Monday, May 14, 2007

Helsinki - Baltic trip part III (last)

The last part of the Baltic trip: Helsinki

I don’t have too much to tell you about Helsinki because we stayed in Helsinki just for two days, unfortunately.

And for sure I would like to stay there more time. I think that someone knows this J

Let me talk about my impressions of the city.

Helsinki is a very organized city, it was my first time in a Nordic country and it was how I expected.

We arrived there in a Sunday afternoon after one and a half hour in a ferry from Tallinn.

To find the tourist office we stopped in an ice cream’s kiosk and asked the girl the directions. And I noticed a very interesting Finnish’s women characteristic: the impressive light eyes, it’s impossible not to get hypnotized by them J.

After the arrival in the hotel we decided to go to a walking in the city.

We saw the main attractions in downtown (like the Senate Square, the Cathedral, the port, the train station…) and after we decided to eat something...

The first problem that we found: many restaurants are closed or close very early on Sundays….

After walk a lot we decided to go in a Doner Kebab. But the place was very depressing. It was funny, because we saw two Spanish guys in the same situation and they also decided to go way from that place. After walking a little bit more, and realize that also Mc’Donalds was closed (at 22:00…) we decided come back and eat in the Donner Kebab…

And, who we found there? The same two Spaninsh guys J.

Fortunately, in that Sunday not all things were bad, I have to say that we knew very nice people later. Please, I beg you to not interpret this with malice J.

In the next day we tried to do the famous Finnish sauna… But I think that the luck was not with us…

We went to a place indicated by the tourist office and for our surprise when we arrived there (it was not near the city center) the sauna was closed because it was holyday in Finland (see Vappu comments)… Then we decided to go to a sauna bar indicated in a city guide (in theory always opened). After walking a lot we found the place… But something was written there:

'Disco Bar
Los Hombres
It’s so gay'

I said to my friend, which didn’t see the last phrase:

- ‘Look, there’s something strange in this place, did you noticed the last phrase?’

- ‘No, what phrase?’

- ‘It’s so gay’ …

- ‘Are you thinking that it’s a place for gays? But in the guide is written that is a sauna bar…’

- ‘I don’t know about what it’s in the guide, I just know what I’m reading in the wall!!!’

- ‘Ok, I’m coming in to check!’

- ‘I prefer to wait here…’

 After 5 minutes…

- ‘You were right, this place is for gays, and the guy said that the sauna bar is not working any longer….’

- ‘Ok, let’s come back to the hotel, it seems that also today is not a lucky day …’

After a pause in the hotel we came back downtown to the Vappu party. It’s a student celebration that also coincides (29 April and first of May) with the beginning of the spring.

In these days people go out to the streets drinking wine and other alcoholics to have fun.

For me it was a very curious and strange to see a lot of people drunk in the streets!!

And then in the next day the hard thing: the holiday end… Back to Rome!

Well, I think it was a very nice experience, see you in the next blog

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Estonia - Baltic trip part II

Here we are for the second part of the ‘famous’ trip to the baltic region J
After left Riga our destination was Parnu, in Estonia coast.
Unfortunately is cold there yet. Parnu is an interesting city, but for summer…
Anyway, it was very nice to know the typical wooden houses and to go a walking in the Baltic beaches.
The curious thing that we did there was the mud bath, wich is very famous there, of course we found very young people doing this J.
After Parnu we follow to Tallinn, the famous medieval city.
And the city didn’t disappoint us. It’s very beautiful, with its old style buildings, walls, gates, towers. It’s difficult to describe the architecture, I suggest you to appreciate the photos.
It was nice to eat in a restaurant medieval style, with typical decoration and people dressed like in the middle ages.
The incredible thing that happened was that we were there just when a conflict between Russians and Estonians occurred.
All the problem was caused by a statue: The Bronze Soldier, that commemorates the Russian soldiers who died liberating the country from the Nazi. Of course for the Estonian people it signs the beginning of the Russian occupation).
The problem is that the Estonian government decided to remove it. In this way Russian nationalists began to protest and to make disorder.
And our hotel was just in the middle of the conflicts!!
Fortunately nothing happened with us, but it was very interesting to talk with persons from both sides to understand the point of views. And it’s nice when you go to a country and not see just tourist things, but you can understand a little bit more about its culture.
Other curious things that I have to mention are:
The tower Kiek in de Kok, with cannonballs embedded dating back to a failed invasion by Ivan the Terrible!
A public toilet that cost a lot of money (it was an information of an Estonian girl that we know there)
The house of the order of the Blackheads. The Brotherhood of Blackheads emerged in 1399. The name of the Brotherhood is associated with their patron, the black St. Mauritius, an early Christian martyr who died in Switzerland around 280-300 A.D. His The Brotherhood was active only in Estonia and Latvia, unknown in the rest of Europe.
The old building that was used to the KGB. The windows in the street level were closed with cement to prevent passing people to hear the tortures…
The 258 steps of the St’s Olaf church that we climb!

After Tallinn, the next Baltic city: Helsinki, see you in the next blog!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Latvia - Baltic trip part I

Hi everyone,

I’m still here!
To make my life easier, I will write this blog in English…
In this way all my Brazilian, Italian, Spanish and maybe Finnish friends will be able to read it.
Well, let me tell you, in few lines, I hope, my last ‘adventures’ in North Europe.
I traveled for 10 days in 3 countries: Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
The first destination was Riga, the Latvian capital, famous here in Italy for the beautiful women J and I have to confess that this is truth!
Ok, my woman friends don’t need to worry about, I will not write my experiences in this matterJ.
Riga is a very interesting city, there’s a kind of mix from buildings from middle age and the 1900’s.
The first thing that impressed me was the orthodox cathedral, because I’ve never been inside a church with this style. It’s very different, not just for the format (is not a cross, like the major part of the occidental churches), but also for how people pray, that curve themselves many times pointed to the central part of the church.
Of course, there are many icons in the church and in almost all of them the presence of St George and the dragon.
Another different thing for me was the Lutheran churches, very simple with the pulpit at the center.
I’ve noticed also that the city is very well organized and clean. It seems that there is not a great poverty, you don’t see people asking for money in the streets.
I think that the art-noveau buildings are a ‘trademark’ of the city, is very interesting to see the statues in these constructions.
The market was very interesting also, mainly for the different fishes and caviar!!
The Saint Peter cathedral with its very high tower was very nice, the sightseeing from its top was very important to give us an idea from the city.
In the second day we went to Sigulda, a little city near Riga, where there’s a natural park and a castle ruins also. Interesting how all of this area was dominated for many knights orders in the middle age. You could see references of Livonian, Teutonic and Sword orders. For those friends that know me well, for me was fantastic! J
We did also a little walking nearby and we found a nice and old Lutheran church. When we entered I have a surprise, there was a monk with a face similar to Martin Luther.
Although the weather was not very good we could see a little bit of the Latvian nature: nothing extraordinary, but interesting.
An impressive thing was near the new castle of Sigulda, there was a typical wooden house with some statues inside. The house was closed, but those statues were visible from the windows. The bad weather made that the scene seemed very strange, something like ghosts in the house were looking us.   
In the third day a good surprise in the city was the ethnographic museum, which shows how the Latvian countryside is. The museum is out of doors in a big area, the houses are transported from the original sites to there.
In the same day we left Riga to to Parnu, a city in Estonia, to be continued in the next blog….