One of my goals this semester is to visit and reach at least 40 countries before coming back to the States. In the spirit of spontaneous adventures and fulfilling this momentous life milestone, I decided to do a three country, three-day journey to the Baltic Region and Finland. The plan is to fly from Copenhagen to Riga, and then Riga to Tallinn, and cross the Gulf of Finland via ferry to Helsinki. The trip would also take me to former parts of the Soviet Union and to a part of Europe that is usually overlooked by most visitors.
Disclaimer: I am very exhausted this week, so my writing on this blog post isn’t the best: it’s heavily sequential and lack any sort of humor. I’m also just gonna dump a bunch of photos to compensate.
My flight from Copenhagen to Riga departed at 2:55pm, which was perfectly timed after my 11:40am to 1:40pm Friday class. I rushed from DIS to Nørreport Station and took the 15-minute metro ride to the airport. Throughout the day at school, I hauled my small bright orange carry-on suitcase with me. Many other DIS students also brought their luggage with them, weekend trip season was in full swing.
My flight to Riga was operated by a Bombardier Q400 aircraft, a propeller plane made in Canada. I was excited for the 1.5 hour flight because I was logging in a new airline for me, AirBaltic. Although the flight was brief, the service was good but the thing that wowed me the most was the food. The airline has an extensive dining menu that you can pre-order online. For 9 Euros, I had one of the best meals I ever had on a plane: a salmon teriyaki rice bowl that came with orange juice and a small brownie. AirBaltic also offers tons of cheap flights across Europe but you’d have to go through Riga for them which is a detour.
Landing in Riga was dark and snowy, the sun was already setting by 4:30PM. I purchased a roundtrip taxi voucher for 30 euros at the arrivals hall since Latvia is one of many countries in Europe that does not have Uber. Driving through Riga was mesmerizing. I could really tell that this was once part of the expansive Soviet Union, based on the architecture and the general vibe of the place. It was interesting to say the least and so different from what I’m used to seeing around Western Europe, especially Denmark.
My stay in Riga was fairly limited and only got the chance to walk around for a little bit and tried the restaurant at the 30-dollar hotel I stayed at which surprisingly served a very decent seafood pasta and one of the strongest long island ice teas I’ve ever had. The next morning started as a massive panic attack after realizing that I forgot to switch my phone’s clock to auto, disregarding the one hour time difference. I was woken up my a loud phone call from the front desk saying that my taxi was already waiting for me downstairs. It was not 4:30am. It was already 5:40am. Long story short, I bolted out of bed, packed my bags, even managed to take a quick shower, and fortunately made it to the airport on-time.
Before visiting Tallinn, I was told that the city feels like it’s straight out of a fairytale. And it’s true. As I was walking through the Old Town early in the morning, I was in awe of how beautiful the buildings were. The city is small and compact, so most of the things you have to see are within walking distance from one another. I didn’t have any particular sights that I was dying to visit, so I did the classic walk anywhere I want jaunt and fell in love with the city. I grabbed lunch at a local restaurant in the center of Old Town that resembled a castle dungeon, which felt extremely warm and cozy. The service and the local Estonian food was also wonderful. Lastly, the apartment I rented for the night through Expedia was phenomenal. For less than 60 USD, I had an entire loft-style apartment, equipped with a full King bed, a couch, a kitchen, a well-stocked bathroom, living room, TV, and a spectacular view of Old Town from the gigantic window.
The next day, I decided to stay in until check-out time and literally lay on the couch to watch Netflix. I wanted to spend half the day just relaxing and looking outside the window while half-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. My ferry to Helsinki didn’t depart until 12:00pm, so I had plenty of time in the morning.
The ferry ride to Helsinki was interesting to stay the least. We boarded through a large ferry terminal with what I imagined was close to a thousand passengers. From observation, most of them seemed to be Finns going back to Helsinki after the weekend and most of whom carried massive amounts of alcohol, mostly beer and of course the ever iconic Somersby Cider. The ship itself, M/S Finlandia operated by Eckerö Line reminded me of an actual cruise ship. It had multiple bars, cafes, restaurants, slot machines, a Duty Free, and even offered private cabins just in case you wanted to squeeze in a midday 2-hour power nap. The ride at first was chaotic, people were scrambling to get seats, and even settling in the stairwells. I grabbed food at one of the restaurants, opting for a pre-made half-decent chicken wrap which I ended up regretting since it turns out they had Swedish meatballs, fries, and chicken tenders on the menu. Unfortunately, the menu was in Finnish and was too awkward to ask anything.
I spent the last thirty minutes at the viewing deck on top of the cruise ship, wind chill made it about below ten degrees which was actually not too bad considering I made sure that I wore my warmest thermal jacket. The view was absolutely spectacular, as we got closer to Helsinki, the Gulf became icier and icier, and soon enough, I felt like we were cruising through the Arctic and was in disbelief that the ship could sail through all the ice. We arrived in Helsinki at around 2pm, and had plenty of time to explore the city before my 8:30pm flight back to Copenhagen later that night.
Stay tuned for my video blog on Berlin and then Belgium! Thanks for reading.