Right before the school year started again, we took the kids for a long weekend in Estonia and Finland. We chose those 2 countries because they were easy and cheap to get to from here (with a family of six, even the cheapest trip gets pricey, quick.)
I was in Talinn, Estonia, back in 1990, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. But B and the kids had never been, and truthfully, I didn't remember much about it, except that it was freezing in the late fall and there was nothing to eat. The only time we'd ever been in Finland was for our heart wrenching medevac in 2002 - so it's safe to say I didn't remember much about Helsinki, either, except for an ambulance and an operating room.
This post will be mostly pictures. Smiley, happy pictures. Because that's what you're supposed to post when you go on vacation, right? Truth be told, though, it wasn't all smiley. You try dragging four kids around cobblestoned streets and making them pose for pictures every three minutes, the weekend before school starts, when all of their friends are finally back in town after a summer away. See how far you get before the squabbling and the this-is-so-lame starts.
I remember asking my father-in-law once, several years ago, how they managed to drive from New York to Florida in the summertime without killing each other. I mean, did their kids not fight? Did they actually have fun together as a family? How did they do it? He gazed off in the near distance for a few moments before laughing and answering "time erases the bad parts."
So. Time. Eventually I will forget the parts about the squabbling kids and the cranky adults and the broken ATM machines. I will remember only the chocolate truffles and the blue skies and the cafe mochas and the fairytale towers.
Ainsley and Kyra fell in love with the Old City of Tallinn because it reminded them of a fairytale, with its turrets and towers and steeples. The boys were enamored of the hot chocolate at Pierre's, a small cafe and chocolate shop tucked away in a quiet little alley off the main roads.
It really is an impressive little town, with so much more going for it now than back in Soviet times. Restaurants, souvenir shops, sidewalk cafes, loads of tourists... and so much history.
|The streets are lined with sidewalk cafes, with just enough room for tourists to stroll past. Very few cars.|
|The central square, full of doll house buildings.|
|Pierre's. (Thanks, AG, for the recommendation, or we'd never have found it!) Homemade truffles, cocoa, coffee. We actually went there twice...|
|There were life-sized dolls all over town. A made it her mission to pose with every last one of them.|
|Part of the Old City walls.|
|Totally fake smiles. I forced them to stand there smiling or risk losing the hot cocoa I'd promised them.|
|This church. The Cathedral of St. Mary. So beautiful, inside and out. Plus you can climb to the top and look out over the whole city and the Gulf of Finland.|
|View from the top of St. Mary's.|
|The inside walls of St. Mary's are decorated with medieval coats of arms.|
|Here's a view from one of the scenic overlooks in the Old City.|
|Alexander Nevsky Church|
Stay tuned for more soon...