Yep, we are in Finland! Today is our third day here and I can't wait to tell you about the adventures we have had.
I did our usual and took pictures of the guidebook that is in the library but we left the first morning not really knowing what we might do. We walked into town instead of taking the bus and it took about 35 minutes. It was a beautiful walk along the coast and we shared it with some faculty friends. We arrived in the city and there was a fabulous open air market selling everything from food to animal hides…eek! We did a little looking around and had lunch there. We had salmon paella and reindeer meatballs with vegetables at the street market. Sounds weird but both dishes were fantastic.
After a little more wandering we took a ferry over to Suomenlinna. It is a fortress of Finland on a little cluster of four islands connected by bridges and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was built in the mid-eighteenth century. We explored old bunkers, fortress wall and cannons and of course had some ice-cream (the weather is WARM and pretty humid). We also visited the church on the island. There are 800 people that currently live on the cluster of islands. It was so nice to just be outside enjoying nature that day.
Our second day, I am not going to lie, was pretty frustrating in the beginning. We had a leisurely morning and then headed into town to rent bikes and explore. We had to pay for the bikes in cash so we got off the bus in the city center and started to look for an ATM. Easy enough right…..wrong!!!! We have learned that if you are looking for it you will NEVER find it. We walked for about ½ an hour….no bank! We were in the middle of the city!!!!! NO BANK!!! It was getting close to eating time which was meaning we were getting grumpy and it was HOT. No good! When we found an ATM it only took cards with imbedded chips. Well the USA isn't up to date with the chips and won't be until 2015 so we had to walk to the other side of the city to find an ATM. On our walk there we stopped at a great vegetarian restaurant called Zucchini. The menu was in Finnish but I was so tired and hungry I said "We can't read your menu but we need some food." and they helped us figure out what to order. We had fantastic curry soup and vegetable risotto. YUMMY!
Finally we got to the bank, got some cash and then rented bikes for about 4 hours. We rode all up and down the coastline and saw beaches and beautiful coastal scenery. We stopped at a café on the water and we FaceTimed with Mom and Dad and Asher and Anna. We got to talk to Clara too. She is having a great time with grandmom and the grandkids. Then we saw a HUGE storm was coming in so we peddled FAST back to the city center (about 20 min) and returned the bikes just before the storm let loose. We waited under an awning for about 30 minutes and it was pouring rain and there was lots of thunder and lighting. Luckily it was quick.
One of our friends was having a surprise birthday party at a restaurant in town so we went there next. Before we went to the restaurant we got to do another facetime call with our good friends Allison and Michael and Ella. GREAT! Then we headed to dinner. We had all kinds of pizza. Salmon pizza, shrimp pizza and other interesting things. But the best part was spending time with this group of new friends. There are so many wonderful, intelligent, kind people on this ship. We haven't known each other very long but we have grown close very fast. Barbara Garvey was the birthday girl. She is the Life Long Learner Coordinator and her husband Dan is faculty on the ship. It was such a beautiful evening with friends and then we all walked the 45 minutes home from the restaurant together and enjoyed the beautiful cool night. We ended the night in the Glazer Lounge having a few drinks and chatting and then slept really well after a long day!