It’s easy to be part of the clean plate club when the food is so good and the portions modest. We’ve had great food here – very local, a lot of attention to detail and presentation. Even just on the train from St. Petersburg, the reindeer salad I had – yes, smoked reindeer… – was amazing, a word that would never be used for food on a Russian train.
Yesterday we stopped for lunch at a small shack on a small beach while biking around some Helsinki islands. At any similar place in the U.S. your options would likely be hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries, all of them previously frozen. Here we each had a salad with fresh greens topped with lots of salmon, feta cheese, and olives. It was heaven.
Finland has been a treat for me; just like being back on the Iron Range. The weather, the forests, and heaven knows the accents. And we’ve done well with our couple of days here – on Saturday we took a 90-minute boat tour of the Helsinki archipelago and yesterday we rented bikes and went around a few of Helsinki’s islands. It was the first time we’ve rented bikes on the trip and we had a great time; I’ve just gotten over four days of a sore throat and my sprained wrist has healed enough that a few hours on a bike wasn’t a problem. On top of that, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a cloudy and occasionally rainy day, the sun came out and it was beautiful. The weather has been really amazing so far – we’ve been out of the country for over five weeks and have not yet had a single rainy day.
Instead of rain, it was just about perfect bicycling weather – mid 60s and mostly sunny. After our lunch I even laid in the grass for a while reading, and later found a perfect rock to lie on in the fading sun; apparently in a previous life I was a turtle.
As Mark has mentioned, the difference between Helsinki and Russia has been remarkable. How things can be so different just a couple hundred miles apart is quite a testament to the impact policy choices have over time. But we’ve had enough of this Scandinavian, western Europe civilized life. In a couple hours we get on a boat to cross the Gulf of Finland and sail into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. After a couple days there we’re going to catch a bus to Tartu, described in Lonely Planet as the heart spiritual capital of Estonia. You can’t deny that we’re getting off the beaten track!