Estonia & Finland 2016 travel blog

Dawn lights up the historic wooden Haapsalu Railway Station and platform

While waiting for the GoBus to Tallinn we had time to take...

With nothing open and no one else at the station we ate...

Cars lined up to board our ferry, one of many in Tallinn's...

With a EuroRail discount our €36.00 ticket cards allowed us entry to...

The brightly-coloured MS Superstar was a huge, fast ferry

We wished we could have stayed longer as we took our last...

Eating a picnic lunch from home was discouraged, but we grabbed a...

Navigating across the Gulf of Finland and past many small islands to...

The self-service ticket kiosk at the ferry terminal made it easy to...

Two €2.70 Helsinki Tram tickets, good for 1 hour on any tram,...

The #6 Tram to downtown ran every 15 minutes. Several passed while...

Downtown, preparations for the National Holiday, May Day (Vaapa), were underway


Saturday, April 30: Haapsalu to Helsinki via Tallinn

Weather: sunny and calm all day, 58F by the afternoon

Highlights:

- eating a 'hobo' breakfast before catching the 7:20 Go Bus to Tallinn

- switching buses at Taebla but still arriving early at the Tallinn Bus Station

- finding the #2 bus near the Bus Station to take us to Ferry Terminal D (€2,00/person)

- arriving at the ferry terminal in time to buy tickets for the 10:30 Tallink Silja MS Superstar sailing

- not finding an outdoor table on the ferry where it was warm enough to eat lunch

- waiting in a long line at the ferry dock to buy two 2.70 single tickets towards Katajanokka on Tram #6T

- walking < 100M from the end of Tram line #6 to transfer to the Tram #4 at stop Ylioppilastalo on Aleksanterinkatu

- finally getting lunch after checking into the Eurohostel

- having time to see the sights along Walking Tour #1, Historic Helsinki

- seeing the crowds of students, in their colourful outfits, gathering for the May Day festivities

- finding a downtown K-Market to buy groceries for the next 2 days

- eating a simple dinner of potato, gazpacho soup and frozen veggies

- mapping out tomorrow's walking tour with Hubby

- cold showers because we waited too long or not long enough

- daylight until after 21:30

- Having bought a 7:20 GoBus ticket online last night, we knew we were not going to find a decent breakfast place and we didn't want to risk drinking tea prior to the 2?-hour ride. Instead, once we walked to the bus station, we ate a mini-pizza bread and an apple. It was a good way to kill time -- waking up at 6:00 gave us a comfortable amount of slack time. Our plan was to eat lunch on the ferry.

- The bus driver sniffed at our e-tickets and passed us through. After he had picked up several passengers along the road and had reached the open highway he was not accelerating as expected. At this speed we were worried about not making our tight ferry connection in Tallinn, especially when the driver parked at the Taebla stop and turned off the engine. The other five passengers did not seem concerned so we all waited quietly until a second GoBus arrived. Our driver indicated that we all had to transfer to that bus but we couldn't understand his Estonia explanation for why (if he gave one). Fortunately there were no additional pickups or dropoffs, allowing this driver to make up time and arrive on schedule.

- We knew we had to ride the #2 Tram to the Ferry D-Terminal but weren't sure where to find the stop. The Information Desk pointed us to tram stops across the street, where we found the Tram #2 schedule to confirm we were at the correct spot. On the tram a woman struck up a conversation with us. She was from Maryland but of Estonian descent and her daughter had married a Finnish man. With an 11-month old grandson as incentive, she returned frequently to Finland and Estonia. We had not been able to get a Eurail Pass discount online and didn't want to risk buying the ferry ticket in case we couldn't make all our bus transfers, so we queued up at the ticket window, with 25 minutes before the 10:30 sailing -- plenty of time to get a ticket and use the free toilet inside the waiting area. (Scanning the ferry ticket opens a turnstile gate to allow only passengers into the waiting area.)

The Tallinn-Silja MS Superstar had more comfortable inside seating than did the Viking, but the outside seating was cold and windy once the ferry was in open water. We managed to eat some bread and honey to keep our tummies from complaining but it was too cold to eat a smoked salmon picnic. Anyway, a sign indicated that only food purchased on board was allowed -- a slight kink in our lunch plan.

- The number of non-Finnish speakers trying to buy Tram tickets from the one machine at the Helsinki Tallinn-Silja West Terminal made for a very long line. It gave us lots of time to determine if it would be better to buy a day card for €8.00 each or a single ticket for €2.70 and check the transit map to figure out which trams to ride and where to transfer to reach the EuroHostel in Katajanokka. Several 6T trams, which run every 15 minutes, came and went before we had a ticket, good for one hour. Our transfer point at the end of the #6 Tram line was Ylioppilastalo, which we found around the corner on Alexanderinkatu. We rode the #4 Tram from there Katajanokka.

What we learned today:

- how to read a Helsinki bus/tram schedule

- realizing that all Helsinki street names and bus/tram stop names are in Finnish and Swedish

- watching other shoppers to see how to weigh and tag produce

- Traditionally, when Finns graduate from high school (a big accomplishment in earlier times) they receive a white cap to wear on May Day. The white caps are so common now that even statues wear them, as do many people celebrating this National Holiday. A good indication of how long ago the person graduated is how yellowed their hat is.

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