First impressions of Europe

I would never have thought that my first foray into Europe would be in Finland in the throes of winter! Funnily enough, Damien’s first trip to Europe started in Helsinki too.

I have often maintained that winter is only good for skiing (oh and maybe snuggling under a doona, or curling up in front of the fire) but I have to say I am loving the biting sub zero temperatures and the fact that life seems to just continue on regardless. I had visions of everyone being hauled up inside and not much action to be seen, but people are out and about everywhere and there is a really nice relaxed atmosphere to Helsinki.

Helsinki is a culturally diverse town and you can dine on cuisine from the world over, we noted that Nepalese food seems to be quite popular. However, having scored the cutest, cozy little studio apartment in a residential block, we cooked our own meals mostly. The only exception was a kick arse, chose your own adventure salad bar in the Stockmann department store (think David Jones).

And about the apartment, although we are now in Estonia, we are going to return there for Valentine’s Day before we head off to Oslo. I am glad we will have one more stop there. Because it was residential I was letting my imagination run wild and was channelling, Stieg Larrsson, deciding that this unit block might be like where Salander would stay with Miriam Wu…I know it’s not Sweden, but it’s close enough for me right now!

Ross, my trainer would be proud…I decided the winding stairwell with it’s many landing platforms would be the perfect training ground. However, I scared the bejesus out of some unsuspecting Finn one pre light morning when he found me outside his doorway doing sit ups! ROFL! – almost literally 😛

Although I knew there would be alot that is familiar in Europe to home, (unlike the first time you go to Asia) it is that familiarity itself that can bring you unstuck. You THINK it’s kinda the same, but it’s the KINDA part that catches you out! Like my embarassing experience in the supermarket on our first day in Helsinki. I got to the counter with my washing powder and onion (Damien was making spag bol for dinner :D) and the guy looked at my onion, then at me, spoke some rapid fire Finnish at me and I quickly apologised that I didn’t speak Finnish. It soon came to light (via the friendly chick next in line to me) that I had to weigh the onion before I got to the checkout. But of course, even that involved too many complicated steps for me to easily work out myself. So another nice local explained that you have to find the corresponding number for the vegetable at the shelf, then go to the weighing machine, then press the number on the board above…then, presto out comes the bloody sticker. After all that I return to find that everyone is still waiting in line for me to complete my order. So apologising, and trying to quickly produce the money I needed to get the flock outta there I hand across a note with big enough numbers on it to counter anything the register could throw and me and NOOOOOO!! It wasn’t Euro!! Damn you Singaporean money!

Anyway, our first three days in Helsinki have been awesome and what feels like the perfect introduction to Europe. We have spent time just wandering around seeing what we see along the way and a highlight was definitely when I first laid eyes on the frozen harbour. Wow! That was a moment when I felt keenly how far on the otherside of the globe I was from where I had come! I also enjoyed our little trip to Kiasma, the contemporary art gallery, that had an exhibition on music at the time we were there. The National Art Gallery was also interesting…and free, on Fridays… as it turned out. Nice.

However, as I said we are now in Estonia, having taken a cruise boat ride across yesterday. We didn’t get much further than down the first street in the gorgeous Old Town of Tallinn before we stopped for lunch at a pub called Hell Hunt. The food was tasty and the drinks the same. The house siider was delish… as was my ‘small’  Bloody Mary. Obviously, my idea of  ‘small’  is different to theirs!! The funniest part of the arvo though was definitely when Damien ordered the Smoked beer. The look on the waitress’ face was a fairly good indication to me that perhaps this was not the wisest of choices! Needless to say, it had a unique flavour! Here are some of the statements from Damien as he tried to soldier on after his first shocking taste:

” I am going to persevere as I hope that once you get over the initial yuckiness it tastes OK” he says to me as I sit reclined like a Cheshire cat smugly sipping my tasty Bloody Mary.

Next followed by, “I think if you hold your nose in a certain way it doesn’t taste so bad” you keep telling yourself that buddy, I think quietly as I giggle at his committment to shit.

Then, “Once your senses get dulled a little bit, it’s not so bad.”

OK, after I had stopped pissing myself laughing I suggested that he didn’t have to finish it just cause he bought it. At which point it was quickly kicked to the curb , metaphorically speaking, though I dare say, if he could have he would have!

Well it’s nearly time for our breakfast downstairs at the buffet……….

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