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Scandi-Trip Part V

September 3, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The last part of our trip is basically getting home from Lofoten islands in Norway through Baltic countries. It includes visiting interesting places, mainly capitals of countries which we cross. But the plan is tight and we have only limited time for them.

Quick crossing of Sweden is followed by entering Finland (which is different time zone). Driving southwards through Finland is long and boring. Monotonous neverending lowlands with forests is what we see from the car. In Rovaniemi (on Arctic circle) we are visiting Santa Claus Village. It is pure fail. For some unclear reason this village claims it is home of Santa. Everything what it offers to tourists is maybe 10 giftshops plus one gift shopping center with another 10 giftshops. Atmosphere wants to be christmas-like (unsuccessfully) to persuade tourists to buy various useless Santa Claus themed things. Working here in gift shop I must consider the saddest and most depressing job at all.

Second and last stop in Finland is its capital, Helsinki. We spent just couple of hours here, so it is hard to judge it. But generally, city is not very interesting. People (compared to Norway) don’t speak English and Finnish reminds us Hungarian language. Our attempt to board first ferry to Tallinn is not successful. Failure in their reservation system causes us to wait several hours for the next one. Our ferry – Baltic Princess is huge, with 10 floors, equipped with various facilities (shops, pubs, restaurants, live music…). Cruise takes 3.5 hours.

Next three countries are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in this order. We know almost nothing about these Baltic countries, by visiting their capitals (Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius) we are at least trying to learn differences between them. Threatened by statistics of high numbers of homicides (found by friend), overnights we are staying in city campings (for the first time). What these countries have in common is that almost nobody understands English. We can also feel that we are in former eastern block influenced by period of communism (for example architecture, statues in socialistic realism style…). Generally, cities are similar to Bratislava, it is apparent that our histories have something in common. Also the same horrible roads, the same trams, trolleybuses… But they are also very nice, it is not only about communism. Culturally, cities are full of history (old towns are bigger than in Bratislava) and everything is blended with modern style developed after 90s in a positive way. Girls are beautiful here (Estonian blondes probably win). We stayed only 2-3 hours in each capital, it would be definitely worth to explore more (also nightlife). Maybe sometimes in future. Old town of Tallinn is cozy and full of nice historical buildings, though it left a little bit sleepy impression on us (but that is maybe because we were there at 9 in the morning). Riga was bigger and very lively. Students celebrating beginning of the school year (with help of alcohol) were guarded by many policemen (BTW, density of police in the streets is much higher in post-communist countries than elsewhere). We enjoyed great views of the city from church tower. Vilnius old town (part of UNESCO heritage) we enjoyed from sightseeing bus. Very nice, lot of churches, visible influences of various cultures (russians, jews).

Last country before coming back to Slovakia was Poland, the country with probably worst roads in EU. We found time to visit Warsaw for 4 hours. We took sightseeing bus again to briefly explore main highlights (old town is UNESCO listed again). But the most impressive thing in Warsaw for me was monumental Palace of Culture and Science, 231 m high building built by Soviet Union as a gift to Polish people in 1955. It is controversial building which reminds communism for some people, but according to me it is aesthetically very nice. We enjoyed panoramic view of the city from its 33th floor.

Our return to Bratislava follows and after nearly 9000 km traveled, our trip comes to an end. In three weeks we explored mainly Norway and briefly also capitals of Denmark, Finland, Baltic countries and Poland. Our coverage of interesting places was not complete and we identified places we want to visit again and dedicate more time to them.

So what’s next? Flying back to London, processing hundreds of taken pictures… and planning next travels (New Zealand? New York? Stockholm?). Because as someone said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

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