The original plan was to only spend one night in Tallinn but like I was suggesting in the previous post, I did end up spending an extra day there. The city is lively, bustling with activity, beautiful and also interesting (it was under soviet control for a long time) but more importantly it is cheap, a pint of bear is only 2 Euros and a meal is 3. I did not hang around much with the Estonians but those I met were extremely friendly and cultured. The tourists were mostly russians around the streets, but I did not meet any in the two hostels that I stayed in, they mostly keep to themselves, sleep in hotels and eat out at the pricey restaurants.
As is usual after a night out, I woke up with my head up my ass but since the route was short today it was not too much of an issue. Estonia is impressively flat and full of forests. There are only about a million estonians so despite their country being quite small, it is still full of wilderness so I spent the better part of my ride on long, strait roads bordered by trees. On one occasion I decided to take a smaller road both as a shortcut and because the one I was on was not that palpitating. The road was under construction an part of it was paved over but one long section was actually loose dirt and gravel. It felt like cycling on sand, very unstable, dangerous and scary so I had to cut my speed down to 20km/h, which made that part of today’s ride very long. The rest of the road was gravel and dirt but since it had rained in the morning, it was very muddy too; my motorcycle is now very dirty, with mud and dead insects. Many roads including this one bore a sign that said it had been financed by the european union. Estonia has entered the Euro-zone very recently actually, in 2011, and is the first baltic country in so far; not too long ago, until 1991, these countries were behind the iron curtain and under soviet rule.
The road in Latvia looked very much like in Estonia except that it was coastal so it offered glimpses of the sea and had very peculiad vegetation in the form of forests where there were only pines and moss on the ground. It would have made exceptional camping. The traffic on the other end was somewhat scary because people kept passing me between lanes.
I will be spending an extra night Riga because everybody in Tallinn gave me good comments about it and suggested that I only spend a night in Vilnius. Having to be in Berlin on the 9th and spending two nights in Warsaw, my schedule is now fully compressed so I hope nothing will go wrong in between.
I had an awesome time in Helsinki. I met a lot of peolple from everywhere around the globe and even spent an evening drinking with some Finns at a death metal bar. On my way back from that evening, I got seriously lost and it easily took me twice that amount of time it normally takes. I did not get to see the midnight sun, but it never got completely dark at night and high up in lattitudes, the sun rises so early that what I tought was a sun setting (west) was actually a sun rising (east) and it also does so further up north than in Canada so in the end, that got me going in the opposite direction.
Helsinki may not me as beautiful as Stockholm, but it was much more lively with people on terraces, outdoor concerts, markets and such.
My time there did not end very well tough. Finland is in a different time zone and I had decided not to advance all my clocks and always add an hour instead. That idea backfired on me when this morning, all drowsy and hangover from last night, I tought I had set my alarm and hour too early.
I ended up missing my ferry and the company would not give me a refund. I had to spent part of the afternoon in Helsinki and lost quite a bit of time in Tallinn but since I heard so many nice things about the city I may just end up staying an extra day.
While in Sweden and Denmark, I could somewhat read the signs because those two languages share a common ancestor with English I think. Finnish however is completely incomprehensible and so far I do not think I will fare much beter at Estonian. The Finns are all bilingual (and really like to speak English) and everything is also written in Swedish (there is a big swedish Speaking minority in Finland) so it really is never an issue, but I always find it funny to be illiterate.
That was not such a nice camping spot after all. What I tought was a nice camping spot ended up being really close to a quarry and around 7 am, heavy machinery started plowing dirt my way. I packed in a hurry and was on the road in no time direction Helsink. Since the distance was so short, I decided to take smaller roads so really, I was only less than 100 kms from the capital.
Still I would arrive in Helsinki too early so since I was about a 1000 kms overdue for an oil change, I went on the lookout for a motorcycle garage and soon found one that even had the required oil filter. In no time it was over but I could not stop but wonder what kind of garage I had gotten into: they were not only selling motorcycle and and other related equipments, they had a full alley devoted to barbecueing, kids toys and furniture and decoration which, interestingly enough was all themed white.
Now I am going out with another Canadian (whos on a “pilgrimage” to lake Bodom), a Senegalese and two Russians. Sorry for such a short post, they are waiting for me.
This day of was not like any other because most of the distance was done on the sea: I took a ferry from Stockholm to Finland. Yet, it still was not any other ferry I had taken before; this felt much like a cruise. The vessel was more than 200 meters long and could take in as many as 3000 passengers. Inside it had all the kinds of enternainment one could hope for in a cruise ship: shows, live music, a cinema, many bars, many restaurants, a pool, a sauna, a sun deck, duty free shop, slot machines, etc. Since none of that was free, I mostly kept to reading, working and walking around but 50 Euros for a 11 hours voyage, I cannot complain.
The city of Stockholm turned out to be dissapoiting. While I did not try hard making friends at the hostel, the crowd hovering over downtown was much older than that of the other capitals I went through. As a consequence everything was overpriced restaurants and tourist shops. I strongly suspect that the inhabitants of the city do not hang around that part of town but for a lack of a decent map, I could not find out the districts that still belonged to them.
While walking along the pier tough, I made an interesting encounter. There was camper that really stood out the rest and on closer inspection, it had dozens of stickers from countries all around the world on its back and sported a North Dakota license plate. I decided to go knock on the door to inquire and was met by a very friendly american of around 65 years of age. On telling one another’s story, I learned that they (his wife was away visiting a museum) had been on the road for close to eight years and had seen the whole americas (north and south) and were on their way to completing a full tour of Europe. One question that even before our discussion was bugging me was how they got their camper across the Atlantic and apparently, its much more simple and affordable that it seems. All you have to is make arrangements with shipping companies that ship cars around the world (some boats are made specially for this purpose) and as soon as they get a free slot on one of their cargo they will be more than happy to fill it with your vehicle. It only costed him 2500$ and took about two weeks from Florida to continental Europe (can’t remember where exactly).
It is always inspiring to meet this kind of persons and luckily, they keep a log of their adventures at Travelling Tortuga.
I am now sitting in the Finnish wilderness by small campfire I made because it is quite cold out. Tomorrow, I will be in Helsinki. As a matter a fact, I could already be dare had I taken another ferry but I wanted to drive around Finland.
I woke up at 04:30 in the morning and it was already bright outside. That dit not prevent me from falling back to sleep but from that point on, I would wake up every hour. At 08:30 I went out of bed and was ready in almost no time.
The trip today was relatively unventful and borderline boring except for a few stretches of curvy roads. I tought I would be going through an interesting part of Sweden but it turned out to be fields and forests with very little terrain.
One thing worth mentionning that I noticed though is that the swedish countryside looks very much that of the Americas. They have a fancy for big trucks and everything motorized. I cruised along for a while with a bunch of Corvette Stingrays and as we got closer to Falköping, I kept seing more and more American vintage cars until we reached the airport where I realized there was a big meetup. There were a lot of camping cars and trailers on the road too and given the amount of campings around, it seems the Swedes are really fond of the outdoors too. With the occasinal rusty car wreck on the side of the road, it reminds me of home.
I made it Stockholm in the planned time and will be spending the next day visiting the city. Since this post was so short, I will add some pictures to make up for it.