One of the aforementioned gay men from the '90s. Only kidding. It's Matt.
On a related note, I still love Finland. The weather isn't too cold most days, although yesterday it was and it rained all day. Matt still hasn't started work and won't until Monday, so that's been nice hanging out so much together... although we're both getting a little bored, I think. We came to the conclusion today that it's okay to get bored even in nice places because we don't have any of those "normal" hobbies that people with more stable lives have, like a house (to clean) or a dog (to walk) or a baby (to play with... and raise into the perfect human, of course). We get bored in Chicago, too, especially in winter, so I think it's okay we're bored here. We'll get over it.
That said, we have actually been doing lots of sightseeing the past few days. We took a ferry over to Tallinn, which is the capital of Estonia (like you didn't know that). It only took about an hour and a half, and the water wasn't very choppy, so I did not get seasick at all. I know you were all worried about it. Anyway, Tallinn was really cool... the new part of the city had a sort of Eastern European feel (like I would even know what that was...) but it has a really amazing old medieval city within the old city walls.
Archery practice in front of the old city wall, in front of the old cathedral.
It wasn't quite as amazing as Rothenburg (in Germany... see my archives for all the details on that place... as you'll recall I got a mean case of food poisoning there a couple years ago), but it was still really nice.
Us in front of the old wall and tower.
The best part by far was the medieval restaurant we stumbled upon as soon as we got there. The weather was beautiful, and we wanted to sit outside, so we stopped at the first place with outdoor tables... never mind that it had flags and banners fluttering everywhere and the servers all wore the most ridiculous outfits, complete with pointy shoes.
Matt at the "Old Hansa" restaurant.
We ordered from menus where the food was listed by who would eat it, ie, the high food was for the nobels, and low for the commoners. I had the meat soup (an unlikely choice for me, I know) which came with fresh homemade bread and soft cheese, and I washed it all down with a mug of mead. It was all pretty incredible. I know it doesn't sound like it could get any better than that, but wait, it does! The best part were the bathrooms... yup. They are virtually pitch black with only one candle in each stall, and one by the sink. The toilets are part of a wooden bench, with a wooden toilet seat and wooden button to flush it. The sink had a pot of water hanging over it that you tilted to pour the water over your hands. I'm not explaining it well enough, but just use your imaginations, because I didn't take my camera in there. That restaurant was pretty much the highlight of our Estonia trip, and maybe the highlight of our Finnish vacation so far.
Town Hall in Tallinn
A couple days ago we went for a drive to Porvoo, which is the city near the refinery where we're supposed to stay. We would have stayed there, but all the hotels are full... poor us, having to stay in Helsinki instead. Actually, we really enjoyed Porvoo! It's super cute with rows of painted wooden houses, and adorable little shops selling adorably quaint things that no one needs but everyone wants. It's much bigger than the Bad Goegging (the "city" we stayed in during our Germany days), with lots more shops and a nice river running through it. I'm a fan. I might go back one day after Matt starts work... if I can get some manual driving lessons in first. I know, I'm supposed to know how already. Well, I don't. Get over it.
Photo of Matt for the H&M catalogue. Again, only kidding.Yesterday we went shopping at the brand new H&M, which is right down the street from the "old" one... which isn't closing; I guess they just wanted a new one. Anyway, yesterday was opening day, and we had to go because we got a 20% discount on top of any opening sales they had. We're not usually the type of people that rush out to a store on opening day, and let me tell you, this experience has not changed my mind in the slightest. First off, they had music blaring and a countdown going for when the store's doors would actually open. And then, as we walked in the door, ALL the staff stood on either side of a red carpet clapping and cheering for us as we came in. And there was a photographer there who just happened to be right in front of Matt for most of the time... I wouldn't be surprised to see Matt in some Finnish papers and magazines. I'll be on the lookout. Anyway, of course we bought some stuff, but mostly because we needed it. Really! I bought another long-sleeved shirt, which now brings my total to 2. I think those will last me until we leave. Maybe. Unless they have another sale.
Today is the start of the big spring holiday here... apparently it's HUGE in Finland. I'm not exactly sure what it is, so I'll have to check it out for myself and then fill you in later. So far we've seen lots of people drinking outside and tons of people selling helium balloons. I have no idea how this represents the festival, but they are ridiculously expensive at 10 euro a pop. Who are they kidding? While I'm on the subject, it is crazy expensive here. We literally cannot find a meal for dinner (at an actual restaurant, not fast food or mall food court) for under 30 euro for two people. And that's with one of us getting an appetizer and one getting a main dish. Apparently Finns only eat out on special occasions or weekends, so the restaurant prices reflect that. 20 euro is about standard for a main dish. That's more than $25! Call me cheap (and you can, because I am) but that's too much. We went to a supermarket yesterday and bought stuff for sandwiches, which I suppose we'll be eating for dinner from now on.