As a fine finale to our heritage tour 2014, Marg, Sarah, Aliana and I hop on the speedy ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, where rumour has it that the Estonians share some common history with the Finns ….. hopped? … more like, lugged, tugged and struggled on with our baggage pile! Estonia like Finland, shares in the vast history of Europe. Invaded over the centuries by Sweden, Denmark, Germany and of course Russia but like the Finns, stalwart (stubborn my husband would remark) … both countries maintained their independent lifestyles and both countries are fairly new to total independence! I would love to read more on the history of Estonia and certainly my own country of birth. It is time …..
Sarah had worked her usual magic and finagled a presidential suite for us in The Merchants House Hotel, an old house dating back hundreds of years, now renovated, restored, modernized yet retaining it’s historical perspective. One would correctly assume, given the size of the place, the various meandering passageways, hidden staircases, that it was indeed once the home of a wealthy merchant! Price?? …. thanks to Sarah, the same as three tiny rooms would have been:) …. we luxuriated in two and a half floors of rooms! …. Aliana discovered the huge bathtubs, ensuite sauna and declared “Grandma, this is very nice” …. with stamp of approval from our youngest in place, we nestled in 🙂
It was great fun being a tourist for a few days in this charming medieval town. We walked the cobbly streets to exhaustion, savoured refreshments in the many outdoor cafés, indulged Aliana (ha! … in any event we use her as the excuse 🙂 ) … with a horse drawn carriage ride and tourist train through the old town, shopped in outdoor craft markets, enjoyed tasty meals, much of which appeared to be a mix of Russian and German cuisine, although we opted for Italian more often than not …. is there anywhere in the world where pizza and pasta is not served??! …. Margaret and I sampled more than our share of many great wines, a full third of the price of what is charged in Finland … we hear that remains one of the main reasons Finns travel here …. the price factor!!
Finland and indeed most of Europe is beyond expensive and it seems to make ‘no never mind’ whether it is a small country town or a city …. the price of everything remains high by Canadian standards. We had a delicious dinner for Sarah’s 32 birthday in a restaurant with the best dark rye bread ever! …. in fact, so good, we went back the day we left Tallinn to purchase a loaf to enjoy with our cheese on the ferry back to Helsinki … picnic on board! Sunshine is so rare, as we have discovered these past weeks, that when the sun comes out, so does everyone … the streets and cafés were brimming with people, soaking in the rays both in Tallinn and Helsinki. Cloudy cooler days followed, but still we walked and explored. Managed to fit in a massage for the three of us in the tiny spa set up in the basement level of the old house …. a fine relaxing finish to a fine adventure!
I am so happy we persevered and made this journey a reality … something that was just a dream a few short years ago. I know our parents would be happy to know we made the effort to reconnect with our Finnish roots. Margaret and I revisited many old memories, creating new ones on the backs of the old, both for ourselves but more importantly, for two other generations …. Jennifer, Sarah and Aliana. We may just have ‘lakeside wood fired sauna converts’ in all three …. I know young Aliana was sold! In many cultures around the world, including our own, it is the woman’s domain to keep the rituals, the family stories, the cultures alive. I hope we will continue to honour our roots in some Finnish fashion in the years to come.
Margaret, Sarah, Aliana leave for the long trip home and I, head for the sleeper train to Rovaniemi, Lapland for quiet reflection and to meet up with Joulu Pukki of course!