sure to tip her well and then we were safely aboard the boat.

The boat trip itself was quite an adventure. First of all, Becca discovered that she must have watched Titanic too many times, as she had a total irrational fear for most of the trip (I bet none of you who know her can possibly imagine that). Of couse, this wasn't helped by the location of our cabin.

We were on the first (that is, BOTTOM) deck. That would be under the three levels of cars (as this cruise ship is also a ferry), under the water line, and down in an area where you had to push a button to release the airlocks between compartments (as that is how the ship contains water to avoid sinking in case of accident...unless of course you are the Titanic)

Our cabin itself was probably slightly better than standard issue submarine quarters (we'll have to check with Earl on that). Let's just say that one of us had to stay in the bunk if the other one was up. On the plus side, for the first time in a month we didn't have the problem of light keeping us awake all night, and got a good long night's sleep.

The cruise itself was remarkably uneventful. Though Mogens had helped me get some seasickness patches from a Danish pharmacy and I had duly put one on, the sea really was like glass all the way across the Baltic. The first 4 hours of the trip were the best... For that entire time we were sailing through the Swedish archipeligo (another thing I didn't know about Sweden before this trip.)...just hundreds of small and medium islands with forests and some houses or small communities and occasional harbors. We sat on deck, ate our picnic, and watched the sun set behind the islands. Pretty perfect.

The sun set just as we reached open water, so we went inside to play a couple games of cribbage then crashed for the night. After a long night's sleep, we woke up in time to eat our breakfast on deck and watch Estonia glide by. The trip was capped by a picture perfect parallel parking job by our captain as we entered Tallin's harbor. Pretty impressive.

On to Estonia!


Anonymous said...

Now you know what I'm talking about regarding those dreaded trips to Estonia.. The worst thing going down there, is almost seeing an escape hatch going DOWNwards.. wee... ^_^

Anonymous said...

It's too bad you skipped Helsinki, Chelle and I loved it. It was very charming, smaller than Stockholm, but lots to see and do.

One of the more interesting things was the apparent affinity the Finns have for Paella... at the one market we went to, all of the food stands had paella... giant woks filled with it. Some of them had salmon paella... very tasty!

We were also there on the first day of the Track and Field World Championships. Fun to go to Olympic Stadium and wonder around... although finding a tram to get there that wasn't stuffed with Swedes (dressed in full colors, with flags, and painted faces) was difficult.