Travel: Northern Europe Summer – Finland, Russia and Estonia

White nights, midnight sun and paying a social visit to Santa Claus at his hometown at the Arctic Circle.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki. The clear blue skies was a relief from the haze back in South East Asia. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki. The clear blue skies was a relief from the haze back in South East Asia. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

It all started back in 1991 with the liberation of the Baltic States from the Soviet Union which was subsequently followed by the collapse and breakup of the Soviet bloc.

The old town square in Tallinn teems with tourists and artisans celebrating the city's history and traditional crafts. Photo taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

The old town square in Tallinn teems with tourists and artisans celebrating the city’s history and traditional crafts. Photo taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

Since then, my wife and I have always wondered about what these three brave Baltic States were like – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

As students then, we’d heard so little about these three newly-minted (then) countries.

So it was that – two decades after those tumultuous times – we decided to visit Estonia’s capital Tallinn during the children’s school holidays this year.

The easiest approach was via Helsinki.

We flew direct to the capital of Finland via Finnair and then made a day trip via a 2-hour ferry across the Gulf of Finland.

We had a most wonderful day out at Tallinn’s old Town Centre.

The beautiful interior of the St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg. Photo taken with Samsung NX300 with 18-55 kit lens.

The beautiful interior of the St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg. Photo taken with Samsung NX300 with 18-55 kit lens.

From Helsinki, we also took a ferry to St Petersburg in Russia – you can stay for up to 72 hours without the need to apply for an expensive and troublesome Russian Visa if you go by a ferry run by St Peter Line (yes, without an apostrophe “S”).

“趁年中孩子们的学校假期,带了全家到了北欧一游。路途包括芬兰,俄罗斯的圣彼得堡,以及爱沙尼亚的首都塔林。体尝了北极圈夏天的午夜太阳,也到了圣诞老人的故乡拜访他老人家。两个星期的行程,让我们体会了当地的人情,风俗与历史,获益良浅。” – 科技点心(微薄)

There, we experienced the White Nights of St Petersburg while taking in the historical sights of Russia’s gateway to Europe.

In Finland itself, we rented a car in Helsinki and made the long 1000-km drive up the Bothnian coast facing Sweden to the hometown of Santa Claus – Rovaniemi.

Christmas paraphernalia in the middle of summer, in the official post office of Rovaniemi - the hometown of Santa Claus - or so Finland claims. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

Christmas paraphernalia in the middle of summer, in the official post office of Rovaniemi – the hometown of Santa Claus – or so Finland claims. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

Christmas in winter is naturally the peak season for visiting Santa, but we didn’t feel up to facing the 24-hour nights yet, so we’d decided to visit him when he was least busy in summer.

The other reason for visiting Rovaniemi was to put our footsteps beyond the Arctic Circle – and experience the 24-hour sun.

The old red wooden houses along the river draws droves of tourists to the quaint old town of Porvoo, about 60km to the north-east of Helsinki. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

The old red wooden houses along the river draws droves of tourists to the quaint old town of Porvoo, about 60km to the north-east of Helsinki. Taken with Nikon D600 with 24-120mm lens.

Down south in Helsinki, you could already experience 24-hour daylight – the sun sets for a few hours each day but the sky remains relatively bright.

But nothing beats the thrill of watching the orb descend to the horizon, linger just above it without setting, inch sideways, before making its way back up the sky again.

The 2,200km drive around Finland was one of the longest I've done within a week. Makes you appreciate the wild expanse of nature in the Nordic country. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

The 2,200km drive around Finland was one of the longest I’ve done within a week. Makes you appreciate the wild expanse of nature in the Nordic country. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

It was a most interesting two weeks for the family in Northern Europe.

* This post is part of a series of travel articles documenting our family vacation in Finland, Tallinn in Estonia, and St Petersburg in RussiaIt includes a selection of photos taken during the trip. I will be adding more photos in the POTD series over time.

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4 Responses to “Travel: Northern Europe Summer – Finland, Russia and Estonia”

  1. Magdalene Chan says:

    How long did that 1000-km drive from Helsinki to Rovanemi take?

    • tech4tea says:

      I didn’t do that trip in a single day. Rather I broke it into two legs, with a stopover at Jakobstad for the night on the Bothnian Coast facing Sweden. Jacobstad is about half way between Helsinki and Rovaniemi in terms of distance and each leg took 5-6 hours plus driving at the speed limit, with occasional stops.

  2. Wilheim Adler says:

    I like the shot of the Isaacs Cathedral. Did they allow tripods in there?

    • tech4tea says:

      Don’t think so. Anyway I didn’t bring out the tripod that day. So it was shot handheld with the Samsung NX300. It’s quite an impressive camera. I was really happy with it.

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