Rain in the Baltic

Day 50 – Tuesday 13th of August – Helsinki to Tallinn (86km – by ferry)

This was going to be my girlfriend’s first long trip on the motorbike, or for that matter, her very first trip on a motorbike, and crossing Europe from north to south was quite a bit like throwing her at the deep end of the pool with no warning. It was going to be a make or break trip, so I was hoping for good weather, even though I was not exactly optimistic about the dark clouds we had seen the day before.

Sure enough, as we rode out of the hostel and into heavy traffic, it started to rain. There was a huge traffic jam on the way to the ferry terminal, and what had to be a ten-minute ride was taking so long that I was afraid we would miss the ferry. If I had been in Russia, I would just have ridden onto the pavement and to hell with it, but we were in law-abiding Finland and there was no space to filter between cars, so I just had to inch forward patiently just like everybody else. In the end we made it to the terminal just in time to board and park the bike in front of a lorry. The rain was getting heavier and this crossing was on open sea, unlike the one from Stockholm, so I asked for some straps and tied the bike down just in case.

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By the time we got to the top deck and the ferry was leaving, the rain was pouring down and there was a gale force wind. Fortunately, this ship had a bigger covered area on the top deck, so we were sheltered from the rain despite not having a cabin.

In less than three hours we were riding off the ferry in lighter rain and quickly found the hostel in Tallinn, right in front of one of the gates in the old town walls.There was parking space right on the door, and as it was just the bike, they did not charge us for it.

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We dropped our bags and just as the rain had stopped, went to explore the old town. Unlike other European cities which are popular tourist destinations, I did not know anybody who had been here before, so I did not know what to expect of the city nor the country. Being an ex-soviet republic, I was expecting something quite gray, Russian-style, but it turned out to be a beautiful, city – the old town was charming, narrow winding medieval streets on a hill with views to a nice, modern, taken care of city.

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We spent the afternoon walking around and then headed for a pub to have a pint of the local black beer, which was delicious.

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Before going back to the hostel, we did some shopping (including superglue to repair my sandals) and then looked for a cheap place to have dinner out. This was a luxury I had not been able to afford since Russia, since prices in Scandinavian countries were ridiculously high, so it was a pleasure to find a cozy place where we had dumplings, salad, chicken Kiev, a pint of beer and dessert for 7€. I love Eastern Europe.

A happy reunion

Day 49 – Monday 12th of August – Turku to Helsinki (302km)

There were only 155km, not 302 between my hostel in Turku and the one we had booked in Helsinki, but I had to check out from the former at 10 am and could not check in in the latter until 3 pm. Rather than get there three hours early and have to wait at the door or a café nearby, as I was not going to go sightseeing around the city in full motorbike gear, I decided to take the scenic route and follow all the smallest roads I could find along the coast. The problem was that it was raining very hard, but once you are wet, it does not matter whether you spend one or three extra hours on the road, so I went for it.

Luckily, the rain stopped in about an hour, just as I left the main road and started following a smaller one down to the coast. I took what was called The King’s Road, an old mailing road from the 14th Century that went from Bergen, in Norway, to Vyborg, in Russia. The sun came out, the roads were dry and I found a gorgeous route along the coast that more than made up for the morning rain. If any of the bikers reading this are planning to travel to Finland one day, make sure you visit this bit of road.

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I got to Helsinki at 3 pm sharp, and checked in at the hostel. They had an underground car park that cost 17€ a day, but the very, very nice girl at reception told me that since it was a motorbike, I could park it anywhere close to a wall as long as it did not take space in car lots and gave me the keys. My girlfriend’s flight was landing at 5 pm, so I had just the time to do some shopping for dinner and find a place to exchange money – some of the borders I had crossed had no exchange offices, on other occasions I was too much in a hurry to look for one, and I had accumulated currency from Romania, Russia, Kazakhstan and Norway I needed to change, as well as some US dollars I was carrying in case of an emergency that I was no longer going to need. I was surprised to find that once I had exchanged all that back to euros, I had a nice extra bit of money I was not counting on.

At half past five, I got to the airport and found my girlfriend already waiting for me. It had been a month and a half since I had last seen her, and although travelling alone had not meant being lonely, as I had met a lot of wonderful people on my way, I had missed her a lot, and I was very happy that my change of route after the incident with the rim meant that we could get to spend more time together on holiday than we had originally thought. My trip so far had been quite an adventure, but I would not really call it a holiday, as it had been physically and mentally exhausting, and I had the feeling that now my real holidays were about to begin.

She had been in Helsinki twice already, so for the rest of my day she was my guide, and we visited the old part of town, which was beautiful. It was not raining, but the city had that very special light you only get to see when the sky is covered in really dark clouds but the sun has already started to go down and it shines under the clouds, lighting everything against the dark sky.

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Back in the hostel, we redistributed all the luggage to make the best of the available space to get ready to hit the road for the last part of my trip – the following day we were going to take the ferry and cross to Tallinn, Estonia, to visit the Baltic States.