So I’m sitting here this morning having my breakfast of Skittles and Dr Pepper (What? This isn’t your typical breakfast?) and editing pictures of the trip to Estonia and Finland and I realize that I am supremely weird. Not eccentric, not odd, not a little la-la but full-on weird. I WANTED to go to ESTONIA and FINLAND in NOVEMBER!!!! And I’m planning on going to Finland again in late January/early February!!! Nuts. absolutely nuts I tell you!
Anyway, just a heads up to y’all, this is a very picture heavy post, so if you are iPhoning it or on a really slow connection or something, you may want to wait.
So, a here is your promised post about the trip. But, you see, I can’t start on the trip unless I back-up just a little further and show you the trip project. Yes, I decided on a special knitting project just for this trip. And, ironically, it’s a Finnish pattern! (That just happened, I didn’t do that on purpose as I don’t read Finnish [or Swedish for that matter, which is another language that a lot of folks there speak]). Anyway, I was looking for an appropriate pattern that had a heavy leaves design on it for the skein of Wollmeise lace that I have in Orient (I was going to put a link here to show a better picture of the colorway on the Wollmeise site, but alas, there doesn’t seem to be one). Anyway, I balled the yarn which was a rather larger undertaking than I anticipated as they are 300 gram hanks, a tad more than my ball winder really likes.
I ended-up diving the yarn into two cakes and cast on this pattern.
So I had a bit of this shawl started when we went to Stansted airport to take our EasyJet flight to Tallinn. My bag got pulled for a hand search not because of my metal KnitPro needles but rather the 59 Euros in change that I had in the bag (the hubby never seems to use change when he travels thus we ended-up with a lot of it). The security agent wasn’t sure if they “allowed” knitting needles and toddled off with my Wollmeise and project to find out from a supervisor. I had checked the website for the airport as well as the national security site and neither said that needles were a no-no. After a few minutes, she came back and said that the supervisor said that they were ok and that the yarn was pretty. I don’t really blame the agent as the rules about what is and what is not allowed seem to be constantly changing. However, if she had come back and said that I couldn’t take them on, I was fully prepared (and early enough for the flight) to throw a class A fit. Luckily for everyone involved, I didn’t have to:-)
So, we get to Tallinn and it is all very, well, underwhelmingly dramatic I’m afraid to say. The airport could be anywhere. The taxi was cheap to the hotel. The hotel was, well, I guess that the hotel was a bit on the odd side. It had a 1970’s decor style, which meant that we were looked over all night by a large photo of Jimi Hendrix on a motorcycle. That, and the rooms were a hallucination making color of red/orange and mustard yellow. Other than that, it was ok, and right across the road from the ferry terminal.
The next day we were up bright and early to take the ferry over to Helsinki (I know, the travel agent who booked this trip is nuts!) which was smooth and uneventful. The ferries between Tallinn and Helsinki are HUGE, at least twice the size of the ship that I took to Shetland this summer. There was an either 2 or 3 story bar at the back of the ship where we hung out and I knitted.
We get to Helsinki, drop our bags off at the hotel where we are going to be staying that night, and head to the train station to catch a train to Tampere. The train station was a seriously cool art deco mammoth. None of my photos of the inside turned out at all, but here’s a shot of the main entrance.
Anyway, our train finally arrives and we get on. It is the quietest train that either of us have ever been on. You felt as though you should whisper like a library. It also had outlets to be able to charge stuff, which was a serious plus.
We quietly pull into Tampere and sort out where we need to catch the bus to get to the craft show. We just missed the bus pulling away, so we had a little wait for the next one. One of the cutest things were the babies so bundled-up that they couldn’t move at all, their little arms sticking straight out from their bodies like tiny little snow angels. I didn’t take any photos of them as cute as they were as I really wasn’t in the mood to get arrested. However, I did spot a sheep.
It was really quite brisk (I refuse to call it cold, there were no digits falling off or anything!) so the light was really nice.
Anyway, we get to the craft show and meet-up with Malin and Barbro without any incident. The show is absolutely huge, even by my jaded been-to-Rhinebeck-and-big-shows-in-London view. I didn’t go buck nutty buying stuff much to Tech Supports surprise. A lot of the things that people were going crazy for there (a wall of Cascade for example) just didn’t do all that much for me. I like to get things that are local, or very quirky, though I do understand the feeding frenzy for it. I mean, this is a pretty big country and to get to all of the yarn shops would probably be pretty tough for most folks. I did get a few things, but they all managed to fit in my purse:-)
I got a few other little things, but most of them were gifts for other folks. I got some lovely gifties from both Barbro and Malin while there too.
After the insanity of a HUGE craft show, meeting Finnish fiber folk, and just generally being overwhelmed, it was time to go back to Helsinki with Malin. That evening, we had a lovely, yummy dinner with Malin’s younger brother and his fiance in their apartment where Malin was staying the night. We then headed back to our hotel and collapsed into bed.
The next day we got the COMPLETE tour of Helsinki from Malin including a run through of main Stockman department store. I probably should mention that it snowed on and off all day while we were touring, as it did the day before while we were in Tampere. However, it was really cool to see the city from the eyes of a native.
I only picked-up a few things from the various markets that we visited. A little wool, a little food (no pictures of that as I snarfed it later in Tallinn).
That evening we boarded a very different ferry to go back to Tallinn. Now, I should probably mention this for all of those folks who don’t know much about Estonia and it’s relationship with its neighbors. Estonia is joining the Euro zone at the beginning of 2011. This means that it is still running off its own currency called Kroons. Kroons aren’t worth a whole lot. The fast and dirty way that we would convert the prices of things was to remove a 0 and divide by 2. So, say the price on something was 400 Kroons, then it would be about 20 quid. Anyway, Estonia is still a LOT cheaper than a lot of its Scandinavian neighbors. This means that a lot of folks take the ferries from Stockholm and Helsinki and go to Tallinn to buy booze and cigarettes and pretty much anything as things are a LOT more expensive in Finland and Sweden. If you were having a wedding in Sweden or Finland, it would be cheaper to take a big vehicle on the ferry, fill it up with booze and ferry it back across than it would be to buy it in your home country. This also means that Tallinn is a big party town for people looking to get drunk and stupid (hen and stag parties are big here). The ferries have cheap booze because they are based out of Tallinn, so there are actually BIG liquor stores on board where you can buy a pile of cases of beer and they throw in a trolley so you can get it home. A lot of folks view the ferries like “cruises” where they never even get off the ship, just use it as a floating drunk boat, going from bar to bar in the ship with huge dildos or silly costumes (or sometimes both) getting plastered. Now, we had the fortune of being on this party boat on a Saturday night. Lucky us. People were lined-up to the bar in the ferry terminal before we even got on the ship! To say that there were a LOT of drunks aboard this ship would be a gross understatement. I honestly felt sorry for the families with small children because there was really no refuge from the drunken insanity. We didn’t get any alcohal from the ships store, however we did get these, which were so much more fun.
Anyway, we survived the drunken masses and found a great side effect to being amongst the few sober folk on the boat in that we got the first taxi in the line, no waiting! Our taxi ride to our hotel was picturesque and uneventful. Our hotel was … nice. I mean, it was nice, it’s just that we were on the 5th floor up some seriously narrow and steep stairs. It was a bit of an adventure to sherpa our bags up that high, especially the last flight of stairs which were exactly wide enough for one person to go up them. I do not know how they got the furniture up there considering that the windows weren’t big enough for any of it to pass through. The only conclusion that I’ve come to is that they either A.) IKEA’ed it, meaning built the furniture in the room or B.) Built the rooms around the furniture. Considering that the building is medieval, I’m seriously doubting B. However, as billy goat as we had to be to get up to our room, the location of the hotel couldn’t be beat with a stick. Especially for the price. That damn travel agent is seriously cheap I tell you! Anyway, the hotel was located about 2 blocks off of the town square, the center of the old part of Tallinn. The next day we set-out in the snowfall to see the sights of medieval Tallinn.
The next day we took the bus to Haapsalu, home of the famous knitted shawls. Ok, so a word to the wise, if you are going to Haapsalu in the winter, make sure to go on Saturday, as that is when the shawl museum is open. In fact, it seems that pretty much everything is open on Saturday, but not on Monday. To be fair to my travel planner, that is really the only day that we could go, but still…go on a Saturday. And plan to take the 3 o’clock bus back, not the 5 o’clock one.
Of course I didn’t leave Haapsalu without getting a shawl to take home with me!
The next day (our last in Estonia) is a bit of a wizz for me due to a wicked head cold and copious amounts of drugs (see I am the Snot Monster for more about this). We spent hours in Karnaluks ogling the sheer amount of stuff packed into a pretty big space. It was a little weird getting in as you have to be buzzed in the door, making it feel sort of like you are getting ready to enter a sleazy strip club. However, once in, well, I’m afraid that my mouth was agape for the first hour I was in there, and not just because I couldn’t breathe through my nose!
I was so doped-up that I didn’t even think to take pictures of the rest of the store, which has everything. There was an entire room of zippers! Walls and walls of ribbons, beads, cords, bindings, fabric… you name it they probably had it somewhere on the shelves. They had an entire wall of addi lace and bamboo needles for cheap. It was nirvana. Admittedly, a lot of the yarn was acrylic, but there was also an entire row of Rowan. There were deals galore to be had, especially if you were looking at buying yarn by the bag. I got a few things there…
After all of this, we more or less headed back to old town to eat and then repack our bags at the hotel. By this point I was in a lot of pain so rather than try to “do” more of the city we just headed to the airport, where we had a few hours wait. All in all, it was probably for the best that we just sat around and did nothing (well, some knitting after security). Our flight back was on time and our car was still waiting for us in the long-term carpark (I worry about these things). Back home we went to cat litter needing changing and our own bed.