I’m trying to think about how I’m going to do this because sometimes people get bored having to read long entries, but I went to four different countries. Hmm. I guess I’ll see what I can do to keep it interesting. Put lots of pictures or something.
Day 1: Around 2 am Thursday morning (May 1st) a private van came and picked us up from the apartment and drove us to Helsinki. It wasn’t a very eventful trip because it was during the night, but there was one time when we couldn’t understand what the bus driver was asking us because he didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Russian and he ended up buying us a giant pack of cigarettes. We laughed, apologized, and typed up how we didn’t smoke and how we misunderstood him into Google translate. Anyway, Helsinki. We arrived around 8 am and there was nobody on the streets. It was like a ghost town. Later we found out that it was a Finnish holiday and everyone had been up partying the night before so they were all sleeping in that day. After we got situated in our apartment and took a long nap and then went out. Kim took us to this island where she told us there were Hobbit houses! The whole island was adorable! It was cold and overcast/rainy but I loved it because it made me feel like I was really in Europe. It almost reminded me of The Secret of Roan Innish. Some of the girls actually found the hobbit houses, but the rest of us kind of gave up :P It started raining so we went inside and got sung to by a bunch of French tourists! That’s not the reason we went inside, in fact we were there way before the French tourists, but it happened. Michaela got lost in the rain so we were waiting for her and occasionally sending out search parties. She finally came and we went back to the apartment.
Day 2: We decided to just walk around and see whatever we came across. We walked to a big white cathedral with LOTS of steps. The inside was nice and clean and very different from Russian cathedrals. They had a huge organ. Then we walked down to a seaside souvenir market. The weather was crazy, almost Utah-like. It was sunny, then cloudy, then it started hailing, then raining, then it was sunny again, all while we were at the market. After the market we went over to another cathedral, but you couldn’t go in it, so we just took pictures by it. We went and got our stuff from the hotel and then took a bus to the airport. Miranda and I had bought tickets for a different flight from everyone else so we waited for our flight while everyone else got on theirs. So our tickets said 20:25 and my brain told me that was 10:25 so we set up to sit for a while, like 4 hours after the other girl’s flight, but around 8:00 my brain wheels started turning when I saw a line of people over by our gate. I freaked out and we quickly jumped into line. I am so glad I realized because we would’ve been stuck in Helsinki. Stupid 24 hour time. My brain doesn’t compute. We arrived in Stockholm and reunited with our group and did another sneaky maneuver into our hotel.
Day 3: Stockholm is so gorgeous. We stayed in a super old hotel that had a super old and cool elevator. It was the kind of hotel that would have a haunted room up on the very top floor in the back. We started the day by going to the palace and watching the changing of the guard. It was so royal! It was so cool to me to be in a country that has a king and not a president, cause even Russia has a president. The guards rode horses and played very royal trumpets and wore bright blue uniforms with silver helmets that had spikes on the top. I mean it’d be cool if it was just a tradition that they carried on just to honor their country, but it was even cooler that they were doing it to honor their country and their actual living royalty. While we were there Megan got hit on and asked out by some old guys from Bogota Columbia and I made a little shoutout to my lovely cousins in my head ;) We kindly walked away. We stumbled upon the Nobel Prize museum! Just going into the lobby was so cool! I never thought I’d be interested in that kind of stuff, but just being there made me want to go watch a documentary or read a book. Apparently Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. There was a chair there that he signed that was hanging on the wall. Meh. I didn’t take a picture. After that place we walked down and explored lots and lots and lots (and lots) of souvenir shops. There was an ice cream parlor there that had a basket out front with all their scrap pieces of waffle cone. We being the poor, hungry teachers that we are, raided it so-to-speak. Ya all that was left was lots of tiny pieces. No shame. As we were walking around I got a swedish flag! Probly one of the only souvenirs I actually bought. It had a long stick that I didn’t think about dealing with when I bought it, but it was annoying the whole trip. I finally got rid of it when we were in Tallinn. So it rained. Lots. Every day. Glad I brought an umbrella though! After we got back to the hotel we suited up and went down to the hot tub and sauna. It was so nice. The hotel reminded me of Grandma Fergy’s condo a bit.
Video of the guard: http://youtu.be/IHh_V1n7MiA
Day 4: Today we walked to the Vasa museum. It was an exhibition of a giant 17th century ship that they found in Stockholm harbor in the 90s! It was SO COOL! I was dumbfounded by how huge it was. I mean you see ships like that in movies and such, but you never really imagine how huge they actually are. The whole museum had 6 floors. Definitely worth going. It was neat to see it and all the history about it and about ships in general. Afterwards we went back to the hotel to get our stuff and went to the airport. We were going to see the ABBA museum but we didn’t. I’m kind of regretting it. I love ABBA. Our flight to Riga took about a half an hour. It was crazy fast. I’ve realized how much I love flying! I like to think about how crazy it is that something that weighs so much can be so high above the ground. Same with boats, I mean I stand on a boogie board and sink, so what the crap physics. Once in Riga we found our hotel and got hit on by a drunk guy that was driving around with his little dog. It’s a really funny story actually. Lots of laughs, ask any of us about it sometime. I can’t type it on here. We found a cute 50s bar that was playing some rocking music so we danced in the street! I’ve just started realizing how much I absolutely love oldies music. 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s. I love it. I also love cities at night when all their lights are on. I’ve only seen St. Pete once at night because of our curfew, but it was when we got out of the ballet. It was gorgeous. There’s something about cities at night that gets my blood pumping and clears my head.
Day 5: In honor of Cinco de Mayo we listened to Shakira while getting ready in the morning. That’s about it. I mean even our resident mexican didn’t really do anything, but we were kind of in Latvia not Mexico so we didn’t feel bad. It’s kind of been nice in all the places we’ve gone to just have a sort of plan and do whatever we stumble upon. This day it was a tiny honey shop. We seriously spent like an hour in that place sampling honeys and buying things for our friends and family. I couldn’t resist. The honey they had was hand harvested by the shop owners and it was pure. I never knew there were so many different kinds of honey with so many different colors, flavors, and consistencies. I’ve never really liked honey that much. I’ve always been a peanut butter and jam kind of girl, and I still don’t think I could eat honey on a sandwich, but on bread, or even just plain, it’s good stuff. After that we wandered over and found a big tower with vines covering it that turned out to be a Latvian war museum. It wasn’t really my slice of cake, but there was a part that had US uniforms and military flags along with our beautiful US flag. Lexi and I got so patriotic. We were singing “God Bless the USA” and saying the Pledge. It was a proud moment for us. We didn’t really see anything else. It was a nice laid-back day. For dinner we went to the most amazing restaurant and pub that the honey lady suggested we go to called “Ala” which means Cave in Latvian apparently. Everything was was cheap and delicious and the atmosphere was so cool! I loved it
Video at Ala: http://youtu.be/eJum8h8sJuE
Day 6: We had an excursion 2 hours out the way of Riga to Cesis which is a small Latvian town that doesn’t really have much, but a big ruined castle! Kim had come 2 years ago when she taught in Moscow and she forbade us from looking up pictures so I had no clue what we were in for, but hoooly cow. It was so freaking cool! It was I think from the 13th century, or something like that. Somebody correct me. and it was crumbling, but there were two towers still intact and we were able to go in one! They gave us a lantern and we were laughing about it at first because it was broad daylight, but dang, those spiral staircases were absolutely pitch black. Kim, Hannah, and I went down a blocked off stairway. It was so terrifying. After we’d explored for a while we played two rounds of sardines. It was so much fun! It was still chilly, but meh, we got to see a castle! After we walked to a pond and fed some ducks and Lexi almost got attacked by a big swan. I was thinking about dad the whole time :) When we got back to Riga we were going to go to the restaurant we went to last night, but it was full, so we went to a latvian cuisine place with a nice waiter instead. I got some yummy, but very dry grey peas.
Video in Cesis: http://youtu.be/oTN2kg_CIKA
Day 7: Today we literally had no plan. I mean we did, but we didn’t go by it. We just kind of did our own thing. Kim and I sat in a big cathedral for a long time. It was so quiet and peaceful and they were playing this very soft soothing music. I felt like I was meditating. It was so nice. We then went to the other three cathedrals. Around the city were these giant snails. The first one I saw was black and I thought it had something to with the museum it was in front of, but no. They were just random snails all around town. I only saw two, black and green, but some of the other girls found more. Later that afternoon we got on a bus and headed to Tallinn. In Tallinn we rented a nice apartment for the weekend. I almost wish our apartment was as nice, but no. I love my apartment.
Day 8: So Miranda’s cousin’s girlfriend, Reesi, is Estonian and she was so nice and came to show us around Tallinn! We took two of our seven dwarfs pictures! They’re so cute. I’m excited to see them. Ya, we basically just followed Reesi around walking all day, but it was cool! Tallinn is really pretty. For dinner we went to a super cheap and dark tavern where all they served was elk soup and meat and fruit pies (piorshkis) They also didn’t have spoons. We just drank out of our bowls by candlelight. It was so cool. The people who worked there were dressed in medieval garb. After dinner Reesi first took us down this skinny alley to a place where there were 700 year old giant headstones! It was so cool! I touched one. Then we went to an Estonian concert in the main square! It was fun, but I probly would’ve enjoyed it more if it were warmer and I could understand what they were singing, but you know, that’s the experience.
Day 9: We didn’t do much, but what we did do was great! We split into two groups of four. Four of us decided to go to the beach and the other four went to this adventure park with ropes and ziplines and such. I’m actually glad I didn’t go with them because it saved me money AND we got to comb the beach for sea glass! It was overcast, but way warmer than the day before. The water was still cold, but that’s how the ocean is. We spent about an hour on the beach before it started raining.
Day 10: We cleaned up and checked out of our apartment then walked around old town a bit. Then we went back to the apartment and ate some lunch then went to the beach again! I got some more sea glass. Then we went BACK to the apartment and chilled until it was time to head to the bus station to come home. But it was good I got some editing done on my pictures.
It was a really great, much needed vacation, but now I’m glad to be home in St Petersburg. 10 days of sleeping on strange beds, couches, and buses really makes you miss your own bed.
I don’t even know: http://youtu.be/4samLl397-U