Wednesday, November 03, 2010

To HEL and back

I think this is the part where I'm supposed to say something about how looooooong it's been since I blogged and how sorry I am to leave such a cliffhanger on my last entry and blah blah blah. But I doubt you guys really care about all that so let's jump right in where we left off. To recap: Canes win in a shootout, I taunt an a-hole Minnesota fan, he gives me the double bird, I laugh, Canes skate out and salute the fans, my heart melts. Ok, ready? Go.

Phuze had arrived while we were finishing up at the game and were waiting for us in a bar by the hotel. We were so excited to see our dear friends and also hopped up on victory endorphins after the 'Canes win so I might have greeted Suze a bit too enthusiastically. (While Jason photobombs in the background.)

But that excitement grew even more when we saw the surprise they had in store for us the next morning at breakfast. Matching "I heart Jaser" tee shirts! No one's ever loved me enough to proclaim it on a tee shirt before!

In the months leading up to this trip, Suze and I talked often about what we thought the weather would be like. Freezing? Probably! Merely chilly? Maybe! Unseasonably mild? Who knows!

So when Jason and I arrived in fair Helsinki and saw all that sunshine and vast expanse of blue sky, I sent Suze an email with the subject line "Weather is amazing!" and I wrote "It's not that cold, except mornings and evenings. But I even went out without my coat last night and wasn't freezing, just chilly. Sunny and beautiful..."

To which she replied "Good to know, however I'll still bring a warm coat since shitty weather seems to follow me. I have turned London a new shade of crap today, for example!"

"Hahahaha!" I laughed. I just love that British sense of humor!

Well, folks. She was not kidding.

Let's review. Here is what Senate Square looked like when Jason and I arrived in Helsinki (and every day thereafter):

And here is what it looked like the day Suze and Phil arrived:

And once again, for emphasis. Heather and Jason:

Suze and Phil:

And to think they thought they could soften the blow with their "I heart Jaser" tee shirts. Pshhh. WHATEVER. I was MAD! So mad, in fact, I wrestled a reindeer.

But angry or not, Phuze had come all this way and I was going to show them a good time. So I decided to take them to the Buddy Bears exhibit. But this turned out to be a bad idea because Suze was unhappy with the offerings from both Australia (her home country) and the UK (her adopted one). She went on for hours about how the Oz bear was done by some has been artist and that he did a shit job. But to be fair, umm, he kind of did do a shit job. What the hell is that thing?!?

And she pointed out that the UK bear made absolutely no sense. Fair enough. Goggles, a hooded toga and sandals? Okay...

But Phil, always the good sport, takes Ireland's smoking leprechaun abomination in stride. All he's missing is a pint or a shot of whiskey, eh? Let's hear it for stereotypes!

After the Tour de Buddy Bears, we lead Phuze to the harbor so they can check out the Herring Festival for themselves. Except Jason's too excited about being back here and decides to treat himself again. He wisely keeps it to one fish this time.

It may be hard to see but I'm pretty sure I found the Finnish translation for "Nom". Right above the little cartoon fish who's about to go for the bait, it says "nami nami".

Jason then directed us to this soup kitchen in the Old Market Hall for lunch. He had the inside track. But so did everybody else in Helsinki. Place was CROWDED. Nary a seat to be found. But our patience paid off and we scored a table in the corner.

Soups all around. If you want you want some soup, they got it. If you don't want soup, don't even bother. (But seriously, the soup? Nami nami nami.)

The Soup Nazi at work.

Next on the agenda is the Rock Church, or Church of Rock as we took to calling it. As big music lovers, Phuze are desperate to find this church. They'll stop at nothing to get to it.

Busted. If my spidey sense is right, I'm going to go ahead and say that "KIIPEILY KIELLETTY" means "DON'T BE CLIMBING ON THIS WALL LOOKING FOR THE CHURCH OF ROCK".

The boys look all around but still can't find it.

At least the view from up here is nice.

And just when we'd lost all hope... Oh hai! There it is!

The rather impressive interior...

For those about to rock, we pray to you.

After worshipping at the Church of Rock, we parted ways for a bit so Jason and I could go back and pack up our week's worth of stuff since we were shipping out to Tallinn the next day and we would be flying out the morning after our side trip.

Meanwhile, we made reservations at a restaurant known for serving up very authentic Finnish food. In other words, we were all about to get our reindeer steak on.

But first, the drinks list... We were eager to practice our Finnish. Cheers translates to "kippis" but for some reason that was too hard for us to remember. So we started calling it "kipponkeepinon".

One would think that the reindeer would be crying more over the steak on the menu but apparently, they get pretty sad about koskenkorva and cranberries too.

Jason figured that if there's a drink strong enough to make a reindeer cry, then he was definitely going to have a go at it. Oddly, it only gave him strange mustaches. First, there was "the Hitler". Yikes. Scary!

But thankfully, the more he drank, that one gave way to "the Magnum P.I." which was infinitely more palatable.

Unfortunately, some people can't handle their Reindeer Tears. A friendly rock, paper, scissors tournament turned sour and Phuze got into a drunken argument. She even threatened to leave him and run off with me.

So Suze forced me to drink the blueberry concoction that came with our dessert plates as it was called a "love potion". It didn't do a thing for me but I had to fight off her advances for the rest of the evening.

Sunday morning arrived with a 9:00 am boat to catch. We were Estonia bound. Miraculously, all four of us were awake, ready and on time for breakfast and made it to the Linda Line terminal with no problems. However, once there, we discovered a small hiccup in our plans.

A crude disguise was quickly fashioned for Phil, who we found out - mere minutes before boarding - is wanted in two out of three of the Baltic States. (I can't tell you which two so don't even ask.) It wasn't without resistance though. As you can see, he had to be tranquilized.

Jason and I tried to look as natural as possible after the tranquilizer incident. Just be cool, have a coffee and faff about with your iPhone. Works every time.

Luckily, we made it onto the boat with no problems. No one even questioned why we were dragging a blindfolded guy behind us.

But the luck ends there. At least for two of us. The waters were, to put it mildly, a bit choppy. To put it accurately, the waters were churning like it was The Perfect Storm. Or as Anna says when I push her "super-high!" on the swing set, "Hold on! It's gonna be a buuuuuuuumpy ride!"

A bumpy ride indeed. I stupidly ate a strawberry protein bar right when we boarded and let's just say we met again later. Along with some watermelon and bacon from earlier. It was the Breakfast Reunion Tour of 2010 and I was the headliner. Little did I know at the time, Suze was orchestrating her own show in the downstairs loo - "Breakfast: The Sequel. It's back and this time, it's angry."

Jason and Phil were just fine and dandy. In fact, just when Suze and I had closed down our respective shows, Jason ordered himself a little snack off the Linda Line menu. What do you think would be the most disgusting thing on here to someone who's esophagus has just gone ten rounds with her stomach (and lost)?

If you guessed "Pie with frankfurter or meat", you're right!!!! (Seriously, just "meat"? You don't want to get a little more specific with that?)

And that, of course, sent Suze and I right back to our respective stages for an encore performance.

Finally, the boat ride from HEL (and hell) came to an end and us girls felt like we had been run over twenty times each by dump trucks. So we made a beeline straight for the hotel and decided to spend an hour or so recovering from the trauma before setting out to conquer Tallinn.

And just like magic, after a serious tooth brushing and a nap, we both felt brand new again. So we met in the lobby and after Phil unwittingly stole a city guide, hit the town.

But since we had arrived in such an awful state, we took a quick inventory to confirm that we had actually made it to Tallinn. Let's see...EU flag, check. We are definitely in the European Union. That's a good start. Estonian flag, check. Country is confirmed. Tallinn flag, check. We made it! Yesssss!

Mere meters from our hotel's front doors, we find an excellent photo op. If there's anything that can get this party back on track, it's a statue of a short chubby guy in a top hat carrying some rope.

The boys quickly get distracted by the shops. They were saddened though to find out that Hoochi Mama had gone out of business. Guess there just weren't enough hoochi mamas in Tallinn to sustain them.

We happened upon this restaurant offering typical Estonian fare (which apparently is a lot of pig) and decided to make ourselves a reservation for dinner. When in Estonia, amiright?

Well, at least we thought we had made a reservation. We left it to Suze who, still in somewhat of a stupor after the boat ride from HEL (and hell), had mistakenly given our party information to a wooden cutout. In retrospect, I do recall her mentioning something about how the snooty hostess would barely even speak to her.

One of the first things I noticed about Tallinn was the doors. There were so many gorgeous doors. I don't know why but even the most simple structures had these amazing intricate doors. A tour of my faves:

As we continued our trek, we happened upon the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.


I would say so. It was built between 1894 and 1900 when the country was part of the Russian Empire, which is obvious in the architecture. Because of this, it was so disliked by Estonians as a symbol of oppression that the Estonian authorities scheduled the cathedral for demolition in 1924. Fortunately for us, it never happened - due to lack of funds and the building's massive construction.

I was the only one of our group interested in all this history. The other three had better things to do... Jason sizes Phuze for some new hats.

Look at that! It's a perfect fit! Who needs culture and history when you've got hats?

But we were unsure what to do with the rest of our day. So Suze decided to ask a local for some recommendations. This went on for ages before we realized she had once again failed us.

Since she was getting nowhere with the bear, we put our heads together to try and think what to do next.

And Suze came up with the clever idea to head over to a Kiek in de Kok. There was much snickering on her part.

While I took a more literal approach. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Kiek in de Kok was a museum of Tallinn's history and not an actual, umm...kick in know. Sorry Jason. My bad.

There were all sorts of fun activities in de Kok. But the best was the section where you pretend to be Godzilla terrorizing the village.

After we exhausted ourselves Kieking de Kok, we four headed up to Tallinn's best overlook to check out the view.

And what a view it was!

And after we further exhausted ourselves viewing the view, we settled in for a bevy and to plot our next move. Phil, of course, whipped out his stolen guidebook and starts in about all of Tallinn's "cultural spots". Jason is dubious.

So he consults his map and confirms his suspicion that Phil is just in the market for more hats. Nice try, Phil.

Suze and I were just excited to have blankets.

We did finally hold it together just long enough for one normal photo.

But just barely... I'm pretty sure some version of this picture exists from every single one of mine and Suze's outings. (Wait..... I just checked. And yes. Yes, it does.)

After a break to shop for some souvenir poo... (Those crazy Estonians can sell you anything!)

Phil suggested we head to the Depeche Mode themed bar down the street. Something about it being number 5 on Lonely Planet's Top 10 Weird Bars of the World. Blah blah blah. All I knew about Depeche Mode, I learned in my New Kids on the Block years. Meaning, NKOTB = OMG! Cute boys!! Squee!!! and Depeche Mode = Ugh. Weirdos. They wear a lot of black. Sooooo depressing.

No thanks I say! Get back to me when you find a Debbie Gibson themed bar. So I decided to hide. No one will notice me here! Muahahahahaha!

All was going according to plan until Suze caught a glimpse of me and my new friend from the side. I was definitely missing a key element of my disguise. Well, two key elements to be precise. I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for that pesky tart's huge bewbies.

See? Looks like I'm not the only one who's not keen on this place.

Of course, I kid. The lack of patrons was not at all to do with the bar, because it was most excellent and quite the conversation piece. It might have more to do with the fact that it was about 4 pm on a Sunday afternoon. We did, however, muse about whether the employees got tired of listening to Depeche Mode all day every day. Because, while their music is fantastic, I imagine anything would get old after a while, no? Sure enough, the bartender was wearing headphones. We decided he was probably listening to Britney Spears. Either that, or he was rocking some Bose noise cancelers and "Enjoy(ing) the Silence".

(HA! See what I did there?!?!? Whoooo!)

After we depressed ourselves silly at the DM bar, Phil consulted his stolen Tallinn guidebook again and told us about some stone circle in the main square you can stand on and see the five spires of the old city. You should have seen the four of us cramming ourselves onto that stone. Makes me wish there was a fifth person in the group to take a photo of us. Suze was determined to see the five spires. She looked this way...

And that way...

And every which way....

While the rest of us gave up and stood around for ages waiting on her to find what she was looking for. This is the face of boredom. Well, the three faces of boredom to be more accurate.

Turned out, Phil had directed us to the wrong disc. While standing around the first circular stone and craning our necks around helplessly, we spied a second circular stone several feet away. This one was more successful even though they're really reaching on that last spire. You can barely see the tippy top of it and that's only because some tourism mastermind and town planning genius got together and decided to cut a little chunk out of one of the roof peaks.

Since we were pretty sure Suze had screwed up our dinner reservation, we figured we'd better look around for more options. We spotted this place serving up some "worthy elk soup, full of taste". Unfortunately, we decided we were not worthy of a soup so full of taste.

So we hit up Medieval Times to think about it some more. In reality, I can't recall the name of this place but since there was no jousting with breadsticks, we decided to stop calling it Meideval Times. However, there were plenty of girls dressed up as serving wenches and the drinks all came in specialty vessels with names like "Ye Olde Meade" so we started calling it the Disney Bar.

A round of your finest, wench! And supersize them!

It appears as though ye olde meade is taking effect.

But when the supersized mugs seemingly started to shrink before our very eyes, we decided it was time to go. Disney Bar was not going to get the best of us! Onward!

Turned out, Suze's wooden cutout friend had indeed put us in the reservation book at the pig restaurant so there was reason to celebrate once we were sat at our table. The boys were seriously ready for some pork. They even shared the pork plate for two. Do I smell a blossoming bromance?

Unfortunately, Phil picked a bad time to hit the loos because our food arrived while he was away. And Jason was hungry.

So by the time Phil returned to the table, Jason had eaten the whole plate intended for two. And Phil had a sad. Just like that, the short-lived bromance was over.

After a pork-tastic evening and a good night's sleep, we were ready to take on more of Tallinn. We wandered around, taking it all in... And Jason happened to notice a little alleyway. "What's this?" he asked. "We don't know." we replied. "We're not from around here." Something was telling us to check it out. And boy are we glad we did. Because, there, in that very alleyway...we discovered the World's Best Hot Chocolate. Basically, if you took some really good solid chocolate and melted it down and poured it in a glass and dipped some warm flaky pastries in it, you'd have yourself the World's Best Hot Chocolate. We left a note of appreciation.

After partaking in the World's Best Hot Chocolate, we were worried the rest of Tallinn may fall short. Fear not! It didn't! Upon leaving the hot chocolate place, we saw another little alleyway. And since the first one hadn't steered us wrong, we figured why not? Let's try another one!

We were unsure at first. I, all hopped up on sugar, wildly looked all around for something that might compare to the World's Best Hot Chocolate. Jason, still in a sugar coma, just stared blankly into space. And Phil, also under the influence, struck up a conversation with the wall.

We finally snapped out of it enough to just appreciate the beauty and serenity of it all.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for picture-taking. So, here you go. Some pictures. I taked them.

With it being an exceptionally sunny day, we opted for lunch al fresco. Suze selfishly took the prime spot directly beneath the patio heater but, having a mane of very dark hair, I had my own head warmer built right in. Solar powered even! Being a brunette is so eco-friendly. You heard it here first. Blondes are mean; brunettes are green!

Jason found another way to keep the chill out. Giant calzones...keeping you cosy one bite at a time.

Our return trip on the boat was without incident. Thank God. We made it back to Helsinki with all lunches in tact and right where they were meant to be - which is to say, not making their way back up the way they went down. With some time to spare before Phuze's outbound flight, we headed to our adopted local for one last drink. (Yes, I'm the one who wussed out with a Diet Coke.)

And, with a clink of the glasses and a final "kipponkeepinon" we promised to do it all over again in February. Look out Colorado. You're about to get Phusered.

Quick disclaimer: I have spent all day working on this post and I think my legs might be asleep and I'm 100% sure my left butt cheek is asleep and I might have carpal tunnel syndrome. So, perhaps you can forgive me for not proofreading right this moment? You may use the comments section to point out any glaring typographical or grammatical errors. You may not, however, use the comments section to point out any factual errors. (Got that, Suze?)

(But if you, dear readers, would like to see the book of lies written by Suze, go right ahead. I can't stop you. Part 1 and Part 2 await your arrival.)


Vegemite Wife said...

OMG, the lies! I cannae catch my breath for laughing. This might explain why my site is getting hammered right now. (Unlike me).
Look out Colorado!!
PS I won't correct the factual errors - why let the truth get in the way of a good story? ;)
I will point out that a good proportion of these photos are STOLEN!!

Sara said...

Ya'll are too funny, looks like a killer time!! Where are you headed in CO? We are headed back to Vail in Feb! We have lived there for 5 yrs, and just recently moved back to TX... let me know if you guys want any info!!

Heather said...

Sara - we'll be in Denver and Breckenridge. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Alice said...

This post made me smile. And laugh out loud. A lot!

Peaches N Curry said...

Looks like yall had a blast. Great post!! Very funny :)