Next - Helsinki, Riga, or Saint Petersburg?
12.13.2012 - 12.20.2012 -15 °C
My initial impressions were pretty bang on - I really like Stockholm! Very beautiful and interesting city, albeit no less expensive than any other Scandinavian one. Moved over to a new hostel after a couple of days and just like in Copenhagen I found it to have a much better vibe and feel, even if it was a bit more expensive. I spent the week walking around and checking out the old town in more detail (very cool), and a number of museums and galleries. One of the most interesting was the Vasa, a Swedish warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. After sitting at the bottom of Stockholm harbour for over 300 years she was raised in 1961 and is now preserved in a museum.
On Friday I signed up for a 'Nordic Sauna Tour' with the hostel, and had a pretty cool day. We headed out to a sheltered bay on the Baltic Sea just north of Stockholm where they have a wood-fired sauna on a raft. After getting the temperature up to a nice 100 degrees, it was time to take a quick dip in the water, which was showing at 2 degrees! Suffice to say the shock to the system was pretty intense, so there was lots of running back into the warmth. Spending the day going back and forth from the cold to the hot was pretty invigorating, and the beer at the end of the day sure was nice.
Later on that night a bunch of us headed out for the evening and ended up at a club which is supposed to be the biggest in town, and spent the night there. 3 rooms with lots of people and a decent variety of tunes. Wandered back to the hostel after many Heinekens and arrived at about 4:30 or so. Suffice to say that Saturday was a pretty chill day.
Saturday night I hopped on a ferry and headed across the Baltic to Tallinn, Estonia. I hadn't really planned on coming here and don't think I could have even pointed out Estonia on a map, but after meeting a very cool Estonian guy in Copenhagen I decided to come over. The ferry was only about 50 Euro for a shared cabin and I'm really glad I decided to make the trip. Having said that, I think I'm letting my Newfie heritage down a bit as I've concluded that I really don't like ferries! I think I've got the drinking gene, but not the seafaring one as I swear I could still feel the boat pitching around underneath me for hours afterward. It's an overnight crossing and the water is often rougher this time of year, but it's really unnerving to feel the whole frame of the ship shudder as you're lying in bed trying to sleep.
Regardless, the old town here is very well preserved and is actually an UNESCO world heritage site because of how much of the old walls and towers are preserved:
I spent the first afternoon and most of today wandering around and it's very, very cool. I know I've said similar things about the 'old town' part of other cities, but it really is amazing here and very easy to get around and check out. Estonia is much cheaper as well, and although I'm now working with Euros it's a noticeable difference.
I've got a couple more days here, and then my tentative plan is to head over to Helsinki (again on a ferry) to check it out and hopefully catch a couple of exhibition games that team Canada is playing before heading over to the world junior tournament in Russia. I know they are playing two games, but I don't know where or have tickets yet - but I'll figure that out. :-) From there I may try to head over to Saint Petersburg as I've discovered there is a ferry you can take from Helsinki that allows you to get around the normally very restrictive visa entry requirements as long as you visit for no longer that 72 hours. Not sure how it all works or how much it costs, but I may as well check it out. From there I'm thinking about coming back to Tallinn and then heading down to Riga, Latvia. It's supposed to be another very cool and somewhat inexpensive city, and they have a KHL team so I'd like to try and check out a game there as well. Not sure how I got on this hockey theme but why the heck not!
From there I'll likely head back to Stockholm and over to Gothenburg (and a Swedish Elite League game), before up to Norway. I'm in the midst of sorting things out with my travel agent, but heading back to Edmonton the last week of January is looking like the most likely option. I've obviously decided not to finalize the working holiday visa in Denmark as it just isn't worth it from my point of view. After spending a couple of weeks looking into jobs and apartments I found I was starting to worry about it too much and getting somewhat stressed out. That was never the point of this trip so as soon as I realized that I pretty much knew what I was going to do - enjoy myself and have some fun!