Euro Love Train part 6 18th July 2018: Helsinki to Tallinn

About 10 hours after leaving the Åland islands and 5 or so after going to bed I'm like, oof, what's that in my head? Feels ... wait ... oh, god damn it – it's a hangover. Unbelievably it's the first of my trip, having gotten up on all the previous days feeling fine but exhausted. But now my head is saying "you know those last pints of dreadful lager in the horrible club? Yeah, go back in time and don't do those".

Ah well. The ensuite shower in the cabin is remarkably powerful, restorative and invigorating, setting me up to go on a hunt for breakfast. Stoy has broadcast his attendance in the buffet and I reach the entrance but there's a queue of like 12 or so waiting to go in and inside looks like a fucking zoo. I don't feel hungry enough to cope with that so bollocks, I'll just go for a wander. Walking back past the terrible taco vendor there is a radio on which is playing that David Hasselhoff song about freedom and I feel like knocking down a wall. On deck I find Andrew who informs me of the location of a coke zero vending machine.


Every bit as restorative as the shower, I'm now totally back on the game. Andrei has stirred and we're going into a cafe for some pastry and a coffee except at that same moment it's decided someone needs to go buy border-crossing-booze in the duty free shop, and that someone is me. Well, me and Andrew: 3 bottles of wine and a couple of bottles of local-ish spirits are ferried back to the cabins.

Out on deck we watch the outlying islands near Helsinki come and go, including Suommelina or however it's spelt. I forget, despite the fact I spent a couple of hours wandering around it on my only previous visit to Finland.

The little sign says "passport control", which doesn't seem overly accurate.

Dead on time at 0915 we're docking in Helsinki. People who are staying on to Tallinn should stay on to Tallinn, otherwise everyone else should fuck off. So, we fuck off, via the world's longest walkway with no airconditioning and it is sweltering here. For fucks sake, this is simultaneously our northernmost and easternmost point of the trip, I'm sure it's not meant to be this weather.

Once we're on the ground there is a mild set-to about our immediate transport options, with tram to the station winning out over cab(s). Day passes are purchased and we're away.

It's a handful of stops, like, 7 or so, until we hit the station. What I really like here is that there is a sign pointing left with a luggage icon. Left, luggage, see? Yes. It stinks of piss down there because it's next to a rather large loo complex. We need 3 lockers and they're €6 each which means we need more coins than we have, until I reveal my pocket full of fruit machine winnings and save the day. Hurrah for gambling!

Next another mild argument about subsequent plans, ending with disparate factions shouting "OK, meet back here at 12 and not a moment after" at one another. Andrei and I head off on foot while Ed and Stoy go hunting for a cathedral and the rest want a market. Turns out all these things are in the same place anyway. Groundhog day is strong here; the route we take on foot is identical to the last time I was here, ending at the market by one of the ports.

It's brutally hot. Andrei stops for coffee in some remarkably architected shop, then we wander around the market, all the while getting on Untappd to look for verified venues that may open early enough for us to have a beer before we leave. One of the market stalls is selling – I absolutely shit you not – "Trump/Putin Helsinki 2018" summit merchandise. Hats and stuff. Plus "Make Helsinki Great Again". When was Helsinki not great? It seems pretty fucking great to me!

Up the way there's a big impressive thing on a hill, which I guess is the cathedral or whatnot. Just like last time. Then we peel back and via shady side streets until the non-groundhoggy "holy balls what's that giant thing" bit of town. This building is glorious.

Zig-zagging through streets around the university district, gaining elevation – "this should be HILLsinki, am I right?" – and we're approacing the Sori taproom, which happens to be next to the place I drank craft beer on my last visit. Groundhog++.

Shut on the left, open on the right

Thinking we're pretty incorrigible for hanging around outside a few minutes before opening, we're queue jumped at the last moment by a lady who strides up to the door and tries to open it seconds before the staff are ready. How are we not first here?

Anyway. It's the Sori taproom. Sori, not sorry. Sori seems to be the hardest word. You'll be Sori. Etc. They have a load of beers on both from their own brewery and guests from around the world plus big fridges full of bottles. We grab a table and stare at the menu and ... wait, what? This is from an Estonian brewery, not Finnish? Damn it! But hey, we're here now.

Andrei gets an IPA; I'm going for a tasting flight, and the barmaid arranges them in the order she would recommend drinking them.

When ordering I apologise for if my guess at the pronunciation of Öökull is desperately wrong, but she's like "hey, it's not a Finnish word, I dunno how to say it either". Fair enough. I do know it's a collaboration with Het Uiltje from Haarlem what where Helen took us last year, and indeed this beer name translates as "night owl".

My personal rule for checking beer in on Untappd is that it only counts if the amount I drink is available to purchase standalone, so tasting flights don't count. But, awesomely, this place sells individual tasting size drinks as well anyway so I knock off 5 check-ins inside the 55 minutes or so we're there. Oh man I'm earning so many badges here. Tell you what though, 45 euros for under 3 pints of actual liquid is a bit steep. Ouch

Back at the station with a couple minutes to spare before incurring wrath, turns out the others are already carting the bags back upstairs. So now it's time to head to another port, by tram, for our next ferry. Trams in Helsinki are pretty cool, and fast – not speedy, just that the city isn't so big so it doesn't take long to reach a terminus – and we're outside T2 admiring the reflection, and staring at the "Buns and Beers" truck. I don't fancy a beer, but a bun would be nice.

There are loads of ships here. I mean holy crap, Helsinki has hundreds of the bastards and they're all huge. Our one is not yet visible to us, hidden by the terminal. After hotdogs we go in and through security, joining the queue to board as the gates are imminently about to open.

With impeccable timing, Stoy disappears from view to the loo the exact moment the doors open and the crowd rushes forwards. When he reappears he and I walk through to the ship, taking care to note the WARNING: DO NOT IMPORT WILD BOAR MEAT signs. Well, OK then.

We have a single cabin on board, essentially our own private left luggage. It's cramped with 7 people and 14+ bags so fuck it, time to go explore. At the back of the boat is a bar selling a range of craft beers so, hang on a minute, I've got an idea.

It's still way too hot outside, whereas indoors it's lovely and airconditioned. I grab a table in "Seaport Pub" and start typing.

About an hour after departure, some music starts. Oh, there's a guy on stage with a guitar and he's singing and so is some lass hidden behind a pillar. Soft rock. I manage to get halfway through my diary entry for the previous day and then am told to get back to the cabin. It's only a 2 hour ferry here and we have to toast the border we've just crossed, since land is now visible outside. Hi, Estonia. 🇪🇪 You're my 60th country (using UN member states as my criteria). Terviseks!

This is a salted liquorice drink called salmahyek. Well, almost. Salmiakke korskenkorva. Virtually everyone else thinks it's a chore to get through but I bloody love the stuff. "That's like Pernod!"

Getting off the boat in Tallinn is a more airconditioned affair than in Helsinki, but there is still confusion as we split into two groups, both of which think they're in front of the other and are waiting in different places for them to turn up. So it's a bit of hassle but nothing is dulling my excitement at visiting my 60th country (using UN member states).

We thought there was a supermarket from which to source provisions next to the port, but it's miles away next to another terminal. Masses of angry confusion ensues about who's going where and by what means of transport, eventually Andrei and I stand outside "Super Alko" to call an Uber into the old town, ready to pick up keys from our Airbnb host. Everyone else piles into a giant cab to the shop and then, later, two Ubers to come meet us.

Oh, shit, where we're staying is an incredible location. It's directly on the main square in the heart of the old town and everything is awesome around here. But first we need to take turns in the lift because we're staying on the 6th floor.

With everyone in and rooms allocated, including the honouring of my begging insistence to not be made to climb the spiral staircase, we're putting on some laundry. Turns out trying to figure out the Estonian manual is quite tricky, and numerous cycles are attempted which seem to not involve water. Eventually a wash kicks in and it's time to go eat. We actually have a reservation at a restaurant for 6pm here, like real people do. It's only a 3 or 4 minute walk away so there's time for photography en route.

The meal is at Rataskaevu 16. That's basically just the address; many businesses here don't seem to have names, which when you think about it is kinda fair enough. What's wrong with just using the road name and number?

Our waiter is a very friendly guy who goes to great pains to discuss everything on the menu, liquid and solid. He asks what we're up to, how we know each other, tailors drinks to food, has answers ready to most of Andrew's culinary inquisition, and even at the end of the meal has recommendations for where to go drink craft beer (which we already knew, but hey). He also compliments me on my Estonian, since I've learnt two words: terviseks (cheers) and aïtah (thank you). "Thank you" is particularly easy to remember because it's pronounced mostly like "aye, ta".

Obviously I started with the selection of Estonian cheeses, with a rye beer.

And double obviously I had braised elk main. Some people don't actually have elk; those that do are not disappointed. I mean, I don't think anyone was disappointed with the taste of their food, because it was all bloody lovely. No-one has any space for dessert so we file out, after much faffing around with Splitwise with which we determine that Stoy should be the man to pay this bill.

Mark, Andrei, Andrew and Ed wander away back to the main square. John and I hang back waiting for Stoy, who after a couple of minutes appears on the stairs beckoning me. Turns out there was a problem with his card so I popped in and paid the half he couldn't cover with cash.

Back down the square and things are marvellous. Everyone, not just our group, are taking photos.

This is the view from the flat.

Back up to the flat to grab some electrons and put the washed clothes on a drying cycle, we need to figure out what's happening next. There's only one key and we do have an intercom doorbell but my feeling is that when we go out, whoever wants to go back first and therefore needs the key is simultaneously most likely to fall asleep and not be able to hear the bell. Hmm. But fuck it, we'll figure that out later. First let's just go walk and see the city walls.

Tallinn is beautiful. The city is a UNESCO world heritage site I think, and it's all winding cobbled streets and old buildings 'n stuff.

It's all really very nice, and surprisingly we stay together as a full group. We reach Lai 8, where we know there is craft beer. Indeed, they claim they have over 700 types. Seven hundred!

That's a shop at the front, with a bar at the back through the arch, tiny and manned by a moderately surly girl who is really frustrated with the guy ahead of us who just wants "a beer" or something. She's all, like, listen if you can't even tell me what style of beer you like then I don't know how to help you. And no, trying a little taste is not possible.

She's much friendlier when I order because I know what I'm doing. I want two Kwak, a fruity local IPA – actually make it two of those – a local chocolate porter or stout and, for me, I'll have a chilli porter if you have one. She says yeah, they do have one, but being Estonian they're not very good with chillis but they try. That was short-selling it, because it tasted great. Terviseks, again!

It's actually remarkably cheap here too, at least in comparison with Helsinki and Stockholm. Andrei buys a second round, my robust porter isn't very robust. After this, people are flagging. Four go back to the flat, while three of us go to another craft beer place for a night cap or two.

In it we try and recall our earliest start in the 2013 edition of this tour, and because I have a photo of my Interrail pass diary from that time I'm able to confirm my memory is accurate and it was an 0650 service out of Sarajevo. Early starts are the topic because tomorrow we have to get an 0742 train out of Tallinn, so we should call it a day. Settling up, the lass asks me if I enjoyed the drink and I say yeah, of course, it was lovely. She responds by saying that was surprising because English people don't generally enjoy good beer. Now wait a goddamn cotton-pickin' minute!

The square continues to be a cracking place to stay at. Messaging those who'd buggered off, they are still awake and apparently listening to loud 80s pop. Well OK then. Let us in the damn building will you? LET US IN.

They let us in. By the time we reach the 6th floor Ed and John have gone to bed, but Andrew and Stoy are still awake. Inadvisably - by which I literally mean against my specific advice - Mark considers it appropriate to have another couple of shots of salmahayek. I'm OK hanging with people for a few minutes, performing an acapella version of the horn solo in Spandau Ballet's True, but then all of a sudden I'm all "my body is shutting down, I desperately need to go to bed immediately". Along the corridor I crawl into the single bed under the light duvet whose cover is seemingly plastic, put a headphone in, and fall asleep less than 30 seconds into a podcast.

Created By
Darren Foreman

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.