I only decided to make the trip to Helsinki on a whim. Before going to Tallinn I had looked into the possibility of making the trip, but all the travel sites I looked at said that summer was the best time to make the crossing from Estonia, when I fast hydrofoil completes the journey in just 90 minutes. These craft cannot operate during the winter months, as they run the risk of running into ice flows with potentially disastrous results! I looked on the Viking Lines website and saw that conventional ferries take 3 hours to make the crossing, with a return ticket costing around £20. I decided to forget this idea, but before abandoning it completely, looked at a couple of websites describing the beer scene in Helsinki.
|Pack-ice on the approach to the Finnish coast|
I walked the other way into the by now empty departure hall and made a casual enquiry at the Viking Line booking office. I was surprised to learn that I could buy a return day ticket to Helsinki for the next day sailing at a cost of just EEK200 (around £12). The only hitch was that it involved catching the first sailing of the day out of Tallinn and the last one back from Helsinki. I had originally planed to visit Tartu, Estonia's second city and the home of the A. Le Coq Brewery, but had done little to arrange this. I therefore opted for the crossing to the Finnish capital instead, paid my money and checked what time I would need to be down at the port.
|Forts guarding the ice-bound approach to Helsinki harbour|
I had an early start the following morning; I had to check in at the port by 7.15am in order to make the 8 o'clock sailing. It had snowed quite heavily during the night, but even as I made my way on foot down to the harbour, there were gangs of people out clearing snow from the pavements. The buses and trams were all running and were full of people off to work. There were numerous gritters out and about all helping to keep the roads clear. In short there was none of the travel chaos that ensues in this country whenever we get a few snowflakes!
|Ferry terminal encased in ice|
|Black Door pub, Helsinki|
|Interior- Black Door|
|Field Marshall Mannerheim|