Well on Facebook I’d truly messed up my counting. Estonia was 34 and Finland was 35. It was a really early start for the ferry to Helsinki, Finland and I was proper cream crackered.
The check in process was so easy, I ended up hanging around for a while but eventually we boarded and off we went. The ferry was amazing, it had everything about from Jane MacDonald belting out some power ballads. It was another warm day (I have been blessed with amazing weather so far) so I spent most of the journey on the sun deck.
I did venture down for some breakfast and had my pants pulled down for a breakfast (15 Euro) which included some funky Estonian little treats as well as the beans, sausages and egg butter (yep).
The ferry out was 2:45 but the one back would be quicker. When I got there I picked up my Helsinki pass which I’d ordered the night before. I had only one (which was really half) day there so I had to get a groove on. I walked to my hotel which was a bit of a mission to check-in and dump my bag. The hotel was 85 notes and closer to city were all ton plus so I decided to only do the one night, but that was going to be tough to cram everything in.
Still, I tried, I basically went around on the hop on hop off bus to do the key sites. I got around Senate Square, Uspenski Cathedral, The Olympic Stadium from the 50’s, the market square, the many parks, the Rock Church, Parliament and the flea market.
With my pass though I was really keen to take the cruise out to Suomenlinna fortress because I am a sucker for castles and stuff. The cruise was quick and cool, and I spent an hour or so looking around the fortress which was class (and still roasting). I then headed back to do some more parading around the town and to grab some food.
When in the market square, I wanted to eat something weird and traditional in the street food places so I settled on Moose Balls (meatballs not their actual balls), vegetables and some weird berry jam which I’ve forgotten the name of.
After that I mistakenly took the evening cruise which was basically sight seeing by boat. It was 2 and a half hours long which was just mind numbing, and it was starting to get nippy out at sea so the whole thing was a mistake to be honest. I eventually got back to my relief and then I trekked back towards the hotel for some dinner.
I am not a huge fan of motoring through places like that, I prefer weeks/months rather than days but 24 hours or less is just ridiculous. I don’t necessarily feel I haven’t done Helsinki but I definitely need to get back to Finland in the winter for igloos, ice fishing etc.
The next morning it was another 8am ferry (express this time) to Tallinn so I could get a coach to Riga, Latvia for my 36th country! The coach I had pre-booked back home and was cheap but was a great journey, proper luxurious coach too.
I got into Riga about 3pm and I’d had a guts full of travelling over the last 24 hours so after check-in I vowed not to look at any sights and just go and park myself in an Irish bar to drink and watch The Arsenal.
That’s exactly what I did, watched the game with a couple of Gooners and the match was proper stressful. I have to be honest, if I am not at the stadium, I absolutely hate watching The Arsenal with anybody else, I’d much rather watch on my own at home. Still, despite the stressful 95 mins, we won and I had sunk some serious cider to get me through it. At around 1am I got myself back to my now 2nd Air B n B which again is decent but smaller, weirder than the last.
Today was 33 degrees, absolute scorcher and I spent a full day exploring this amazing city. I walked the whole route because it is doable here. I started off hunting for the Freedom monument but it’s closed for refurbishment which is probably why I couldn’t find it straight away (it had a huge net and frame around it). Ticked off all the sites, The Laima Clock, The Swedish Gate, The Cat House, The dome Cathedral, House of Blackheads, St Peter’s Church, National Opera, Christ Cathedral and Riga Castle (shit castle). I love Riga because it;’s smaller, a bit grubbier and weirder. I am not a huge fan of major cities, apart from their cool monuments etc I always feel you could be in any major European city (I think this when on UCL duty with The Arsenal too).
The parks are incredible here and I took a random canal/river cruise for an hour which was pretty cool and relaxing and nice to get out of the direct heat for a bit.
After the river cruise I’d gone back to the room and booked a nice restaurant for tonight. After trekking to find it for ages, circling the building 3 times, I eventually found the entrance. The restaurant was traditional Latvian so I was up for some random food.
For starter I had chicken pate with some weird Latvian bread which was decent. It had little pickled onions and a random red pepper with it but first course pretty decent. The main course is where it went full scale weird, I knew the traditional dish was GREY beans, bacon, chicken with onion and sour cream, but I didn’t expect what I got. The bowl I received was exactly what I imagined, the beans, the onions, the bacon and chicken but no sour cream. The sour cream came in a glass alongside my bowl so I asked the waitress if I was to pour it over. She answered no, the traditional way she says is to drink the Sour Cream straight from the glass. I looked at her funny, think she was having me on and took to google to find she was right. The bowl of beans etc was decent but I tried my best to neck the glass of sour cream but it really wasn’t happening. I love a bit of sour cream with a salad don’t get me wrong, but a whole glass of it is just wrong and not happening!
The service at this place seemed good apart from the girl who was doing my table. I am usually an in eat, out guy but I was there 2.5 hours and some guy had to come over twice and remove plates etc because he could see I was getting agitated. I don’t like restaurant staff to hassle me when I am in restaurants so I am not expecting them to be all over me, I just don’t expect to have finished my food and wait half hour for her to clear it and offer me dessert. Thankfully, the guy who stepped in to save the day from the useless girl serving me meant that I didn’t have to spend the night in the restaurant and I was able to get back to the hotel ready for a late nigh viewing of MOTD using the old VPN!
I am in Riga for one more day before Vilnius, Lithuania and I cannot wait until tomorrow as I have a slot booked in the formal KGB office when they held Latvia, it is supposed to be harrowing but amazing so cannot wait for that. May go to the beach too if the weather is as nice as has been so we shall see.
Now, for MOTD and just the thought of Lee and Liverpool fans faces when Watford bang in an equaliser, and Chelsea fans’ tears.