Tallinn, Estonia. If you have the chance, go there. Who knew?
We arrived late afternoon at this seemingly perfectly preserved medieval city after a 9-hour bus ride from St. Petersburg. I loved it from the word go. Cobblestone streets winding around curves into hills, a stone wall fortress surrounding the town still in place, and a central open square where you could (and we did) kick back with a beer or coffee and enjoy some great people watching? Count me in.
"It's so cute," I exclaimed to Blair. "Isn't it perfect? Don't you just love it?"
Blair did a slow 360 before delivering his verdict. "It looks like Busch Gardens," he said.
Damn him. It DID look like Busch Gardens. Or rather, thumbs up to Busch Gardens for doing a really good job of duplicating the look of ancient cities. Still, once it was out there it was hard to shake the idea that everything we were seeing was a facade.
That didn't stop us from exploring. We took off through the town and had a great time.
SIDE NOTE: The bus ride through the countryside of Estonia was beautiful. If I ever get to a point in life where I have money to burn, I may just have to build a little cottage out there. Absolutely nothing to see or do, but just lovely.
After an overnight in Estonia, we boarded a ferry the next day for Helsinki which--if you didn't know--hosted the 1952 Olympics. We know this because our tour guide mentioned it no less than six times in a three-hour tour. Actually, it was sweet. They're really proud of having been a host country.
We saw a few statues and churches in Helsinki and enjoyed some good food. (Finally!) The Finnish people were friendly and charming.
However, I was ready to be home. Which perhaps accounts for my awful behavior on the plane.
Perhaps you saw the recent story about a United Airlines flight that had to make an emergency landing because two people were fighting over a reclined seat? Uh, yeah. That so could have been me.
We boarded our flight in Berlin for the 8+ hour flight home and almost instantly, the person in front of me reclined their seat. I don't know what to say other than that I saw red. It was like the worst case of road rage transferred to a plane. We were already squished and the reclining seat--10 minutes into the flight--left me zero leg room. I was furious--FURIOUS--at the insensitivity of the person. How about a halfway recline, or maybe waiting until after the dinner service so I don't eat with my meal tray shoved into my stomach? I ignored Blair's offer to exchange seats and instead did what I do best.
I threw a temper tantrum.
I punched--and I mean, PUNCHED--the reclined seat in front me. Repeatedly. While doing so, I took the passive-aggressive approach of complaining loudly to Blair about the rudeness of certain people on planes and how there was no leg room and anyone with half a brain would realize that and blah-blah-blah.
To make it worse, the person in front of me was an older--late 60's?--woman. Didn't matter. I swear, I was so engulfed in anger that I was ready to step into the aisle and bitch fight this thing out.
Two things saved me. One, the flight attendant who was passing out dinners saw how cramped my space was, frowned and made a tsk-tsk sound, and asked the woman to put her chair upright for the dinner service. So I felt vindicated.
The other thing that happened was that I came to my senses.
It was like coming out of a medicated daze. Who am I? Where am I? What happened? I have no idea what set me off like that and I cringe even now thinking of my behavior. The woman reclined her seat again immediately after dinner and while I wasn't pleased about it, it was fine. I got on with life. But wow. I can't remember the last time I've flared up so quickly. The lack of control I felt was almost scary.
So there you have it. Moscow, St. Petersburg, Estonia, Finland. Beautiful weather, bad food. Lovely people, stunning sights, amazing "I'm running in Russia!" runs, and the believe-it-or-not now fondly cherished memory of the worst night on an overnight train, ever.
The trip was not all that I was hoping for, but I'm still glad we went. And now I suspect we'll keep our trips closer to home for the next couple of years. There are still a lot of places in the states I'd like to visit, one being the home state of our many traveling companions.
Look out Maine, the Harris' have you in our sights.