So that was it, I packed my weekend bag and jumped on the ferry. Goodbye Helsinki!, Hello Estonia!
Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as that. It was a bit of a Jack Sparrow moment in all honesty, and I don’t mean smooth sailing by that! It was actually unbelievably chaotic, though, that was my own fault.
“Why?” I may hear that little voice inside your head question. Well, I’ll tell you!
A few months back, I finally got around to booking my trip to Tallinn, Estonia. I was purposely waiting until December, as I was desperate to see the Christmas markets in the town square. After thoroughly enjoying my weekend in Riga (Latvia), I was told that if I loved Riga, I would adore Tallinn.
Friday’s were usually just for my German class, which ran from 11 am to around half 1 or 2 pm meaning they were ideal for booking weekend trips. I would leave late Friday afternoon and spend a long weekend somewhere, returning Monday. This was the plan for my trip to Tallinn.I’d booked my ferry for Friday 1st December, returning on Monday 5th. Funnily enough, I skipped my German class that week, as I wasn’t feeling too well. I guess the combination of an over-heated room and the icy cold outside in Helsinki had given me a cold!
So that Friday morning I got a lie in, I had printed my ferry and hostel tickets out a week before, so I knew I had them to hand to show at the terminal if necessary.
The ferry ticket it said:
Departure; 4:30 pm
|Latest Port Check-in:||45 minutes prior to departure|
“Great!” I thought, departing at 4:30 I would need to be at the terminal to check-in 45 minutes before. I scheduled to arrive at the harbor for 3:45 pm.
(Yes, I know. You’ve probably already noticed my mistake without me even having to tell you. I’m one of a kind aren’t I?)
Calamity Jane Amelia-Jayne continued packing her stuff right up until 3:30 pm. It was at that point, I decided to head out to catch the tram that would take me to the harbour, still believing I had plenty of time to board the ferry.
When trying to find the 9T tram (which for the record, I had never caught on my own), I nearly had a breakdown!
I had googled the stop and it showed me a location in front of Kamppi Shopping centre. This was where Kamppi bus station was, and also 3 additional bus stops on the road and 1 tram stop thrown into the mix. It could have been any one of the 20 bus/trams stops in that area. I arrived breathless in front of Kamppi shopping centre, my weekend (gym) bag thrown over my shoulder and was bunching up my heavy coat. I checked my phone again but still couldn’t identify where the 9T tram stop was. It was hard enough trying to establish which were bus stops and which were tram stops, let alone figuring which stop was for where! My geography of Helsinki was still developing, and by that I mean it was terrible. I had no idea of which locations were in the north, or south so I couldn’t use them as directional helpers to which side of the road the stop would be on.
Any normal person would try to read the signs above the stops, to see if they had a tram or a bus symbol on, but no, not me! The way I discovered which were bus and which were tram stops, was by following the tramlines along the road and finding which stops I passed. I attracted a lot of attention from doing this, surprisingly. You wouldn’t have guessed, would you?
As well as the fact, that I was carrying an oversized gym bag, wearing a heavy, thick, winter coat and scruffy-looking jeans, I was now walking in the middle of the road, staring at the ground.
“Another Oddbod tourist”, I bet the Finns thought.
After about 8 minutes of confusion, I thought “F**k it! I’ll ask for help”
My next bold move came when I decided to ask a Finn for help. I’d been warned that Finns were socially awkward, didn’t really like speaking English (as they felt embarrassed) or helping strange looking foreigners but I took the risk anyway. I scanned my surrounds and looked for the best approachable person in radius. Now, do I choose someone old, who probably knows the area best? or do I choose another youngster, who probably speaks better English?
There were about 60 people surrounding me to chose from; standing at the different stops as well as entering and leaving the shopping centre. Out of all the potentials I had judged, I decided on an old-ish woman who was waiting alone by the Zebra crossings. I approached her cautiously, knowing her English might not be that great and I didn’t want her to become threatened. (Yes, I’m quite aware I make it sound like I was approaching a wild animal, but Finns aren’t that bad I promise). I showed the screen of my iPhone which stated the location of the 9T tram stop, and then began to speak;
“Excuse me, do you know where this stop is please?” I ask politely, in my clearest British, but northern, accent.
She glanced at my phone, and then shook her head unrealistically slow. I looked at her and waited, expecting a “No, sorry” or something of that nature. Instead, I got nothing and she just stood in silence, still shaking her head. I quickly became paranoid of people thinking I was harassing her, so I said thanks anyway and swiftly moved away.
By now, panic mode had already begun. It was 3:45 pm and I the check-ins would soon be closing. My phone told me the tram took 10 minutes to get to the habour, leaving me about 30 minutes to get through the check-in upon arrival and until the ferry departed.
Sighing and on the verge of just walking home and giving up, I noticed the 9T tram slowly approaching from down the road. I walked towards it, taking note of which direction it took at the crossroads to keep it in my sight. It eventually came to a stop.
Aha! I had found it! I had found the 9T tram stop by Kamppi centre! (Well that was a lie, it wasn’t by Kamppi centre at all, it was down the street oppsite!)
I desperately tried to cross the road as quickly as I could, but before I did, the tram had already begun slowly pulling away.
What!? No way! I’d found the f**k**g tram stop, but then gone and missed the f**k**g tram! I have no words to describe the disappointment in this moment. Upon arriving at the tram stop, I threw down my gym bag, feeling slightly peeved, and I started the 10-minute wait for the next tram. Bored and annoyed, I re-read my ferry ticket.
It was then, that I realised just how much I had screwed up.
“Latest check-in; 45 minutes prior to departure”
Alarm bells started ringing in my head again. I frowned to myself and calculated. Forty-five minutes prior to departure was 3:45 pm and that was 5 minutes ago. I’d missed the check-in for the ferry, I had visions of the ferry pulling away. I froze. I knew, I wasn’t going to get to the harbour until at least 4 pm now, the next bloody tram didn’t come for another ten minutes!
“Sh*t!* I thought to myself
It wasn’t as if I would just be missing one ferry, I’d also booked my return ride for Monday and booked the hostel! I was frustrated and a little upset, but I knew I needed to hurry up if I wanted to stand a chance at catching the ferry to Tallinn.
Only I could have the entire day free and still miss a ferry scheduled for 4:30 pm.
When the tram came I got on, and took the 10-minute ride to the habour. The tram was full, but people were still getting on with suitcases and bags. It made me think that I stood a chance of catching the ferry, but then at the same time, common sense told me they were probably going 45 minutes early for theirs.
I was frantically messaging my Nan on facebook, asking her how she interpreted the ferry tickets but the connection was slow and I got no reply.As per usual, during a time of crisis.
Once I was off the tram, everybody was racing towards the entrance of the terminal. It looked as if I was right though, everybody else was late for the ferry as well! However, I was still at a disadvantage. All the terminal signs were in Finnish, and that added an extra 10 minutes delay. Once I had found the check-in point, I checked in and had about 10 minutes left to run along those tube like corridors to get onto the ferry before they started locking the doors and sailing away (that was a sight for sore eyes let me tell you now, my jeans were coming down and everything!).
I did eventually make it onto the ferry before they closed the doors, not by running though.It was more of a power walk. I couldn’t run! I was weighed down by my heavy coat and gym bag. I felt like I’d done a 4-hour gym cardio session by the time I reached the ferry doors. I was so relieved to check my bag into the luggage room and get a cold drink from the bar. My mouth was dry and I was sweating heaps.
“Never again!” I thought to myself as I sipped a coke with ice and sat slouched in a chair by a small circular table.
Now, you might think that was the end of all the fun and games I’d encounter for one weekend; that I had boarded the ferry, had a smooth ride to Tallinn, got off and enjoyed my lovely weekend.
Well.You’re WRONG! The madness started again when I got off the ferry at Tallinn terminal. I was greeted with about 2 foot of snow and I’d only packed all light wear in my heavy weekend bag. My scarf and winter coat were the only “winter” items I’d brought as it hadn’t been snowing in Helsinki when I left.
“How could it possibly be snowing in Estonia, if it’s not snowing in Helsinki?” I’d thought when I was packing “Helsinki is further north therefore, colder. If it’s not snowing in Helsinki then it won’t be snowing in Tallinn!”
Yeah, well. Full of surprises these baltic countries, let me tell you that one for free!
Luckily, in the end, I had packed enough t-shirts to layer up underneath my heavy coat, so I wasn’t too cold after all.
As you can probably imagine, I was over the moon when I stepped foot in my hostel. I had a nice cup of coffee and they’d even left me a chocolate truffle on the pillow in my room. I had booked a room with a double bed, but because of heating issues, I was moved to a family room. It had a double and a single, all with chocolates on all the pillows. I locked myself in and ate them all, without a second thought.
“One for each disaster of the day”, I said to myself as I scoffed them and lay sprawled on the bed “Let the weekend commence!”
So that was the start to my weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. Keep a look out for pictures that will be posted soon!