Friday, November 18, 2011


Nyhavn - the most photographed spot in Copenhagen 

Copenhagen is a terrific city! I had a great time and want to go back! I flew from Turku to Copenhagen on Tuesday and returned on Thursday -- just in time to start packing for our trip home to the U.S. on Saturday.

At the Ice Bar in Copenhagen 
It was easy to take the train from the airport to downtown, then it was a short walk to my hotel, First Hotel Twenty-Seven. Had a tiny room, but it was fine, nice view, fairly quiet. The coolest part was the Ice Bar next door. Every January, they create a new bar with ice brought in from the Arctic Circle. It's a complete room, and everything is made of ice -- the walls, a chandelier, decorations, the bar itself, even the glasses you drink out of. They made me put on this ridiculous parka-poncho and gloves, because the temperature inside the bar is -5 Centigrade (that's 23 Fahrenheit). I had one drink, took some photos, and that was plenty of time for me to stay in there. I was joking with the bartender that -5 C will be balmy compared to what the temperature can get to in Finland in the middle of winter!

Tivoli Gardens
One of my favorite things about Copenhagen was visiting Tivoli Gardens, the fantastic park built in the 1800s. Apparently, Tivoli was the inspiration for Walt Disney to create Disneyland. The park was beautifully decorated for Christmas (I went during the evening) and there was a very nice Christmas market going on. I had the best steak I've had in Europe in a restaurant in the park.

I must have walked at LEAST 50 miles during the day on Wednesday. I hit as many historical places and shopped as much as I could before I literally collapsed back in the hotel. There is a pedestrian-only shopping area called the Stroget, and I really enjoyed walking around there.

If you want to see all the pictures I took in Copenhagen, here's the link:

Can't wait to come home and see everyone!



Monday, November 14, 2011

Ready for Winter

Our lovely winter studded tires
We are ready for winter! This morning, I took the car to the tire hotel, where they took off the summer tires and put on the studded winter tires. They stow our summer tires there -- that's why they call it the tire hotel. It took less than 10 minutes for the guy to change the tires, and I really didn't notice much difference when I drove the car back to the apartment.

We also purchased a shovel and long brush/scraper to keep in the car. We've heard stories from others who have returned from flights home to find their car buried in snow at the airport, being unable to get into the garage (we have a one-car garage space across the street from our apartment) because of overnight snow storms, and walking to the parking lot at the power plant after work to discover that the car is covered in ice.

Sounds like great fun, huh? Meanwhile, you wouldn't know winter is coming here, yet -- the weather is still very nice. Mostly sunny and in the 40s.

Baked goods we didn't need
We went grocery shopping at the big Prisma Saturday, and a group of very nice ladies were selling the most beautiful baked goods to raise money for their sons' hockey team to travel to Toronto next May. So of course, we bought 40 Euros worth of stuff that we didn't need. But Tom took it all to work today, so it's good to get it out of the apartment.

I am flying to Copenhagen tomorrow and will return Thursday. Then we are coming home on Saturday for a week -- yay! Once again, it's a roundabout route to get home -- Turku to Stockholm; Stockholm to Chicago, and Chicago to Charlotte. We have a 3-1/2 hour layover in Chicago, so that will give us plenty to time to find a restaurant and enjoy a decent American-style hamburger!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tallinn and Helsinki

Old Town Tallinn
Tom and I took a nice weekend trip to Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki this weekend. We drove to Helsinki Friday evening and spent the night at the Radisson Blu Seaside, near the port in Helsinki. The next morning, we took the Tallink Silja ferry "Star" to Tallinn, which is 50 miles across the Baltic.

Old Town -- see Shrek bottom right?
Estonia has had a turbulent history. Like Finland, the country was ruled by Sweden, then Russia (from 1710 to 1918), then gained independence after WWI. They couldn't hold on, however, and when the Soviets expanded their territory during WWII, they took over Estonia for the next 50 years. Estonia joined the European Union in 2004.

The town has two markedly different parts -- the famous medieval Old Town, which dates back to the 13th century, and the new part of town, which has just come into being in the last 10 years or so (according to our tour guide). We stayed in the new part of town at the extremely modern 30-story skyscraper, the Swissotel, and it was very nice.

We took a combination bus and walking tour, since this was our first time in Tallinn. The bus part went outside of town, to various sights, including the famous Song Festival Grounds, where Estonians gather for a songfest every five years and which also hosts concerts. It is an important place in terms of Estonia's fight for independence, because in 1988, 300,000 Estonians gathered at these grounds to sing patriotic songs since they didn't have weapons or suitable means to fight the Soviets. In 1989, Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians made a 360-mile-long human chain to protest Soviet rule. As the USSR was falling apart, these three countries were finally able to assert independence and hold elections. 

Dragons guard Old Town Hall
Russian influence is still around, most notably in the concrete apartment buildings the Soviets built to house Russians they shipped in to Tallinn. There also are ornate buildings, such as the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Old Town and the Kadriorg Palace, which Peter the Great built for his wife Catherine.

Anyway, it's a very interesting city, both the old and new parts, and we certainly didn't have enough time to explore it all. Guess we'll have to go back!

We took the ferry "Superstar" back to Helsinki on Sunday, and spent a couple hours walking around and checking out the casino before heading back to Rauma.

I'm going to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, next week for a few days, and I can't wait to go to the Christmas Market at the famous Tivoli Gardens!

If you want to see more pictures from Tallinn and Helsinki, here's the link: