The smart guide to travelling to Helsinki.

Reindeer in Finland.
Reindeer in Finland.

Wow!

I cannot underestimate how being a British person in Berlin is a marvellous thing.

Last week, I was practically everywhere!

Remember when I told you that I met a producer from the rbb TV station, and how they saw my blog and the film interview with Travel Massive,  that you can also find on my Writing & Film page! Anyway, they weren’t joking and last Tuesday, we actually started filming!

German people don’t mess around LOL!

Never in my dreams had I been expecting this so I speedily put out an appeal for a voluntary PA on my Facebook page, and a professional photographer that I had met at the Berlin Music Video Awards – Pascale Scerbo Sarro – offered to take official photographs. Before you knew it, I was strolling down the street and the cameras were strolling with me. I wanted to watch a cultural production at the English Theatre Berlin, and they came along and watched it with me!

OMG! Don't I just look like a city babe © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
OMG! Don’t I just look like a city babe
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

It was a little strange having a camera and a huge fluffy microphone thing hanging around, but I soon got used to it LOL!

The next day, I went to meet the editor of the rbb Inforadio station. I thought we were going to talk about future projects, it turned out that she had her microphone and recording device with her, so we did an interview right there and then!

We continue filming the documentary next week at a Scottish pub called Das Gift and on the first day that Queen Elizabeth actually arrives Berlin on June 23rd, I will also be participating in a Live TV show and drinking tea at The English Garden!

I might even have some haggis!

I couldn’t be more pleased!

All the rbb TV team are here! © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
All the rbb TV team are here!
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

I’ll let you know when the programmes go out next week. They did actually tell me, but in all the excitement, I forgot!

For now, it’s time to go back to the last destination on our Spring trip to the Baltics.

Yep, to Helsinki. In Finland!

Here we go!

Finland.

I’ve spoken at length about the three Baltics States that we previously went to, but if you’re landing here for this first time, here’s the info:

Lithuania: I survived a 26 hour coach-bus adventure and I didn’t die and we had a pig’s ear in Lithuania and it was chewy!

Latvia: Gosh! Riga in Latvia is gorgeous: 10 reasons to go there right now and the magic drink of Latvia is Balsam and I drank it!

Estonia: How I went to Tallinn in Estonia, a Medieval Old Town surrounded by Danish Castles. How utterly charming and a simple guide to Estonian food and Russian beer!

Pick your poison on the Lux Express!
Pick your poison on the Lux Express!

We travelled to the Baltics by coach-bus and via our part-sponsor – Lux Express. My German husband – The Music Producer – panicked a bit at the thought but I have to tell you that it really wasn’t that bad at all.

From Berlin to Vilnius in Lithuania, we travelled with the Simple Express part of the company and it was just like any other coach-bus journey but with nifty individual flat screens and personal entertainment! From Vilnius onwards however, we travelled exclusively via Lux Express and the journey was rather impressive. I couldn’t believe how coach-bus journeys had changed and that so many people were also doing the Baltic Route. In fact, we met a French fellow in Vilnius and met him again in Riga. It was that popular!

I mean, with nice clean wide seats, free WiFi, individual flat screens for films and shows, free headphones which you helped yourself to, and free hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate, I’m thinking, yes please!

Travelling to Finland was another kettle of fish because this time around we travelled to Helsinki by mini-cruise and we sailed across to Finland, on a sponsorship deal with TALLINK SLJA LINE.

WHY GO TO FINLAND?

Wooden houses in Finland.
Wooden houses in Finland.

I’ve said it before, living in Berlin means that Continental Europe is right on your doorstep. Basically, if you’re an expat living in Europe and you don’t use the opportunities to check out the neighbouring countries, then you’re a fool!

There. I said it.

A fool!

I decided to go to Finland because it wasn’t far from Estonia and once we were going to be in the region anyway, I thought well, why not?

So many people know of Finland, Lapland, reindeer, and Father Christmas, but how many people have really been there?

Have you?

I didn’t think so!

Finland, is not really a Baltic country but a Nordic one. It’s often lumped together with the Baltic States because of the relative ease and physical closeness. In reality, Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, and Russia!

Ice Church. @VisitFinland
Ice Church.
@VisitFinland

Finland is full of interesting contrast such as the Midnight Sun and days full of darkness in Winter. Over two-thirds of the world’s people who experience the Midnight Sun, actually live in Finland itself!

In fact, in the most Northern part of Finland, the sunlight can be present for a consecutive number of over 70 days!

In land mass, Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe but with one of the lowest populations. It has just 5.4 million people, 37 national parks, 70% of the country covered with trees, and 15.8 inhabitants per every km2.

Wow!

Helsinki Central Railway Station. @VisitFinland.
Helsinki Central Railway Station.
@VisitFinland.

Here’s some history:

The country’s official name is the Republic of Finland also known as Finland, Suomi or Suomen Tasavalta.

Finland was once part of Sweden and as a result of this, the official language in Finland is both Swedish and Finnish! 91% speak Finnish, 54% speak Swedish and 1,700 indigenous people who live in Northern Lapland, speak Sámi. Finland was also a part of the Russian Empire and briefly became an independent republic in 1917 until WWII. It joined the UN in 1955, became a neutral nation, joined the EU in 1995, and has the Euro as its official currency.

HELSINKI

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

I would like to go to Lapland one of these days, but for this journey, we went to the very cultural city of Helsinki which is the capital, and also has a 100 km long shoreline and around 300 islands!

Helsinki as the capital of Finland, was founded in 1550 and has a little over half a million people living there. It’s a modern European city famous for its culture, design, high technology, and its own unique cultural space. It is traditional but modern and is internationally renowned for its strong Finnish design, bold and innovative culinary suave, and it’s hip urban nuances, in a backdrop of sea and forest!

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

You can of course fly.  There is an international airport in Helsinki called Helsinki-Vantaa Airport serving all the major airlines. You can also take the train if you’re coming from Russia. Trains tend to come from ex-USSR States but no-one really recommends them as they’re far too old, far too slow and far too unreliable.

Pretty much everyone we met was travelling by ship, and so were we!

We crossed the sea with the help of a sponsorship deal from TALLINK SLJA LINE. In fact, the E-commerce Manger offered us a complimentary sailing to Sweden but on this trip, I had already fixed the itinerary and moreover, I wanted to travel mainly overland. However, watch this space for a future visit to Sweden, Finland, Latvia, and Estonia!

It’s going to be quite a trip!

Thank you so much!

Cruising to Helsinki, Finland.

TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. They are part of the AS Tallink Grupp and is a leading provider of high quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the Baltic Sea Region. We booked to sail with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

There are a variety of various fares and ferries, but many travellers and tourists, as well as Estonian and Finnish people, regularly take day trips across the water, as the ships travel from Tallinn to Helsinki, from Stockholm to Helsinki, or from Stockholm to the Aland Islands in Finland. We wanted to spend a little longer and decided to spend 2 nights in Helsinki.

It was such a shame that we didn’t have the time to nip into St. Petersburg too as there is a legal way that you can go to Russia for 24 or 72 hours visa-free, as long as you arrive by ship, and pre-organise your hotel or sight-seeing activities!

The next time I’m in Finland or Estonia, I’m going to do just that, as I’m desperate to go to Russia. Even for a day but hopefully, for much longer LOL!

Tallinn-Helsinki mini cruise.

If you’re travelling from Tallinn then most likely you would be sailing with either the Tallink M/S Star or the M/S Superstar cruises across the Baltic Sea.

It’s really quite convenient as there are 6 daily departures and you can travel from either Tallinn or Helsinki in just two (2) hours.

All year round!

I recommend checking in at least one (1) hour prior to setting off, as there’s a small off licence, lobby and “bar.” Considering the amount of tourists drinking beer and snacks at 09:20, you would be in good company as refreshments, ranged from €1.20 a piece!

We took the 10:30 cruises out on a Wednesday morning and the cruise itself was nice and clean and similar to those crossing Calais and Dover. From Tallinn, the cruise was not crowded at all and pretty quiet. There were no kids or people rushing about and 80% of the passengers were elderly Japanese tourists.

There were also lots of small sofas and tables to read, write and relax on. WiFi was free and  worked very well, and the WiFi connection code was under the bar code of your ticket, so don’t lose it!  However, I searched and walked around for quite some time trying to find a power outlet to plug in my laptop. There were hardly any at all!

Comfort Class - I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp
Comfort Class – I bet they had power outlets here LOL! @AS Tallink Grupp

The cruise had plenty of cafes and restaurants and prices were very reasonable. They also had a mini-game room for big and little kids. Places are free-seating so you can choose where and how you spend your time while sailing.

There is a comfort class ticket which included a light buffet, non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers and power outlets! Sadly, our ticket was “Star” rather than “Comfort” but for a two hour ride manageable and not really worth the surcharge.

Myself on the M/S Star Tallink mini cruise from Tallinn to Helsinki.
It was rather windy…!

There were cabins on deck and surprisingly, we had the best weather in Finland, as everywhere else had either snow or rain!

The sunroof was brilliant for taking photos and the backdrop of the sea, and there were loads of friendly people helping each other to take photos, with not a selfie-stick in sight LOL!

The return cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn was super crowded with many day-trippers and lots of children. I guess it was because it was a Friday so take note.

So now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty:

The Smart Guide to Travelling to Helsinki.

  • If you’re short on cash, or pushed for time, just take the day-return cruise instead.
  • Finland isn’t really a budget destination so if you’re looking for the lovely treasures of Lithuania or Latvia, then you’re probably in the wrong country!
  • Hostels might not always be the cheapest option in Helsinki and depending on the season, you might actually be better off in a small hotel or B&B after all!
  • If you want to spend a bit of time in Helsinki, then remember, there’s no such thing as “cheap!” Finland is not your typical Baltic State but is Nordic, and with that comes Nordic prices!

At the Old Market Hall or Vanha Kauppahalli in Helsinki, Finland.

  • If you’re making your own meals there are supermarkets aplenty and we were able to buy small snacks and drinks to make our own sandwiches without breaking the bank. Roughly, €9.00 each.
  • Helsinki is famous for it’s culture, and strong Finnish modern design. Take advantage of the Art, Fashion & Design Districts, and marvel at everything you see.
  • Helsinki is quite small in the grand scheme of things and has an efficient public transport system. I recommend using the tram or walking as much as possible.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
At the Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki, Finland.
  • The museums are fantastic and are reasonably priced such as the Finnish Museum of Natural History. We were so excited that we didn’t know where to start, and had a brilliant time there. Highly recommended and we only paid €5.00 each!
  • The exhibition Mad about Helsinki at the Helsinki City Museum was really interesting and absolutely free.
  • We arrived during the week and weren’t able to join the free walking tour that takes place every weekend but if you’re in Helsinki on either Saturday or Sunday, contact them here.

Art Nouveau in Helsinki, Finland.

  • Helsinki isn’t Riga but it has a pretty impressive Art Nouveau history of it’s own!
  • Free WiFi pretty much everywhere in the city centre.
  • Watch out for taxi prices especially if you’ve just come from the Baltic States. We took a taxi back to the ferry for what was pretty much a four (4) minute ride and to say that the €20.00 surchage shocked me was an under-statement. I was in fact quite horrified, especially as we had walked around there the night before and it had taken us just ten (10) minutes! Why was I so lazy? Why?!

Design District Helsinki, Finland.

  • For fantastic local food go to the Old Market Hall or the Vanha Kauppahalli where you can buy such fare as cheese, seafood, vegetables, fruit and cake and which has been serving customers since 1889!
  • Restaurant prices are ridiculous as they are so high and with a growing lad….Gulp! I had visions of us starving to death! I discovered however, another way to get around this and still have the option of dining out. We ate sushi! Yep! We found that this was rather bizarrely, the cheapest option. We found a Japanese restaurant in the hip Design District where we were staying called Sushi-Ravintola Yamato. The food was fresh and interesting and the staff were lovely and friendly. The evening buffet was just €13.70 each including non-alcoholic drinks. We were stuffed and delighted!
  • Eat as much fish and seafood as you can manage. It’s Finland after all and we’re extremely close to the sea LOL!
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market @Elina Sirparanta

That’s all this week but there’s just so much that I want to share with you about Helsinki, so next week I’ll be telling you about the Art Design District and how we tried and tested Helsinki’s food culture.

Food Helsinki?

Hel Yeah!!

For more information about mini-cruises around the Baltic Sea, please contact: TALLINK SLJA LINE.

For more information about coach-bus transport in the Baltic States, please contact Lux Express.

For more information about Finland’s capital city, please contact Visit Helsinki.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE but all opinions and the delightful sushi we thoroughly enjoyed, are my very own!

Stay tuned!

A Finland stamp.

The Queen will be visiting Berlin from 23.06.15 – 26.06.15 and I will be doing a documentary, a radio interview and also as an expert panel of Brits on a Live TV show!

I’ll be at the Discover New Artists (DNA) event which is a forum to discover new local and international artists in Berlin, both musically and visually, on 11.06.15.

The 23rd Lesbian and Gay City Festival is taking place between 20.06.15 – 21.06.15.

Fête de la Musique an open-air street music performance day, will take place all around Berlin, on 21.06.14.

Berlin’s Mardi Gras (the 36th) – CSD – Christopher Street Day Gay Pride festivity, will be on 27.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin, where the hell are you?

June is thrilling & the Queen’s coming!

Watch this space!

@VisitFinland
@VisitFinland

Have you ever had been to Finland? Do you think these tips about being smart in Helsinki are useful? Are you a fan of sushi?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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Oh, the Baltics. If you haven’t been. You’re so last year!

Tallinn, Estonia.
Tallinn, Estonia.

I’m in Estonia. I’m in Tallinn in fact.

Isn’t it exciting!

Yes, we travelled a little sooner than you thought but didn’t I tell you that you would be the first to know? And you are!

Oh yeah, it snowed.

And it also rained.

Don't forget to take a hat!
Don’t forget to take a hat!

So don’t forget your windbreaker or anorak, thick socks, hat, scarf and umbrella.

We didn’t have an umbrella.

Or a hat.

Actually, I did have a hat but I couldn’t wear it in the rain ‘cos it’s not that type of hat LOL!

But I digress.

lithuanian_welcomeWe’ve already been to Lithuania and Latvia and let me tell you, they are so worth the trip. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back LOL!

And as for travelling to the Baltics by coach-bus and via our part-sponsor – Lux Express, The Music Producer panicked a bit at the thought, but I have to tell you that it really wasn’t that bad at all.

From Berlin to Vilnius in Lithuania, we travelled with the Simple Express part of the company and it was just like any other coach-bus journey but with individual flat screens and WiFi, albeit not always working! However, from Vilnius onwards, well, well!

Lux Express.
Lux Express.

I couldn’t believe how coach-bus journeys have changed. We met so many people who were doing the Baltic Route. In fact, we met a French fellow in Vilnius and met him again in Riga! Unsurprisingly, most people were travelling by coach-bus and we met only one (1) group of girls who were driving.

From Belarus!

One Australian guy was actually annoyed because his coach-bus didn’t have the facilities that we had! I mean, with nice clean wide seats, free WiFi, individual flat screens for films and shows, free headphones which you helped yourself to, and free hot drinks like tea, coffee and hot chocolate, I’m thinking, yes please!

And once we got to the smaller countries, we took the empty seats and were able to stretch out even further! They even had seatbelts and floor lights just like on an aeroplane.

Riga 1650.
Riga 1650.

So for now, I’ve given you the lowdown of where we were going to go in Lithuania and Latvia.

See how it now runs off my tongue unlike a year ago, when I simply hadn’t a clue!

And now, I’m going to tell you where we’re going in Estonia and Finland, and roughly what we’re going to be doing. Again, this is the plan but as you know, plans change.

As does the weather!

Read on:

ESTONIA

Estonian Young Folk.
Estonian Young Folk.

Estonia, officially called the Republic of Estonia, is a country surrounded by Finland, Latvia, and Russia. It is considered one (1) of the smallest countries in the European Union, as it only has a country-wide population of 1.3 million people!

An advanced, highly economic country, its history with Finland is tightly connected, coming from an ancient type of Finnish people! The Estonian language stems from Finno-Ugric which is closely related to Finnish and Sami, with a distant link to Hungarian.

Estonia is so far North that it’s on the same latitude as parts of Alaska and Siberia!

Estonia’s modern development has risen so quickly and achieved so much success that Estonia is often described as one of the most wired countries in Europe and has the nickname of “e-Estonia!”

Denmarks' flag in 1219.
Denmarks’ flag in 1219.

Here’s a little history:

Estonia has just 400,000 people but has lived in the region for over 10,000 years! They are closer to their Nordic cousins in culture and language than to their Baltic neighbours and were ruled by the Danes, Poles, Swedes, Germans and Russians. They became independent in 1918, lost it to half a century of occupation and only regained their independence in 1991 following the Singing Revolution.

It became  a member of the EU and NATO in 2004 and also uses the Euro as its main currency.

TALLINN

Street in the Old Town @Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
Street in the Old Town
@Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is known around the world for its Hanseatic architecture and used to be known as a town call Reval. The preserved cobblestone streets of the city and it’s houses dates back as far as the 11th century in the Medieval age where brave Estonian knights rode through medieval architecture and made pacts with Baltic German nobility!

Amid the Gothic houses of merchants and Guild houses, churches and warehouses, Tallinn’s Old Town offers such a medieval flair and authenticity, that no other city in the Baltic region can offer 15th and 16th century towers and walls, as well as the oldest Gothic Town Hall in all of Northern Europe!

Tallinn Medieval Days. @Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau
Tallinn Medieval Days.
@Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau

The Old Town is just bursting with culture and is also preserved as part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage so we’ll be going to Tallinn not once, but twice! We’ll be looking forward to capturing the legends of ghosts and spirits, the mysterious touch of castles and medieval buildings, with the help of the Tallinn Card 72 hours, for ourselves. The Tallinn Card was kindly offered to us by the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau.

Thank you.

We will be using the Tallinn Card to explore Tallinn and travel through the city. We’re most likely to go on a sightseeing tour so that we can visit beyond the city, we’ll definitely be hopping into a few museums that focus on Estonian history, culture and art such as the Estonian History Museum and the Natural History Museum, the Epping Tower, the walls and fortresses, the Marizapan Museum. Yes, marzipan!

Oh, it’s going to be so much fun!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" having fun in Bangkok.
“The Tall Young Gentleman” having fun in Bangkok.

We won’t ramble this time along as young teenagers are easily bored, so we’ll be tiring ourselves with outdoor activities, trying and tasting typical Estonian peasant food such as soup, black bread, pork, Estonian sausages, potatoes and fish, Russian elegance, and such delights (adults only) as Estonian wine, vodka, beer and a traditional drink called kali or Russian kvass.

A 2nd Breakfast?!
A 2nd Breakfast?!

We will be staying for three (3) days at the oldest hotel in Estonia, the luxury 5-star boutique hotel – The Hotel St. Petersbourg. The elegant hotel is located right in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town and only has 27 rooms! We’ll be in one of the twin superior rooms and as usual, location and history is absolutely key, as well as free WiFi, a full buffet or a’la carte breakfast, a mini iPad for use in the room, and a free morning sauna.

TravellersChoice2013Ah European saunas.

Gulp and fear of the unknown!

On our return back from Finland, we will also be staying for only one (1) day more at the 4-star charming My City Hotel. My City Hotel (formerly the Domina Inn City Hotel) is a charming little hotel of 68 rooms, situated in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town and is decorated with Italian modern art. We’ll be in one of the Superior Twin Rooms. And as previously stated, the most important point for a comfortable Spring Break with a teenager is a historical central location, spaciousness, free WiFi, a full buffet breakfast, and fluffy slippers!

I certaintly won't be going to the sauna European style. Don't forget, I'm British!
I certainly won’t be going to the sauna European style. Don’t forget, I’m British!

Oh, but again, European saunas.

Double gulp and screaming down the street!

FINLAND

Finland.So many people know of Finland, Lapland, reindeer, and Father Christmas, but how many people have really been there?

Have you?

I didn’t think so!

Finland, also known as the Republic of Finland, is not really a Baltic country but a Nordic one. It’s often lumped together with the Baltic States because of the relative ease and physical closeness. In reality, Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia.

Ice Church. @VisitFinland
Ice Church.
@VisitFinland

Finland is full of interesting contrast such as the Midnight Sun and days full of darkness in Winter. Over two-thirds of the world’s people who experience the Midnight Sun, actually live in Finland!

Wow!

In fact, in the most Northern part of Finland, the sunlight can be present for a consecutive number of over 70 days!

In land mass, Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe but with one of the lowest populations. It has just 5.4 million people, 37 national parks, 70% of the country covered with trees, and 15.8 inhabitants per every km2.

Helsinki Central Railway Station. @VisitFinland.
Helsinki Central Railway Station.
@VisitFinland.

Here’s some history:

Finland was once part of Sweden and as a result of this, the official language in Finland is both Swedish and Finnish! 91% speak Finnish, 54% speak Swedish and 1,700 indigenous people who live in Northern Lapland, speak Sámi. Finland was also a part of the Russian Empire and briefly became an independent republic in 1917 until WWII. It joined the UN in 1955, became a neutral nation, joined the EU in 1995, and has the Euro as its official currency.

HELSINKI

Helsinki Monument, Finland. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Monument, Finland.
@VisitFinland

I would like to go to Lapland one of these days, but for this journey, we’ll be going to the very cultural city of Helsinki which is the capital, and also has a 100 km long shoreline and around 300 islands!

Helsinki as the capital of Finland, was founded in 1550 and has a little over half a million people living there. It’s a modern European city famous for its culture, design, and high technology, and its own unique cultural space. It is traditional but modern and is internationally renowned for its strong Finnish design, bold and innovative culinary suave, and it’s hip urban nuances, in a backdrop of sea and forest!

Helsinki Hakaniemi Market. @VisitFinland
Helsinki Hakaniemi Market.
@VisitFinland

I’m not entirely sure yet but we probably won’t ramble around this time either as Helsinki isn’t that type of city, but is trendy and hipster-like. As a result, we will be checking out areas full of design shops, antique shops, museums and galleries. We’ll also be trying and testing Helsinki’s food culture such as potatoes, dried, smoked and simmered fish and meat, and characteristic food such as stroganoff, salted and pickled fish, and meatballs with reindeer.

If we can find it!

We will be staying for two (2) nights at the very artistically designed GLO Hotel Art which is an exclusive, charming lifestyle hotel built around a century-old Art Nouveau castle. Our artdesign hotel is located in the heart of the Helsinki Design District and has 171 rooms. We’ll be in one of the GLO Comfort Twin rooms and as before, location and attractiveness is key to a wonderful experience as well as free WiFi, a flat screen TV, a full buffet breakfast, and more fluffy slippers!

GLO Hotel Art is a winner of Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice 2014 award and was ranked number 15 among the most popular hotels in Helsinki.

Very exciting!

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

We will be crossing the sea because we’re also on a sponsorship deal with TALLINK SLJA LINE.

TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. We will be sailing with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

We’ll be taking both the Tallink Shuttle Star and the Superstar cruises across the Baltic Sea.

Happy Estonian people!
Happy Estonian people!

Many tourists as well as Estonian and Finnish, people regularly take day trips across the water, as the ships travel from city to city in just 2 hours.

All year round!

However, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I would actually like to stay in Helsinki for much longer than 12 hours, but if you’re pushed for time, just take the day cruise instead.

It’s only a two (2) hour crossing so we’ll be using the time to wander along the ship and admire the sea view.

It’s going to be fresh and windy!

Pancakes from Lithuania!
Pancakes from Lithuania!

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE, and the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau. We received a 72 hour complimentary Tallinn Card  and we get a little discount on the hotels, but all opinions and the delicious food and drink that I thoroughly consumed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Next week, I’ll tell you what happened in Lithuania and how we survived an 18.5 hour coach-bus adventure!

Stay tuned!

International Games Week Berlin 2015 is a leading cross-industry communication and networking platform for games businesss, development and culture, and will be taking place between April 21-26, 2015.

I’ll be going to TBEX Europe (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

Strictly Stand Up English Comedy Night will be taking place at the Quatsch Comedy Club on 29.04.15.

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin in the April, you’re going to miss all the exciting stuff!

April is going to be blooming!

Watch this space!

Goating around in Riga, Latvia!
Goating around in Riga, Latvia!

Would you take a long distance coach-bus journey around Europe? Can you imagine visiting Riga, and sailing away to Helsinki?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

I’m really going to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Finland, so don’t look at me like that. I’m not mad!

As lovely as in Prague!
As lovely as in Prague!

That time is soon approaching when I will be on the road again.

It’s so exciting!

You know, thinking about where to go on the map, planning it and then checking it’s still possible the way you thought it was.

Of course, it’s possible you say.

Really?

Did you know that if you wanted to get to parts of Wales from other parts of Wales using public transport, the easiest way, would be to go back into England or take the ferry coming from Ireland?!

I know this, because we’ve done this!

VB34130770We ended up flying into Bristol. In England.

From Berlin. In Germany.

Spending a night. In Bristol. In England.

And then taking a train from Bristol. In England.

To Cardiff. In Wales.

And then picking up a car.

In Wales.

One day, I might just tell you the full story……..!

The Welsh flag on Conwy Castle, Wales.
The Welsh flag on Conwy Castle, Wales.

As you might have noticed unless we’re in America or the backwaters of the Welsh countryside, we don’t tend to use the car.

  • Because I don’t drive. What! Shock & Awe!?$§!! Yeah, I bought a car when I was living in London, and used all my friends as my own personal driver. What can I say? I’m fancy!
  • My husband – The Music Producer – doesn’t really like driving unless he has to. And in America, his medieval hometown of Osnabrück, in Wales. He had to. Alone!
  • I like flying.
  • I love the train.
  • I’m one of those freaks who loves long-distance coach-bus journeys ‘cos I can get comfortable, cross my legs, and read!
  • I love reading.
  • I like looking through the window and watching the countries and landscapes change. You should see the changes from Germany to Holland, Belgium & France. It’s so obvious that you’re in a totally different country.
  • I’m lazy.
  • Using public transport is far better for the environment than using a car.
  • The good old honest truth. Well, you can take as much luggage as you like and you don’t really have to worry about how much it weighs!
Lux Express.
Lux Express.

My husband gulped a bit and his lovely green eyes got even greener when I told him that not only were we going to the “other” Eastern Europe otherwise known as The Baltics, but we were going by long-distance coach-bus from country to country!

I’m a determined woman and normally get what I want so with the part-sponsorship of the largest international express route coach operator in the Baltic region, an Estonian company called Lux Express, we are indeed going through the Baltic Region by road from Germany, all the way through to Estonia, and back again!

Sailing away! Photo @AS Tallink Grupp
Sailing away!
Photo @AS Tallink Grupp

We are also going to be taking to the waters by sailing across to Finland, with the sponsorship of TALLINK SLJA LINE. TALLINK is an Estonian shipping company currently operating Baltic Sea cruise ferries and ships from Estonia to Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Germany. We will be sailing with them from Estonia to Finland and back to Estonia.

However, I love my husband, and he’s not standing for total madness so while “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I saunter on, he’s flying back after a week with airBaltic!

In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.
In Kurdistan at the ITB 2015.

I have been to 48 countries with 4 new countries coming up. Many of these countries I have been to over and over again.

Why?

Simply because I like them.

I’m strong-minded. Just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean that I can’t go back there again.

Returning to Rokytnice nad Jizerou in the Czech Republic.  Because I'm worth it!
Returning to Rokytnice nad Jizerou in the Czech Republic. Because I’m worth it!

I do go back.

Again and again.

It’s never ever boring. Only different.

And for me, travelling is my pleasure not my work. My blog represents the business of me – The British Berliner – but everything I do and everywhere I go, is for my own and complete and utter pleasure!

Remember how I told you a fortnight ago that this blog was about ME.

It is.

Therefore, if I choose to go to Milan although I’ve been there five (5) times before, it’s because I want to.

I love Italy by the way.

A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!
A yummy shrimp roll from #WeAreInPuglia!

Same goes with the way I travel.

Sure, I could probably fly for €50.00, but where’s the fun and adventure in that?

Live a little!

As much as I love travelling to my favourite regions of the world, one of the most interesting things about the Baltic Region is that I’ve never been there before. It’s going to be nice to go to a country with my family that is as new to them as it is as new to me.

Yikes!

So let’s have a closer look at the four (4) lovely countries that I’m going to.

WHY THE BALTICS?

Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.  Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis
Harmony of the countryside in Latvia.
Photo@ Arturs Jasinskis

The Baltic States might be small in landmass but the countries are considered to be old European in look, rich culture, enchanting history, old tradition. In fact, quite charming! In the last 6 years alone Vilnius, Riga & Tallinn were proudly inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the wonder that is their unique architecture in their “old towns” and also as European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union not only in 2009 and 2011, but also in 2014!

In 2015, it will be in Plzen, a city in one of my favourite countries, the Czech Republic.

LITHUANIA

©2012-2015 onelung
©2012-2015 onelung

Let’s be honest. How many of you have ever heard of Lithuania?

Thought so!

I’ll try my best to explain some history:

Lithuania is in the European Union and was part of the EU Enlargement in 2004, but is still a country that has yet to be discovered. It’s official name is the Republic of Lithuania.

Europe is fantastically diverse and enormously blended as a result, both the Lithuanians and Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. Not only that, but Lithuania’s former capital was called Trakai and was the religious centre of the Lithuanian Karaites who were of Turkish origin, but also happened to be Jewish.

Vakaras-Vilniaus-senamiestyjeLithuania was an independent state as far back as the 13th century, joined into a union with Poland in the 14th century, became a part of Prussia in the 18th century, forcibly became a part of the former USSR in 1940, established re-independence in 1991, and became both a member of NATO and the EU in 2004.

Phew!

The European Flag.
The European Flag.

It’s a small country with less than 3 million people living there and on the 1st January, 2015, became the 19th EU member state to adopt the Euro as its national currency.

We’re proud of Lithuania!

it’s still early days and if you’re in the Lithuanian countryside, it’s likely that they weren’t invited to the ceremony so just in case: 1 Lithuanian Litas (LTL) is worth about €0.29 or $0.31!

VILNIUS

VilniusHomeVilnius is the capital of Lithuania, one of the largest old cities in Europe, and is covered by countless churches. In fact, 65! It might have a population of only just half a million people, but all that history makes up for it!

Vilnius is a medieval cosmopolitan city known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” because of its strong Jewish past until WWII, “Little Rome” and “North Athens.” It’s also a treasure-trove of Baroque craftsmanship and a valuable and historical site of not only Baroque, but also Gothic, Renaissance, and other architectural styles.

I can’t tell you everything that we’re going to do as we’re not there yet, are we?

Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.
Laughing, smiling, and eating in Bangkok.

All I can tell you is that we’re absolutely going to go on a walking tour to get our bearings as you know that I love them so much having gone on a walking tour in Edinburgh, a walking tour in London, a walking tour in Bangkok, and an alternative walking tour in Berlin!

I’m thinking of going with the Vilnius With Locals walking tour. It’s a free walking tour and you tip whatever you think it is worth.

We’re only going to be there for three (3) days so this will be a sloooooow cultural family trip. We’ll check out some of the lovely churches and places of worship which are just bursting to be visited, we’ll pay our respects in the Jewish Quarter, we’ll ramble along the cobbled historical streets, and we’ll be trying out and tasting not only the tasteful Lithuanian cuisine but also checking out the Lithuanian soup, dumplings, and dessert, as well as Lithuanian beer and vodka!

VilniusHome18We’ll be staying at a small family Bed and Breakfast consisting of just seven (7) rooms, and located between the Old Town and a park. This B&B is called Vilnius Home Bed and Breakfast and we’ll be in the Family Room.

Most importantly, there’ll be free WiFi, space to dump all our stuff after our long weary journey, and free breakfast. Everything a family with a young teenager needs!

Yipee!

LATVIA

Latvia.Latvia, also known as the pearl of the Baltic States and officially as the Republic of Latvia, is situated in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe – on the shores of the Baltic Sea. I like the Baltic Sea and I’ve written about it before albeit from the Polish side!

Latvia is a multi-cultured state and right in the middle of Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia and Russia! As the Lithuanians, the Latvians are Balts by ethnic and linguistic origin and although separate independent countries, have closely related languages. The Latvians also have indigenous people called Livs and the two neighbouring countries both speak an Indo-European language and are the only two true Baltic languages that have survived.

Happily, all the traditions have merged together creating a unique environment, a vast cultural historical heritage.and a country-state of about 2 million people.

Latvia, is also a country not well-known and even within the E.U. itself, many Europeans have a hard time remembering what the capital city is.

It’s Riga by the way!

lncc15_song_and_dance_festival2013_latvian_national_centre_for_culturexHere’s some history:

Although under various forms of foreign rule and invasion from the 13th to the 20th century, the Latvian people were able to hold onto their history and identity via their own unique language and musical traditions. The Republic of Latvia came into existence in 1918 but due to the WWII and the forcible incorporation into the then USSR, lost its independence. The famous Singing Revolutions of the Latvian people (a bit like the Von Trapp family in the Sound of Music) helped to motivate the people and independence was once again declared in 1991. Latvia became a member of NATO and the EU in 2004, was declared a “high income” country, and the Latvian lats replaced with the Euro as its national currency on the 1st of January, 2014.

RIGA

A European Capital of Culture.
A European Capital of Culture.

We will be going to Riga which is the capital city, the largest city in the Baltic State Region, and also not only on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its unique architecture in the “old town,” but was also one of the European Capitals of Culture designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe, and increase the sense of belonging to our common cultural area that is the European Union, in 2014!

You might not have ever heard of Latvia, but are you sure you haven’t heard or seen pictures of Riga?

institute_of_latvia_aleksandrs_kendenkovsRiga is an elegant old European town nourished by Russian glamour and elegant Art Nouveau boulevards! It’s a metropolis pulsing with life, romantic walks and live music and celebration. It’s a medieval city that has been preserved and still shows traces of its religious and Romanesque past.

Do you recognise Riga now?

Art Nouveau in Riga.
Art Nouveau in Riga.

We’ll only be in Riga for three (3) days and thereafter, The Music Producer will depart and fly back to Berlin so that “The Tall Young Gentleman” and I will continue the rest of our Baltic cultural adventure together. There’s a lot to see in Riga so we’ll probably go on another walking tour such as the Yellow Riga Free Tour. I understand that it’s supported by the European Community programme Youth in Action, so why not. Right!? It’s an alternative free walking tour and goes outside the Old Town. Tip whatever you think it’s worth.

Of course, we’ll also check out the lovely Old Town itself. It looks gorgeous and perhaps also the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. I quite like the sound of learning about the history and cultural background of a people. The rambling along the cobbled historical streets continues and of course, we’ll be trying out and tasting rustic Latvian soup, chops, and cheese topped off with Latvian beer, vodka and Riga Black Balsam!

History at Hotel Justus.
History at Hotel Justus.

We will be staying at a four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the old town of Riga. The hotel is called Hotel Justus. Hotel Justus lies right within the architectural UNESCO protected area, was a Bishop’s residence in 1210, was part of a tavern in the 20th century and has just 48 rooms designed to embrace the architectural charm and historical delight of Riga. We’ll be in the Family Suite which will have two separate bedrooms and a joint bathroom.

You cannot believe how nice it is to sometimes have separate but joint bedrooms when your child is still young, but very tall. In Poland, our B&B was lovely and quaint but my sons’ arms and legs were all over the place on our East European double bed, so I spent most of our holiday sleeping on the floor!

"The Tall Young Gentleman"
“The Tall Young Gentleman”

You cannot believe how many times we have tried to explain that even though he is a child, he isn’t a child-child. And in Asia, explaining proved to be too difficult so we just said he was a young adult since he was taller than most grown up men, and in Hong Kong, so was I LOL! We either booked a superior room in Bangkok, a wooden chalet in Chiang Mai, or went all out and rented a house in Bali.

Our son was 13 years old just last Sunday but looks like a 15 year old boy! The photograph above was taken just two years ago!

Once again, the most important factor for a couple and a young teenager is location (we’re right in the UNESCO centre.) Yay! History will come alive ‘cos we’ll be sleeping in it! Free WiFi, a flat screen TV, and a generous breakfast.

I’m pretty ecstatic!

Pelmeni served with sour cream in Latvia.
Pelmeni served with sour cream in Latvia.

This article is part-sponsored by Lux Express and TALLINK SLJA LINE, and the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau. We received a 72 hour complimentary Tallinn Card  and we get a little discount on the hotels, but all opinions and the delicious food and drink that I thoroughly consumed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

I’m going to be travelling to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, AND Finland!

I’ll tell you all about what we’re going to be doing in Riga in Latvia with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what the plans are for Helsinki in Finland, in the coming weeks.

International Games Week Berlin 2015 is a leading cross-industry communication and networking platform for games businesss, development and culture, and will be taking place between April 21-26, 2015.

I’ll be going to TBEX Europe (Travel Bloggers Exchange) an International Networking Conference, for the first time! It’ll be taking place in Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15.

Strictly Stand Up English Comedy Night will be taking place at the Quatsch Comedy Club on 29.04.15.

Eddie Izzard will be back in Germany and will be front-lining a killer international night of comedy at the Admirals Palast on 08.05.15.

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. Anybody can apply!

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin in April, I haven’t a clue where else you’re going to be!

April is going to be refreshing.

Watch this space! Riga-Black-Balsam-6Have you ever been to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia & Finland? Do you want to go to Vilnius or Riga? Would you be all daring and take a long-distance bus or coach?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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