The last couple of weeks felt like a whirlwind holiday. Together with our parents, we covered three countries - Finland, Sweden and Estonia - in 13 days. Whew!
Using Finland as our base, we took a 3-day cruise to Stockholm and a day-trip to Tallinn. Compared to holiday tours boasting 8 countries in 14 days, we travelled at a more relaxed pace. We spent more time shopping, going back to points of interest if needed and rest when we were tired.
Stockholm is a great shopping destination although we only had time for Gamla Stan and the area around T-Centralen. Shopping in Finland gets a little boring after a while because there are only a handful of brands and they are duplicated around town. In the homeland of H&M, I am re-acquainted with some favourite high-street names. I tried on a TopShop denim skirt which proclaimed my size but I couldn't pull them beyond my knees. Blame it on the good food my mother-in-law had been preparing over here.
I sailed away from Stockholm with only a book bought at a second-hand store - The Accidental by Ali Smith. Too bad we didn't have time for the Ostermalm district where there are many hip boutiques and cafes.
Tallinn Old Town from a high vantage point
Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia is about 2 hours by ship from Helsinki and is a popular destination among Finns, especially during summer time.
Tallinn's Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, is a beautiful medieval city fortified by thick stone walls. According to this history brief, only 20 of the original 66 towers are left. Good enough because they are wonderful samples of ancient architecture that have withstood the test of time. Nearly 800 years after they have been built, the city walls and towers are still as tough as ever. Outside of the Old Town, remnants of Russian architecture stand starkly.
HG and I visited Tallinn about 8 or 9 years ago. This trip brought back many memories for us as we revisited the various locations. There's the Flower Street, McDonald's restaurant, Fat Margaret Tower, and the Artist Path where local artists display their works on old city walls. As I looked at the painted scenes of Tallinn, I'm reminded of the ones that still hang in our matrimonial home in Singapore.
One of these towers is nicknamed Fat Margaret. Guess which?
Tallinn's Old Town is very much a tourist haven. Almost every lane is lined with souvenir shops selling fridge magnets, old-styled Estonian apparel, pottery and amber accessories. It was only in our last hour in Tallinn that I stumbled upon a little shop selling hand-made clothes and jewelry. Sigrid Valgma studied industrial design and made jewelry as a hobby. Earlier this year, she turned her hobby into a business. She didn't abandon her major because she told me she built the furniture in her shop herself. You can click on her name to view her gallery of products. The work of her partner, Kadri Siirman, can be viewed here.
I bought a ring made of white jade, freshwater pearls and glass beads designed by Sigrid. I am very pleased with my purchase because I'd really wanted to buy a unique piece of local art.
Our visitors left today. I think they enjoyed their first trip to Europe very much, experiencing new environments, seeing different people and lifestyles, walking on cobblestones, trying out new foods... and of course, spending precious time with their grandchildren.
We are back to our usual routine... starting with a major clean-up tomorrow.