Thursday, 12 June 2014

Into Finland

First glimpse at the Baltic Sea
It was now time to do some planning ahead. From Tallinn I wanted to take the ferry to Finland and this posed a bit of logistical challenge. But Estonia is wifi paradise and I soon found a public library with not only wifi but also computers and a printer - all free of charge and ideal for doing research. There are several ferry companies but I soon found out that Eckerö Line is the cheapest but also has the least departures. Also avoid weekends when ferry prices go up. Eventually I scored a rock bottom cheap ticket for 24 € including my bicycle. Departure was at noon and if I still wanted to see a bit of Tallinn I had to stay overnight. Tallinn hotel prices are the highest I had seen so far on my whole trip through the Baltic States. There are plenty of cheap hostels but no cheap guesthouses or Bed and Breakfast. I finally reserved a single room in a suburban hostel hoping to thus avoid the party crowd. With everything accomplished I was now ready to enjoy my last days in Estonia.

RMK site
I was now in Laheema National Park. The park includes several huge Baltic Sea Bays and a mostly old growth forest. During Soviet times this area had mostly been off limits and was now consequently an almost untouched paradise. Strangely there wasn't much beach access and the few beaches weren't exactly overwhelming but the forest was great. Plenty of hiking trails and even some designated RMK campsites. RMK is the Estonian forest agency maintaining all sorts of installations like nature centres, hiking trails, campsites and even shelters. There is a great English website but so far I have never had the chance to use one of their installations.

Decoration in Kadriorg
I was now trying to get as close to Tallinn as possible with still finding a quiet stealth campsite. Still next morning I had to do 35 km to get into Tallinn. The EV 10 takes you along a nice way into town and I could already do some sightseeing on the way. Coming in from the East you first see the tall TV tower and then follow the coastline into the centre. I would come back to Tallinn after Finland and therefore had no ambition to see it all now. Instead I focused on the sights on the Eastern side of Tallinn. Kadriorg and KUMU. Kadriorg - named after Catherine the Great is a Baroque castle now converted into a foreign art museum. I was most impressed with their temporary exhibition about Eveline von Maydell, a Baltic German artist who had specialised in silhouettes, a rather rare form of art in museums. Equally interesting was her life that took her from being born in Teheran to Estonia and Germany and eventually to the US.

Kumu sculpture hall
Although a very nice building Kadriorg definitely couldn't compete with KUMU, the Estonian Museum of Modern Art. The name is a bit misleading: it houses all Estonian Art in a brandnew stylish building. Admittedly this is the first real world class museum on the whole trip. Not that I did not like the other museums, but they had all been small and rather provincial. The KUMU is different. I was most impressed with their hall of busts. In one room hundreds of busts from different artists and epochs were exhibited - and they were even talking. Tiny loudspeakers created a weird murmur. Lenin was standing next to Barrabas and a German Emporer! With still a bit of time left I visited the Occupation Museum - mainly because its Wilnius equivilant, the Museum of Genocide had so much impressed me. The Tallinn Museum though was still quite interesting but by far not as impressive as the former KGB headquarters and prison in Wilnius. Or maybe I was just too tired after cycling and sightseeing....

So off I cycled to the Academic Hostel which turned out to be much further out of town than expected. The hostel is on the grounds of Tallinn university and also offers accommodation for real students, mainly foreign ones - although the tourists are kept separate from the students. After cycling one hour out of town I realised that I was not energetic enough for my original plan to cycle back into town for more sightseeing after showering and doing laundry. But where could I get something to eat? The very friendly receptionist recommended a student cafe which turned out to be the right decision. Good food at decent prices - and I could finally calm down after a busy day.

I liked the hostel so much that I left a bit too late to get to the ferry. Fighting with traffic and inadequate bike lanes I ran out of time and had to skip every sightseeing in the morning. Instead I headed straight to the port. To my big surprise I was the only cyclist on the huge ferry - and I was the very first one to be led on board. So I led an endless procession of trucks, campervans and cars into the big ferry belly. Bike parking was among some old Euro-palettes. The ferry crossing only takes 2,5 h but plenty of entertainment is provided. A Finnish band was playing loud and very tacky Finnish pop songs and some brave souls were even dancing to it in the huge dance hall. Lacking a suitable dancing partner I took advantage of the free wifi.

Tallinn-Helsinki ferry
When returning to my bicycle I was confronted was an endless row of trucks parked on this lower car deck. Their mostly Russian drivers were sitting on the Euro-palettes around my bike and had guarded it well. My panniers were still there.... I left the ferry between several Russian trucks and was more than happy to be out of their way soon. My very first stop in Finland was at a Lidl. There are no Aldis or Lidls in the Baltic States and I was suffering from decent chocolate withdrawal. In Lidl I was about to get down on my knees and thank God for decent food. Shopping in the Baltic States had been very expensive and food quality not always good. Here I knew exactly what I was getting.

Espoo art museum
I had plenty of time to kill because my next stop was the big City Museum of Espoo. I had decided to skip Helsinki as I had been here before and would have to come back again. I cycled straight to Espoo, where the main museum costs 12 shocking EUR, but was free Wednesdays after 6 pm. Of course this had to be taken advantage off. I dutifully waited till it was exactly 6 pm and got my free ticket to the modern art museum and the city museum. Although I have seen a lot of crappy modern art, this museum was quite convincing - but I was glad I did not have to pay 12 EUR for it. (Better spend it on Lidl chocolate....)

But Espoo is still quite a metropolitan area and this led to the question of where to camp. The tourist brochures said that Nuuksia National Park is at Espoo's doorstep, but unfortunately this doorstep was almost three hours by bike away. The last bit was killing me with relentless short but steep ups and downs. I was heading to one of the designated campsites but when I arrived at 10.30 pm there were still plenty of cars parked in the parking lot and several young kids with bottles full of unidentified liquids were wandering around. No way I was camping there. Luckily it hardly gets dark in June in Finland and therefore I still had some time to find a decent stealth campsite.

Nuuksia park in the rain
The weather forecast had predicted rain and it arrived on time in the morning. It was forecasted to rain the whole day so procrastinating would not do me any good. I packed up and headed to the brand new National Park visitor centre. It was only a 30 minute ride but I was soaking wet. My determination to cycle on that day dwindled. Once I realised that there is free wifi and a good AYCE buffet I decided to wait out the rain in the centre. Cycling a whole day in constant rain at 12 C is doable, but not enjoyable. And an AYCE buffet for 16 EUR is expensive but in this case it was delicious. I was feasting on smoking salmon and roastbeef while watching the relentless rain outside. I am hoping to get to a lean-to shelter in the park tonight and hopefully the weather will improve tommorrow.


Anonymous said...

Hi again,
this highlight might be near to your planned cycling route:

It makes you smile all day, do not miss it if you happen to cycle near to Iittala!

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

One more comment: If you want to have really good dinner for only around 10 euros, look for ABC-market or Teboil. This a patrol stations which also have some kind of restaurant and usually also a shop. ABC-Market can be found in every rather big Finnish city, quite often near to one of the main roads and the city center. Here you can find them:

With best regards,