Thursday, October 29, 2009

A house is not a home without a sauna

...or in Finnish: Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa

30th July 2009

The flight from Riga to Helsinki lasted about 40mins which was great! My Uncle and Aunt (Reijo and Hillevi) met us at the airport to take us to Pirkko’s place (Mummu’s sister).

Pirkko, Me, Lauren and Nicole when we arrived!

I was finally glad to have a room to myself. It was cute and always made Nicole and I laugh whenever we found something unique like that toy wombat, or corn!

The Kitchy Kitchen

My Room: The wall of nic nacs

My Bed

We then had some fresh rolls Pirkko had made earlier that day and then went for a Sauna! I tried to remember the place and only as we were walking down the stairs did I remember the rooms where I used to play hide and seek with Reijo.

Stickers that Kati and I had stuck on her door back in 1988!

31st July 2009

The next morning Reijo picked us up and we headed firstly to where he and mum (+ family) grew up before they came to Australia. It was quite moving to be there and see the place. It was a tiny unit, where 2 adults and 7 children lived for 6 years.

Reijo and I

We then went to Helsinki Zoo which is on its own little island! Great idea if you ask me: If any animals break out, blow the bridge!

On the bridge to the zoo, overlooking Helsinki

Lion: ripping her dinner appart. Anyone for ribs?

Mmm... Reindeer!

Snowy Owl

After the zoo, we headed to a great restaurant called Zetor. I had some creamy Finnish Hash (HUGE and served in what looked like a dog bowl!), Nicole had Herring Fillets and Lauren had the Sauteed Reindeer. I also had a raspberry cider which was absolutely amazing. I think I love you Cider.

Nicole, Lauren, Me and Reijo at Zetor

Creamy Hash


Sauteed Reindeer

We then went for a walk around Helsinki (only quickly as it was raining!). Apparently they hadn't had rain in several weeks and the time we are there (we as in me!) it rains. Typical. We walked up the main road and saw the Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square and also the oldest house in Finland!

Helsinki Cathedral

One of the oldest houses in Finland (The little brown one)

We then head back to Pirkko's and on our way gave her a call to see if she could start the Sauna again: when in Finland! When we arrived we met her grandson Heikki who I apparently played with when I was 3. Neither of us remembered each other, which was hilarious! He wasn’t sure what to say but his girlfriend was a sure chatterbox. She was telling Nicole and Lauren that they should have an authentic sauna and hit each other with Birch branches. Classic.

1st August 2009

Reijo picked us up again in the monring and we headed into Helsinki. We got dropped off at the markets in Helsinki and spent the first part of the monring browsing the markets and eyeing off the punets raspberries. We walked around for a while and after took a walk down the Esplanade in Helsinki: The flowers in this place are crazy cool + it was a nice day!

We then walked to the Natural History Museum of Helsinki to see some mooses as we hadn’t seen one at the zoo (apparently it was sick!). Those things are huge! Reijo was telling us that most road accidents in Finland are caused by Moose.

Reindeer. Is it really necccessary to have the fake poop trail?!



We then headed back to the Markets where we bought some raspberries (after thinking about them all day!) and sat by the water eating what we could, and eventually feeding the ducks the rest. I can’t remember fully, but I remember going to the Baltic Beer festival as well! The beer was like 20% and way too much for me to drink.

We again had a Sauna when we got back to Pirkko's and also had an Apple and Rubarb Cider that Reijo had given us when he dropped us back that night! Mmm. Cider!

2nd August 2009

Today we drove down the Kings Road and headed into Vanha Porvoo: Medieval Old Town with rust-colored timber shore houses lining the river and quaint cafes. It has an interesting history, especially the Cathedral...

Porvoo has fought for its very ex-istence on several occasions overthe centuries. At the beginningof the 16th century, Danes arrivedby sea to destroy the city. TheRussians burned Porvoo twice.In 1760, a Porvoo housewifemade fish soup, and the fire itcaused destroyed the majority ofthe buildings in the city. The lastmisfortune was the arson in 2006that greatly damaged a key land-mark of Old Porvoo, the cathedral.

Laurne and I at Porvoo

Porvoo: Timber shore houses

Me overlooking the river and trees

We walked up the coble stone streets and had a look inside. It looks pretty cool for a burnt church. We could only stay inside for a quick look as they were about to have some kind of ceremony. It looked like some kind of induction into a cult. Young Swedish kids in white robes marching in twos into the entrance. Creepy.

The Cathedral

The Cult

Of course, it starts to rain again! Reijo was cursing the weather quite politely (hehe).

After hiding out in a cafe and having hot chocolate we finish the walk around Porvoo and head back to their place for some Cider – YUM, and home cooked meatballs. Perfect!

Drinking hot chocolate

Me, Nicole and Lauren

Eating dinner

After they dropped us back to Pirkkos we said our goodbyes and thanks! I wished they could come over soon! I loved every minute of it.

Riejo, Hillevi and I

That night after we finished packing our things, Nicole and I had a night of chatting, giggling and crying! I couldn’t believe she was going to be away for about a year!

3rd August 2009

After a very tearing morning of goodbyes, I found a lovely note written by Nicole! I’m not sure if I told her but it made me cry, again! I totally loved it. You’re a great friend Nicole!

I then had about 5 hours until my flight. I spent the day in the garden with Pirkko, taking photos of her garden + nic nacs! I then went to my room to check if I had all my things when she came in and asked what I had bought on my travels. I found my little souvenirs and went to the kitchen to show her and after I had finished she went on a little mission and came back with a procelain duck for me to take home. It's so old and faded, but I think its the best of all.

As I was putting the items back into my I saw a little squirrel hopping along in the back garden. Too cute!

Ducks in Pirkko's garden

I found an arm!

In the garden

In the garden

An egg

When the time came to leave, Pirkko came with me to the airport and she had a coffee and I had an apple juice. We were talking and then she asked if I had finished my apple juice as she had liked the bottle and wanted to take it home with her. It totally made me laugh as I thought she was joking, but she wasn't! She took the bottle and stashed it neatly into her hand bag as if it was normal.

She's crazy, but we all love her!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Greece is the word

22nd July 2009 - Athens

The flight was pretty quick, and the landing bumpy. We asked for direction to our hotel at one of those tourist booths: Bus X95 to Syntagma Square.

After arriving at Syntagma Square (which was the last stop) we walked to Kidathineon Road to the Student and Travellers Inn. We checked in and dropped off our stuff. We then took a walk to the Acropolis which was literally only a 10minute walk from the Inn. We entered from the East side and had to walk up a huge hill and stairs to get to the top. Again, worth it. The view of Athens is pretty amazing, although I wouldn’t call it beautiful. Lots of ugly buildings, but terrific views of the ocean and hills. We then headed back to the Inn, showered and headed back through the streets to a nice little restaurant that we had passed along the way. It was away from the hustle and bustle of the main street but we had an awesome view of the Acropolis at night. We ate authentic Greek Salad with Tzatziki sauce, chicken suvlaki and watermelon. Yum!

In the south slope of the Acropolis: Some Ruins

Our climb to the top

Inside the Temple of Athena Nike

The Parthenon

The Temple of Erechtheum

Flag at the top

At the top of the Acropolis overlooking the city

Lauren and Nicole at Dinner

Me at dinner, in the dress I bought in Rome.

Greek Salad and Tzatziki sauce, wine, fanta and water

At night

23rd July 2009 - Athens

The next morning was hectic. We woke up at 6am as we thought we were getting picked up to go to the Port for our boat trip to Paros. As it turns out, the reception was supposed to have an envelope with our ferry tickets which had our departure time. We asked the old guy at the counter for them, but nadda. 40 minutes later, he found an envelope in the ‘mail room’. Imagine that: Mail in the mail room! They (being the tour we booked) had even delivered it the day we arrived, but no-one mentioned it to us. Lesson learnt: Always ask for documents on arrival. Even if you aren’t expecting any! Nicole and I were pretty stressed by this point and who knows what we were capable of if the old guy didn’t find them!

With 5 hours to kill (Yes, pick up was 12pm, not 6am!), we sat around the courtyard and periodically went on the net when there was a free computer. Finally, 12pm arrived, and not a moment too soon: I could’ve cut the tension in the air between us. We hopped into our taxi and arrived at Pireaus Port, Gate 9 and boarded our ferry to Paros. The Ferry left 2 hours late for our 9 our journey. The ride was pretty boring (and long, gah!) and mostly had us out on deck, in the shade and then eventually watching the sunset while Nicole and I played clapping games.

We arrived at Paros Port at 9:30pm and caught a taxi to the High Mill Hotel. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but it was also dark. We checked in and headed straight to bed.

Sunset on the boat to Paros from Athens

24th July 2009 - Paros

Paros is amazing. I opened the window to the most gorgeous view of the ocean. After soaking in the view, we headed down for some breakfast and then headed out to the main street to see what’s happening in Paros. It was buzzing. We stopped for something to eat at a place called Cyber Cookies. We ate bagels and drank our straweberry and banana smoothies and jumped on the net for our free 20mins!

The view from our balcony

Me and the gorgeous view!

Strawberry and Banana smoothies - Yum!

We then continued our little adventure through the streets were I went on a little shopping spree. I bought 2 beach bags and a couple of bracelets and anklets. We then thought it was time to hit up the local beach.

It was only about 700m to the beach and a short walk down a hill. It felt like a private beach. Not very big, but the Mediterranean was just lovely. It’s nice not having to worry about mauled by a shark, stung by a blue bottle and actually being able to see the sea ground! We spent the rest of the afternoon down at the beach.

The beach in Paros

For dinner we ate at a cute little restaurant we had walked passed earlier. I had some mussels in tomato and feta, and we also had some baklava, on the house! We also had wine. Let’s just say that Greece is probably not know for it’s wine.

Mussels with feta and tomato

Mmmm... Baklava

We decided to head out for the night and asked Demetri (the receptionist) where to go. Apparently Salonne was the place to be. We walked down the main road, not actually knowing were it was and just decided to have some cocktails at a place with a fluro sign saying 5Euro Cocktails until 12pm. Turns out, it’s Salonne! Winners. It’s a nice place and the strawberry daiquiris are delish. We had decided to turn in after a few cocktails. The sun, surf and cocktails definitely takes it out of you. Hard life, I know!

25th July 2009 - Paros

We walked to the Port to catch the ferry to Naxos, which was luckily only a 20min walk with luggage in tow as the taxis were all booked! It was only about a 2hour ferry ride to our next island: Naxos.

25th July 2009 - Naxos

After porting in Naxos, we headed to our next hotel: Hotel Sergis. We dumped our bags and headed straight for the beach for some much needed R+R. The beach was again a short walk from our hotel and this one was a lot bigger than any at Paros.

All showered and relaxed, we walked back to the beach to eat. Nicole and I had stuffed calamari with feta and tomato. It was huge!

Our delish Calamari

Our Room

26th July 2009 - Naxos

Nicole and I went for a walk around town in Naxos, while Lauren stayed in the room. The streets weren’t nearly as busy as Paros nor as funky. We ended up in Ancient Naxos where we nearly got ran over by a forklift. After walking around for some time in 36 Degree heat, it was time for food, a book, banana chairs and the beach. We had a cocktail (Sangria and Lauren had a Singapore Sling). The sand was extremely hot, so every time we wanted to go for a dip, you would have to make a quite dash for the water, or shade-hop!

Lauren and Nicole with their cocktails on the beach

That night we went and ate at a restaurant called Dolphins that Nicole and I had passed earlier and met a lovely lady who reminded me completely of mummu! She gave me a hug on arrival and continuously smiled and patted us when she walked past.

PS. Earlier we had asked reception if they had our ferry tickets, and she said no. We then rang the emergency number, yet again to let them know we hadn’t received them. As it turns out, they had been dropped of and were put in a drawer. Seriously: The Greeks are great, but I think they lack the need to communicate important things!

27th July 2009 - Naxos

We caught a taxi to the port. While we were waiting we noticed a statue which we had seen on a couple of postcard. We took pictures of it: at the time not even knowing what it was.

"Portara" and the Temple of Apollo

The Flying Cat ferry arrived. We were all thinking “Hooray for high speed ferries”, but Nicole and I started to get motion sick on the boat. It totally ruined us for the day.

27th July 2009 - Santorini

Luckily the Ferry ride was a short 3 hours. On arrival, we hopped onto a mini bus which was going to be dropping us off at our hotel: Hotel Sunrise. After a short nap, we changed and headed into town for a look. The views of Santorini are definitely postcard material. We also had a quick shop. Quick you say? Santorini is very expensive. After dinner we headed to a rock club called Tithora. It was tiny, cute and contained rude painting! We ended up drinking quite a lot – 4 vodka and lemonades each (and I think the drinks were triple vodka!)

The view of Santorini: my postcard shot

Me and my beach bag

Me and my 3 shot vodka and lemonade

Us at Tithora

28th July 2009 - Santorini

The next morning was a total ride off. Nicole and I managed to get breakfast, even though we weren’t ready for it. The loud Australians at the table behind us were extremely irritating. All Australian tourists give the 5% of good ones a bad rep. After stomaching as much as I could, we headed back to the room and slept until 12:30pm.

We then thought it was a great day for a massage and headed down to reception to book one at the Suites of the Gods – which is a worth while name. It was perfect. After our massage we headed out on a high, and 5 mins later were waiting at a bus stop. Oh the irony!
Nicole and I then decided to check out one of the beaches, Kamari, while Lauren headed back to the room to sleep off the rest of her hangover. Kamari is the rockiest beach I have ever seen and been on. It was also quite windy.

Suites of the Gods

Beach Kamari on Santorini

We saw the funniest trio of friends: So odd it was perfect. Jock, geek and short fat guy taking photos of each other. No smiling, and no touching. Classic.

We headed back to the room about 7:30pm and then headed out for dinner. We were going to go out after food, but we didn’t. We are Lame.

29th July 2009 - Santorini

We booked a Volcano and Hot Springs tour the previous day so this morning we headed down to the old port and boarded what looked like a Pirate Ship. Our first stop was the Volcano. We had to walk to the top which was a huge effort in the heat, and a challenge. Our brilliant walking shoes never failed (Go Havianas!) and we made it to the top. It was hot, litereally, beneathe our feet. Magma is situated in the ground beneath us and you could feel it through your shoes. There was also a great view of Santorini from the top.

Pirate Ship

Me at the top

Nicole at the top. I love this shot!

We then headed back down and hopped back onto the boat. Next stop: Hot Springs! It was great jumping off the boat and into the sea. We needed to swim over to the hot springs and as you got closer, the warmer the water became. After sitting in the murky brown hot waters for a while and seeing onions and raddish float past we swam back out to the boat.

We then headed over to Thirssia for some lunch at Caption Johns and a swim at yet another rocky beach! The locals were great: they really do look like those greeks you see on postcards!

While eating we noticed some donkeys and remembered a donkey ride we saw back at Santorini. Nicole and I instantly decided it was brilliant idea to go on a donkey ride when we ported in Santorini!

Okay, so. It was 5euro, 600 stairs, 3 girls and 2 donkeys! The most memorable event of the year so far. I had paid for Nicole and I, and I think he assumed we wanted to ride the same donkey, so as Lauren got on hers (reluctantly mind you) Nicole and I walked around the corner. So far the only person on a donkey was Lauren, hating every minute of it. Nicole and I on the other hand had no idea what was going on: where are our donkeys? As we turned the corner there were more, and he motioned for Nicole to get up on the donkey, so she did. He then proceeded to push me up onto the SAME donkey! It was hilarious. I am leaning on this poor donkeys head trying not to knock Nicole off with my leg! It was a lot longer than the 4euro cable car ride to the top, but you can’t make memories like this if you tried! It was indeed a Kodak moment.

Lauren on the donkey

Nicole and I on the donkey

That night we finally had a seafood platter! It wasn’t what we were used to, but at least it wasn’t deep fried!

30th July 2009 - Santorini

We woke at 4:30am so we could catch a taxi to Santorini airport to catch our 7am flight to Athens, then had to wait at Athens airport for out 3pm flight to Helsinki, via Riga.

After finally being able to check-in our luggage, we boarded our flight to Riga and then on arrival, had to powerwalk through Riga airport to catch our connecting flight to Helsinki.

Note: Air Baltic flight attendants: Bitches!