Frustratingly the Australian on the desk at Monk’s Bunk had told me there was only one ferry company to Helsinki. There are in fact at least four, and he’d given me what appeared to be the most expensive of the lot – Tallink (although that may well only be for my last minute ticket), and the terminal furtherest away from the old town. I rose early, as I’d have to walk across town to the terminal. It was quite warm, and by the time I’d made it around the town wall (hitting some dead ends) and walked down to the terminals I was looking forward to chilling for a couple of hours.
The ferry itself was big – but if you’ve been on Dover to Calais ferries, or even the Interislander in New Zealand, you’re used to this sort. Vehicle decks below, and various shops and restaurants on the other decks, with one floor for cabins. You can go from Tallinn to Helsinki, Stockholm and even St Petersburg (fun tourist fact: arrive by ferry in St Petersburg and you get a 3 day visa upon arrival!).
I was sailing to Helsinki on M/S Superstar at 11am, and the run would take 2 hours. One impressive aspect of this ferry was the bar at the front of it – being three levels high with the entire front side of the bar being windows, making for a great view as you sailed.
The crossing took only a couple of hours, and before I knew it we’d arrived in Finland, country number 57 for me, and the last of the Nordic/Scandinavian countries (techincally Finland isn’t on the Scandinavian peninsula, so Nordic is more correct). I knew from my experience in Sweden and Norway that it was going to be horrendously expensive, and I’d hunted for the cheapest hostel in town, which came in at 20 Euros. Introducing the Olympic Hostel, housed inside the walls of the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games Stadium. The downside being that their instructions for getting there weren’t entirely accurate (one of the buses wasn’t running and the ‘500m’ from the tram stop to the hostel was more like two kilometres. Still, it’s a nice hostel, but disappointing that despite being in the stadium, they have no windows that look into the ground itself – only outwards. I’d quite like to have seen inside.
I bought a 24 hour transport pass from reception for 7 Euros, which was well worth getting as it covered trams, buses and metro, and headed into town – about 15 minutes on the tram, again indicating how this hostel is quite far out of the center. From the stadium down towards the central station is a large park, with lake – which I gather must follow some channels into the ocean as there were some boat docks along the far side.
I didn’t really have much time to do anything tonight, so I briefly stopped at a couple of the central malls in the hope I might find a Kindle (I was ‘helpfully’ told that I should contact Amazon), before walking down to the two main cathedrals and along the docks, scoping out where I’d go tomorrow to see the sights. It was still light by the time I made it back to the hostel, and indeed they were down to only a couple of hours of actual ‘night’ here.
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