Feb 202024
 

Every so often*, I go through some boxes of old photos, always on the hunt for ones that I want to frame, post on here, share with family, rub in Chooch’s face (he hate hate hates my storied childhood, lol). I recently found this one of my aunt Sharon, me, and my Pappap posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in 1989 and I knew I had to keep it out of the box because Henry and I were recently watching someone’s travel vlog in Pisa and I was questioning whether or not I ever went INSIDE the tower because when I googled, it appears that it’s been closed to the public for quiet some time.

*(Approx. 3x a week, honestly lol.)

So today I was inspired to dig out the ol’ vacation journal and see what 10-year-old me wrote (IN YELLOW INK, APPARENTLY) about this moment of my life, and it appears that YES, I did go inside the tower, phew, now I have something else to rub in Chooch’s face.

Anyway, here’s a little transcription of the super informative words I wrote on August 30, 1989. :/

TODAY IS GRANDMA’S BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and a google more. We went to breakfast and now we’re on the bus going to Pisa. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa after lunch. Me and Sharon walked up to the top. Well, not the very top. (Sharon was afraid to.) Then we finally ate lunch! Thank goodness (for Chef Boyardee). We ate at the turnpike.  Then we went to the hotel. It’s called the Hotel Cavalieri. Then we ate dinner with the tour. It was like a buffet. It was very good. I didn’t like desert [sic]. Then we went to Pappap’s room & sang happy birthday to grandma and had a mixed fruit strudel (fig newton almost). Then we went to bed.

WOW. I FEEL LIKE I WAS THERE ALL OVER AGAIN, DON’T YOU?? Drowning in detail over here.

Some thoughts:

  1. I prob thought I was tres cool for using the word “google.” I wonder if I had just learned it from Highlights.
  2. All of those exclamations were done in BUBBLE-STYLE, thank you very much.
  3. So…did we eat two lunches?
  4. I think by “turnpike” I meant that we ate at one of the really cool truck stop restaurants but I can’t think of the name now. Sharon used to love those places because if you bought whatever the “special” was, it came with a collectors plate.
    • LIKE THIS ONE.
      • According to that post, the highway restaurants were called AUTOGRILL
  5. Can you imagine Little Orphan Chunkie up there in that photo not liking a dessert?? What was it, dirty prunes?
  6. The Chef Boyardee shoutout, I probably was cracking up writing that. OK calm down Erin.
    • as if I don’t still crack myself up when I’m blogging, once a loser…etc.
  7. August 30th and I wasn’t in school?? This must have been back in the good ol’ days when school didn’t start until after Labor Day.
  8. WHAT ELSE DID WE DO IN PISA, ERIN?? I feel like we were there for a few hours. I have a vague memory of walking down a road full of locals shilling their wares and trying desperately (and succeeding a lot) to swindle tourists. I think I bought a coin purse?! Who the fuck knows, ugh.
  9. All joking aside, revisiting these days of my youth seriously brings me so much joy. I really miss my Pappap, and my grandma and Sharon even though they were often, um, pretty cruel and emotionally damaging to me. Ha ha haaaaaaaa. Ha. :/

I want to try and do this more often: post an old travel picture, find the corresponding vacation journal entry, and then see if I can remember anything else to add. Obsessed with documenting memories? Join my support group. It’s currently just me sitting in pile of journals and photos, wet with tears. If you bring donuts, I’ll brew the coffee.

Feb 082024
 

Remember when we were at Tivoli Friheden in Denmark and Chooch did the SCAD tower and I tried to get a good video but it didn’t really illustrate just how terrifying this dumb thing was?

Well, the creator behind Park Pros on YouTube was also on this trip with us and he posted a video of the process. I lowkey regret not doing this even though it still seems just as terrifying to me but I also feel like I would have been That Person to have found a way to land incorrectly and I’m sorry but my back is already old-lady-ish. The fact that you have to wear a back brace in order to do this scared me, lol.

I’m glad that Chooch did it though!

Anyway, I guess that’s all. It’s been another WEEK. Near the end of the work day, I messaged Megan and asked, “Tomorrow *is* Friday, right?” Shooooo.

Jan 062024
 

Remember when I was all, “Yay! I finished recapping our coaster trip before 2024 begins!”? Well, joke’s on me (and you) because I realized I had some photos from The Good Camera that hadn’t been edited yet. These are all from our day in Tallinn. Look or don’t look, I’ll never know!

Booksbooksbooksbooks *drool*

We ate breakfast here and it was nice. 

On the way to tour the tower thing. Is this some gang sign that I don’t know about? A signal for help that Henry and Chooch created for times when my dictatorship becomes too much to bear?

This was taken inside the tower thing. You know, that thing. It’s a tower.

On one of the tower walkway things. My favorite part about the tower portion of our day is that I was using a lens on the camera that was fully-dirty/smudged and had no idea because my eyes are so jacked. So pretty much every picture I took inside that wasn’t taken on my phone is trash. I am so profesh! Hire me.

No Korean. </3

Henry captured my mid-allergy attack inside a cafe, thanks.

Obsessed with the architecture here.

St. Olaf’s Church, center, has a 400 foot high spire, one of the tallest in the world.

Highly recommend this viewing area – Kohtuotsa viewing platform.

Steven Seagull” apparently has his own Instagram page, but I think this was just a random seagull that happened to be hanging out there.

 

Danzig.

UGH COME ON THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL.

I think I would like to get some of these printed and framed but you know, I have zero room left on my walls so I guess I will have to figure something out. (Henry, can you build a floating wall or something?!)

Dec 302023
 

Friday, August 17th was another BEEP BEEP WAKE UP MOTHERFUCKER Stupid:Early AM wakeup call. We were taking a 2+ hour bus ride to Tampere, Finland in order to visit our last park of the trip: Sarkanniemi. First, we had to embark on a short trip to the bus station. I would have preferred to take a train, which is faster, but apparently there was some issue / construction going on with the track somewhere, so we would have had to transfer to a bus at some point anyway. (According to google, a bus ride to Tampere is about 2 hours and 45 minutes which seems longer than what our trip was, but OK.

After not getting back from Tallinn until after 1:30AM, we were D R A G G I N G. But that’s the life of a coaster enthusiast, I guess! (I don’t know what I’m talking about it.)

I have to be honest here, this bus ride was the most uncomfortable mode of transportation we experienced the ENTIRE trip. The bus was a double-decker, but it was TIGHT and also? It was completely sold-out. I thought this was kind of curious since it was a Friday morning, why were all these people (ALL COLLEGE STUDENT-AGED, IT APPEARED) going to Tampere?? It was just a shit ton of mostly young girls who had no couth, no spatial- or self-awareness, one was watching cartoons on her laptop with no headphones, one was practically sprawled out in the aisle so people struggled to pass her when they needed to get to the bathroom, and it was HOT AF in there. Just very uncomfortable, honestly, and made me feel like I was in America.

But you know, it was a cheap ticket I imagine (Henry booked it, what do I know) and it got us there in decent time. That’s when we:

  1. had to find a local bus to get us to the park;
  2. learned that the reason hordes of YOUTH were flocking to Tampere was because Blockfest, a big hip hop festival, was happening. Apparently, Ice Spice was there lol.

Sarkanniemi is not a very big park, but it does have some coasters and I liked that it sits along Näsijärvi Lake. Aesthetics matter. 

Right away, Chooch and I ran to the line for Tornado, which ended up being a walk-on. Henry was being a bitch because he thought it looked too much like an SLC and opted out:

(NOT MY PICTURE; FROM WEBSITE)

But yoooo, this was excellent! Also, the guy in front of us was wearing a Six Flags eyeglass strap, a Busch Gardens t-shirt, and had a vlogging camera. “Chooch, that guy is definitely American,” I said, nudging him with my elbow. “I’m going to talk to him when we get off!”

“Please don’t,” he mumbled.

BUT I DID, AND YEAH BOY, ANOTHER AMERICAN THOOSIE! We had a nice chat with him – he’s from Atlanta and needed to use up some PTO time at work and was like, “Finland it is!” So that was really cool – we told him all about our trip too and he was just very nice to talk to and didn’t act like he was too cool for us or whatever. (I WISH I COULD REMEMBER HIS YOUTUBE NAME!! I subscribed to it on the spot but can’t find it in my list.)

I mean, come on man. Look at that beautiful water.

Anyway, right after that, we started walking to the next coaster and Henry goes, “OMG look who it is!” AND IT WAS ROBERT, DAWN, AND ARNOLD FROM COASTER CREW!!!!!

OMG I was so happy to see them!!! We spent the next several hours riding everything with them and it was THE BEST WAY TO END THE TRIP. 100%.

We took over the kiddie coaster like old times!

I…don’t know why I took this picture.

This was A NO for me. Totally uncomfortable. One and done. Actually, aside from Tornado and the flat rides, it was a one-and-done themed park for sure.

I miss these people. Also, this was a fun log flume!

At some point, we lost our friends because we needed to eat and I think they left because they had already been there for a bit before we arrived. :( Their plan was to go to Power Park farther up in Finland the next day, and then Robert and Dawn were heading home on Sunday, but Arnold was heading to Tallinn. Chooch gave him the heads up on the +1 credit there “because I’m a nice guy,” he said.

Gorgina!!! (Any Ur Mom stans here?)

I think that this park is really clean and I love the pops of color. I think they also a great and quirky collection of flat rides, but if they could get one outstanding coaster to pair up with Tornado for that one-two punch, I think this park could be taken to the next level. As it stands, unless you have little kids and pay extra for the separate “Doghill Fairytale Farm” petting zoo and aquarium, this is not a full-day park and not worth the visit to Tampere alone (Tampere has plenty of other things going for it though so it is still 100% worth visiting and I’m actually disappointed that we didn’t allow ourselves more time to explore outside of the park before having to rush back to catch our bus back to Helsinki!).

Another Euro-park, another fantastic bathroom!

For a second, I couldn’t remember why we didn’t end up eating here but then I remembered it was because we found out another place had vegan hotdogs!

Chooch just came home and exclaimed, “You’re still talking about this!?” Um, if by talking you mean blogging, then yes. (Although blogging really is like talking to my stuffed animals, all lined up on the couch with cups of tea duct-taped to their hands. HOLD ON, HAROLD, I’LL TAKE YOU TO THE BATHROOM AS SOON AS I FINISH THIS PARAGRAPH, JESUS CHRIST.)

Immediately squirts mustard on himself.

Yeah, this ‘dog was worth the burger swap. Usually if a vegan dog is on the menu, it’s gonna be of the basic nuked store bought variety and those are so unsatisfying. I can make that myself in my own kitchen, bitch please.

I don’t know what this thing was but it was adorable, super antique-feeling, and just good old-fashioned fun.

Chooch probably disagreed.

Oh, I just looked it up and it’s literally called Lake Carousel. It’s spins and tilts but not very aggressively. You can imagine bitches from the past riding this in their floor length gowns and bonnets or whatever. (I don’t know how old this ride itself is but apparently the amusement park has been around since 1975 so it’s only slightly older than me, which ISN’T YOUNG.

LOL according to Wiki, this ride opened in 1996. So yeah, you can imagine bitches from the past riding this in their BUM Equipment sweatshirts and scrunchies or whatever.

FINLAND. <3

Even the car ride was one of the most scenic rides I’ve ever been on.

Henry and underwear friend.

Fun fact: Sarkanniemi means “Cape of Sandbank.”

I thought this was going to be popcorn-flavored ice cream but it was literally ice cream topped with popcorn lol.

Chooch was being a big crybaby over hot chocolate so don’t worry, big baby got his hot chocolate. Also, he was mildly pouting because there was supposed to be some stupid Angry Birds kiddie ride there and he roamed around aimlessly looking for it for the first hour before realizing that it had been rethemed to carrots, LOLOLOL.

I was so excited when I saw this weird game because I thought it was a Finnish thing but then later I found out that we have these here in America too, so.

Literally just did my Carouselfie 2023 post the other day so if you’ve already seen these, YES I KNOW I ALREADY POSTED THEM.

I really did have an enjoyable time here but 1/3 of a day is really all you need. One of the coasters was closed (no tears were shed about this though because it’s a Zamperla Volare coaster, which are AWFUL. Granted, I’ve only been on one in Canada’s Wonderland, but it’s not something I’d ever happily line-up for ever again.

By 3:30pm, we were ready to say goodbye and try to get a bus back to the bus station since our transfer had run out and we didn’t know where to go around there to get a new ticket. My favorite part of traveling! The bus driver was like, “Oh for God’s sake just get in and sit down” in so many Finnish words so yay! Thank you, Tampere public transportation!

By 4:22pm, we were on our bus back to Helsinki!

The bus ride back was WAY BETTER – not crowded and no annoying YOUNGS. (My actual “final night in Helsinki” post can be found here.

The next day, we left our airbnb at….4am I think??? It was ungodly. I don’t even want to think about that travel day, actually. Let’s just end the vacation here! I DID IT, I WRAPPED IT UP BEFORE THE END OF 2023!!! ONE WHOLE DAY TO SPARE!

Dec 222023
 

The last thing on our Tallinn agenda was leaving Old Town and figuring out what bus to get on to take us to some random city park that had some kiddy rides, including a coaster.

Allegedly.

When you’re a coaster thoosie, and you go out of your way to ride some janky one-off coaster, usually located in a family entertainment center or, you know, a zoo, it’s called “getting a plus one.”

Don’t say I never teach you a thing or three!

Anyway, Chooch didn’t find out that Tallinn had this baby coaster until we were already on the trip and he was looking at some coaster directory. I had been hounding Chooch to give me some things that he wanted to do so it wasn’t all me me me me because that’s what I hear about ALL THE TIME post-trips, how we only did what ERIN wanted to do and you know what? Become a fucking Queen like me and then you as well can do everything you want to do! UGH! GOD!!!

I guess figuring out the bus was OK. We bought bus passes from a store, I think? And we JUST made the bus that we needed to catch. Chooch was responsible for figuring out this portion of the day. I was just along for the ride, literally. Sometimes I think about how dependent I am on him and Henry and I realize that holy shit, could I even survive on my own? I would be crying in my hotel room the entire time and that’s assuming I was even able to catch my flight in the first place.

According to the time stamps on photos, we were on the bus at 6:47pm and Chooch’s ass was securely in the seat of this dumb coaster at 7:08pm.

The ride operator was like, “Wow, you sure about this pal?” I mean, not in so many words.

He wanted this to be his senior picture.

But yeah, the rest of the “park” was um, yeah. It just…was. Basically an extremely run-down carnival that you might see in a church parking lot, after it’s been left to rust and rot for a handful of years. But, he got that credit!

The actual city park it was in was very pretty though. Kadrioru Park, in case you want to go there and also scoop up that +1. I mean, this might be a credit that only Chooch (and one other guy, but only because Chooch gave him the heads up the next day) got out of everyone on our trip?? This park was apparently established by Peter the Great!

I thought it was really beautiful, worth going out of our way for that damn credit.

We stopped at a convenience store before embarking on our journey back to the ferry terminal (we opted to walk because it wasn’t too far / we had time to kill / walking is the best way to see a new city) and got some popsicles and candy. I wish I could go back in time and buy more bags of the candy I chose because it was so fucking good. Of course I can’t remember what the fuck it was, either.

These fucking dolls.

I asked Henry what he liked about Tallinn and he said, “I liked the Dave Matthews bar.”

Wow, Dave Matthews, really? Mm.

Then I asked him if he’d go back (after I ridiculed him saying Dave Matthews instead of Depeche Mode) and he said, “Yeah” with no hesitation so that’s cool I guess because I never can tell if he’s actually having fun when we’re on vacation, lol.

The worst part of the day honestly was the ferry ride back. It was SO LATE at that point (I think our ferry left sometime after 10PM and it was well after midnight when we got back to Helsinki, and definitely after 1AM by the time we took a bus and street car back to our room. REALLY wish we had just stayed overnight in Tallinn! But, we had to get an early start the next day, our last full day, because we were doing a day trip to Tampere. But, you know, more on that later.

Well, I’ll end this Estonian

chapter with a video compilation from the day (one of the clips is sideways and I cannot fucking fix it no matter what, even though it’s not saved like that in my phone, and I only recorded that for the guys singing/yelling so I guess it doesn’t even really matter, and also LOL that those guys have gotten off the ferry with cases of alcohol, as I mentioned is a thing in my last post!

Dec 212023
 

One of the non-negotiable items on my vacation itinerary wish list was to dine at Old Hansa, which is a medieval-themed restaurants serving only what would have been found in people’s pantries back in the day. I knew going into this that it is a TOTAL TOURISTY thing to do but I cared not. I wanted to eat here. I mean, when in Tallinn, right?

Oh, and the other deciding factor was that they have a vegetarian and vegan section on the menu! We made reservations a few mths in advance and it turns out, totally not needed. Maybe because it was a Thursday at 4pm, I dunno, but the inside seating of the restaurant was almost completely empty. There were a good bit of people sitting outside, but I wanted the candlelit experience of the indoors!

I wish I had gotten a photo of our waiter but he was wonderful, never strayed from his medieval fief (?) character, and steered me clear of what I was originally going to order because it was “hit or miss” with a “strong taste” that “some diners didn’t care for.”

I appreciated him for this.

Chooch and his non-alcoholic beer which of course didn’t like.

Medieval bathroom selfie.

Oven-baked herb and juniper cheese. Um, just looking at this picture has activated my saliva glands, I am gleeking like no one’s business over here. The taste memory of this appetizer is haunting my tongue like a ghost wearing a flavor sheet. FML, I want to go back to this moment.

I ended up getting the Five Tastes of Vegetarian Origin: Crusader’s Lentils, Ginger Rutabaga, Saffron Spelt,
Forest Mushroom Sauce, Rickard’s Cheese Pasties with Garlic and Herbs. It was DELICIOUS. Like, lick-the-plate-clean levels of delicioso.

Chooch got the Faraway Merchant’s Lentil Dish: Spicy Lentils and Saffron Spelt with plentiful Greens and Crispy Lentil Bread. Which he of course did not like so Henry and I ravaged his refuse.

Henry got salmon or something, he can’t remember.

Yes, this was expensive, definitely the most expensive meal of the whole trip. But to me, it was worth it for the experience and the ambiance, and I’m sorry but everything on my plate was excelsior and unlike anything I have ever eaten before. After all the cinnamon rolls and licorice, my body was praising me for giving it vegetables.

(Fun fact: There are no potatoes to be found on the menu because potatoes weren’t available back then!)

Then we went to the shoppe so I could so a schnapps tasting but Henry the Fucker took the cup and drank half of it!! I was so fucking offended. Literally almost started a fight with him over it but whatever.

I’ll tell you what, even just the half-shot that my Big Strong Keeper Man permitted me to have did wonders for my sinuses! I was like a brand new woman for about 10 minutes but then I got all clogged up again so I think the lesson learned here is that hourly shots of schnapps need to be tossed back.

Anyway, I bought a bottle for Margie, because I knew she would appreciate souvenir liquor. I gave it to her in the office too and she was like, “SHOULD WE DRINK THIS NOW??” Um, yes??

(We didn’t.)

:(

Then we went to Europe’s oldest, continually operating pharmacy which also has a small, free museum area.

This is one of my favorite photos that I took while in Tallinn, in case you cared. (WHY DON’T YOU CARE??)

(WHY DOESN’T CHOOCH CARE??)

Then we had a tony bit of time to kill before the Depeche Mode Bar opened so we just strolled around.

Fuck Putin.

Eat shit, Putin.

Then, Depeche Mode Bar! Next up: Chooch’s stupid Tallinn coaster credit.

I’m telling you – one day in Tallinn just wasn’t enough. It was BARELY even enough to enjoy all that Old Town alone has to offer. I hope we make it back someday because I really loved it there a lot. Great people, great vibes, so much history and beauty.

Dec 192023
 

You guys didn’t see this coming, I bet, but here is a post with more Tallinn stuff. Even though I was dragging, it was such a – DARE I SAY – epic day. That city’s got some magical, gritty vibes man. Also, some Russian vibes as well, unsurprisingly.

We quite honestly spent the entire time walking around, shopping, looking for the oldest working pharmacy in the world, having allergy attacks in antique shops while Chooch suddenly decided he wanted to collect war memorabilia??

My only regret, other than being sick, is not having more than a day to spend here. I really wanted to go into some museums, explore outside of Old Town, eat more meals. I wanted to do so much. Our original plan was to spend the night there but our itinerary changed so many times, I can’t remember why we opted to just do a day trip. Some stupid travel vlogger probably told me that’s all we needed. Wrong.

We had split up from Chooch at some point, I can’t remember why, and when we were trying to tell him where we were, I sent him this picture of a family with dog and his response was to send it back to me from a different angle because he apparently was spying on us like a little fucking creep.

I googled “famous people from Estonia” because I thought that would be a fun fact to share since I am trying (and failing) to be a BLOG WORTH READING, A SAFE SPACE TO LEARN SHIT, but I don’t recognize any single name so I am not sharing. You can google it yourself. Look, there I go, back to being a bully blogger.

We walked up a hill to the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, which I highly recommend if you are up for the slight exertion. I thought it would be a madhouse up there, but it surprisingly wasn’t crowded at all.

Probably Steven Seagull but we’ll just pretend.

He sure was friendly!

I could have leaned against that wall for an hour, just being a lookie-loo.

Virgin’s Tower.

Literally everywhere we turned: photo op. This town is majestic. I can’t believe we were there.

I saw some other people taking a picture here so then I had to take one of Chooch and he was like UGH GREAT THANKS PEOPLE.

OMG, this sign cracked me up. My friend Amber (AG1 from the Law Firm, if you’re a long time reader) calls her mom “pood” and when I saw this sign, I had to send it to her. Apparently, “pood” just means “shop” over there!

Next, we popped into Cafe Lummus for a quick break aka for me to have an allergy attack in the privacy of a bathroom.

This bathroom was so nice. I loved the aesthetic of this cafe AND the barista was so friendly.

Some random facts about Tallinn that I remember without googling: it is allegedly marzipan-happy but I feel like I didn’t see that much of it, amber jewelry stores are on every street, they love Schnapps. If you ask my one co-worker who used to live in Finland, he will tell you that it is also a tourist trap but don’t listen to him. I didn’t, and I’m glad because Tallinn (Old Town at least!) was one of the best days of our trip even though I was sick!

THIS BLUE BUILDING!!

I had been eying up this cute little shop of local artisan wares called OmaAsi. Of course, as soon as I walked in it was empty but within one minute, 10 pushy women tourists arrived and the twinge in my throat started to flare with a vengeance. I hurried up and picked a pair of earrings for Megan (I think the brand was Kirju??) and a ring by Inga Koppel for myself, shoved them at Henry and then ran outside to breathe in the fresh air.

Anyway, it was almost time for our dinner reservation at this point so that will be the next post. I know you can hardly wait.

Dec 152023
 

We saw this almost immediately after leaving the ferry dock thing and I was obsessed. 

Admittedly, Estonia was not really on my radar – I mean, I knew that it existed, but it wasn’t on my short list of must-see locales. However, when I was investigating Helsinkithings, I accidentally learned that not only is it cheap and easy to make a day trip out of Tallinn, Estonia, but it’s also a very popular weekend destination for people in Finland! The one thing I kept seeing is that liquor is a lot cheaper in Estonio, so people from Finland will do day trips there to stock up, but….is it still worth it even after adding in the cost of the ferry?! I mean, the round trip ferry fare was very reasonable, but still…? Anyone from Finland reading that who can explain? Lol.

My first impression of Tallinn though was CONSTRUCTION. So, pretty much like being home in Pittsburgh. Aw. We knew that Old Town was supposed to be easily accessible by foot but the construction definitely added a bit of chaos. We followed another family pretty much the whole way until they veered off and Henry was sure he knew the way by then, but does he ever?

Yo, I’m going to do something that I should always be doing but never do and that is drop some informational facts about this place.

Such as: Tallinn is the capital of Estonia.

*ooh*

*ahh*

I love the juxtaposition between gritty graffiti and historical alleyway here.

We hadn’t even been off the ferry for a full hour yet and Chooch was already over me requesting photos. I was just really excited! I even brought “the good” camera so that I could get some senior portraits of him there!

Tallinn’s Old Town, with its epic medieval architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You can tour the medieval city walls – and we did! Just not right when we arrived because it wasn’t open yet. FYI.

I was loving Tallinn immediately, even though I’m sure there was a lot of bickering with Henry since he nearly shat on the whole day with the EARLY DEPARTURE HOME time and then being a map idiot.

I was looking forward to this so much! It really delivered. Old Town was gorgeous, like being in a fairy tale.

And it was so good being there as early as we were because we were able to grab some great Instagram shots without flocks of tourists in the background. Because, you know, getting those shots for the ‘gram is the most important part of traveling….right? J/K I’m not that annoying (shut up) but it was still a bonus!

We had dinner reservations at 4pm (Old People Dining Time but I made the reservations months ago and wasn’t sure how long we were going to be there so I was trying to play it safe, god!), so we decided to get a light brunch type of situation.  We chose a cafe called Must Puudel.

Chooch was unreasonably mad because after he led us to a table inside, I said that I would prefer to sit outside because being indoors was making my throat tickle and then I would start coughing and no one wants that, OK. No one.

Dude. I got oatmeal with CLOUDBERRIES. The server actually tried to talk me out of it because, “….they have….unique taste.” But I knew that cloudberries were popular in that region (Finland and Sweden too I think?) so I wanted it. And guess what? I LIKED IT. It reminded me a bit of ground cherries in that they had a very mild sweetness with a tiny aftertaste of tomato? I’m not a big tomato fan unless it’s a fresh slice on a sandwich or in a grilled cheese but this was good. I liked it.

I don’t know what Those People got.

Town Hall Square. This is where the Christmas market is later in the year (LIKE NOW BECAUSE THAT IS HOW LONG IT HAS TAKEN ME TO WRITE THIS – I WAS HERE IN AUGUST FOR FUCK’S SAKE).

Did you know that Tallinn was the first city in Europe to put up a Christmas Tree in its city square?? It’s true, and it dates all the way back to 1441. I’m shook.

Anyway, after we ate, it was time to do the city wall / Hellemann Tower tour thingie! Apparently, the building itself was completed in 1355, 1410 for the tower, but it has burned repeatedly through the years and was most recently rebuilt in 2010 and reopened to the public.

It was actually harrowing to climb parts of it because there was no rhyme or reason to the steps and they were dangerously steep. I thought for sure, since I hadn’t fallen off the funhouse steps in Stockholm, that this is where I was undoubtedly going to bite it. But surprisingly, I made it up AND down without any bruises but I think I did scrape my hand off one of the walls at one point if I remember correctly.

Oh man. I could have stood there all day looking at the rooftops.

Also I would like to point out that I kept hounding Henry to take money out because I wanted to see what it looked like and he was all THEY DON’T LIKE DEALING WITH CASH I READ ABOUT IT. EVERYTHING SAYS TO JUST USE CARD and I was like, “mm ok” but then AS SOON as we walked into the tower, the man selling tickets was like, “HAHA YOU THOUGHT. CASH ONLY FOOLS” so then Chooch and I berated Henry the entire time he walked around looking for a bank or ATM. Henry can be so terrible to travel with sometimes, you guys. Leave Henry at home if you plan on visiting Tallinn. He will just hold you back and ensure that you won’t have enough time to do everything you wanted to do.

This was in St. Catherine’s Passage, where you kind find a bunch of little galleries and local artisans.

I knew this place existed from various travel videos that I had watched but I feel like if we were intentionally looking for it, FORGET ABOUT IT. We just stumbled upon by accident and I quickly realized what it was and yelled, “THIS IS WHERE THE GLASS SHOP IS!” I went inside and immediately bought cool handmade glasses for Janna and myself while Henry muttered to himself about how everything I was buying during this trip was glass.

Then we lost Chooch for a little bit. I think he was playing Pokemon Go. Henry didn’t seem too concerned.

We both had to pee really bad so we found another cafe and decided to get A SUNDAE while we were there because that’s obligatory when you’re on vacation. Sundaes for no reason, at any time of the day.

Pierre Chocolaterie Cafe!

The bathroom was soooo tiny and it was RIGHT next to the counter making it extremely awkward. Anyway, I thought the mirror was cool and I wanted to take a bathroom selfie because I’m a grown ass woman and if I want to TAKE A BATHROOM SELFIE I WILL DAMN WELL TAKE A BATHROOM SELFIE. However, as I started to take it, someone began to vigorously tug on the door knob which made me panic so I snapped it and then left only to come face to face with WAS LOST BUT NOW IS FOUND Chooch. What a fucking pest. He literally was born to troll me, I think.

I want to go back in time and get one of each.

We sat outside so I wouldn’t cough my face out, especially being surrounded by all that vintage fabric.

YEAH BOY. Henry and I shared the Dame Blanche, which was vanilla ice cream, Grand Marnier, fresh raspberry jam, and whipped cream. I wish I had just gotten my own because this was really delightful, a nice change from the standard hot fudge sundae that I would generally default to.

I made Chooch write a postcard to his Grandma Judy while we were sitting here and he was so pissed about it. He hates writing postcards which is why I, his own damn mother, didn’t get a postcard from him when he was in Mexico. I thought FOR SURE he would send one. No. Not even for my birthday.

I could have sat here all damn day.

But, we had shopping, walking, and looking to do before our dinner! MORE LATER.  I think Tallinn is going to be a whole damn series, I’m sorry. It was cool there and I took a lot of pictures, sue me.

Dec 112023
 

I have to skip ahead several hours to our evening in Tallinn where we finally, thanks to Henry changing our ferry time, got to go to the Depeche Mode bar! Apparently, Chooch was still one year shy of drinking age in Estonia (I think he could have drank in Denmark and Finland, but he had no desire to and I am not going to be mad about that) but if he wanted to, he could have marched his ass right into a store and bought a fifth of whateverthefuck if he so desired, or if he had lazy parents who didn’t feel like buying their own booze.

So, that’s a fun fact!

Anyway, we pretty much sat around the corner and counted down until 6PM so we could casually stroll in as soon as the doors opened since Chooch tacked on his little +1 coaster credit excursion which was outside of old town and somewhere in actual Tallinn so we wanted to make sure we were allotting enough time for that as well since it was going to require us to walk a bit and take at least one bus. Love that for us.

But look – this was so worth it! I have loved Depeche Mode since I was a kid so when I heard that there was a whole-ass bar randomly in Tallinn’s Old Town dedicated to them, I was NOT budging on this piece of the itinerary. Non-negotiable. We were going to have at least adult bev in this bar AND THAT’S THAT.

First, I loved that we had to walk down steps to get here because basement bars are the best bars (looking at you McCoy’s, or whatever you’re called now). Second, I recognized the bartender from Instagram and he was so cool and nice!

It was worth it. Chooch was happy because there were some arcade games, I was blissed out because there was so much memorabilia to ogle while being enveloped in an aural Snuggie of Depeche Mode, and Henry got to have a beer or whatever and also sit down which I sometimes toss to him like scraps under a table for a dog. He doesn’t NEED it but sometimes I like to treat him, you know?

It was dark & cozy & I really could have easily stayed here for hours, thanks for ruining my plans, Chooch!!

Depeche Modes videos were projected onto the wall, of course.

The only way this could be any better would be if it were themed to The Cure, but I am sure there are Cure bars somewhere out there and if not….hey, Henry? Now just hear me out….

Chooch was like, “This is cool I guess” and Henry was secretly glad that he was able to reschedule the ferry – I know this to be true in my heart. He will never admit to it though.

But yeah, IN CONCLUSION: if you like Depeche Mode and happen to find yourself in Tallinn, pop into DM BAAR for a drink and dark vibes. It’s worth it. And Henry even bought me a coffee mug when I was in the bathroom blowing my nose because this was Day 2 of Travel Allergies, yay!

And now I will leave you with one of my favorite DM songs and if I had heard this while there, I think that’s the only thing that could have made the experience any better short of Dave Gahan actually walking in and sitting down next to me.

Dec 092023
 

Thursday morning, our second to the last full day of vacation, we had to wake up stupid-early in order to start our trek to the ferry. The timestamp on the above photo is 5:56am so there you. Rise and shine.

I think our ferry departed at 7:30am so we had to leave around 6am to take the various modes of transportation from our airbnb in TAKA-TOOLO (love that so much but I’m too careless and dead inside to fuck with finding the accents to put over the o’s) to Central Station and then to the ferry dock thing.

I am a great travel blogger! I have ALL OF THE FACTS AND INFO. Planning a trip to Tallinn from Helsinki? Hit me up and I will….ask Henry how we did it.

Took this while walking to the bus/trolley stop, near Linnankosken Puisto, a park. It made me think of NCT DReam and their song Puzzle Piece <3

The quiet Toolon halli stop.

Central Station – we were here quite frequently!

Final leg of our trek to the ferry harbor (West Harbor)!

We had some time to kill before boarding or whatever they call it when it’s a boat, so of course we had to smash some cinnamon rolls in our faces. I’m telling you, not a bad cin-roll was had on this trip.

Hi, it’s me! In shorts for the first time of the whole trip! Actually, I’m having deja vu…did I already write about this??

(Confirmed, I apparently blogged while on the ferry, LOL.)

Henry didn’t sit with us the whole time because we were gang-complaining about his breathing lol.

The ferry ride took about 2 hours and I have to tell you, for being a short commute situation, that ferry was pretty banging. Bar/lounges, game rooms, Burger King. It was pretty comfortable!

Immediately upon arriving, Henry let it slip that we were catching the 6pm ferry back to Helsinki and I was like, “Excuse me, sir?” because one of the most anticipated things on my list was to visit the Depeche Mode bar in old city, which didn’t even open until 6?? And Chooch conveniently found some run-down city park with a credit that he wanted to get and normally I’d be like, “This isn’t about you, go sit down!” but even I had to admit that the possibility of Chooch obtaining some obscure Estonian coaster cred was something that I, as a loving mother, needed to help make happen. So, we both started harping on Henry BIG TIME, who was RULL agitated now that he didn’t have the COASTER CREW shield to hide behind. All travel hiccups were now his cross to carry.

Anyway, he did end up getting our return trip changed until later, so we were moderately nicer to him after that. It occurs to me that if any one came to this blog for the first time, not knowing me, they’d be like, “WOW THIS LADY IS A REAL FUCKER SHE DOESN’T EVEN DESERVE THAT GUY” – lol, who am I kidding, there are people who actually do know me that say the same thing! One time, my AWOL friend Barb (BARB COME BACK) said that Henry must have Stockholm Syndrome and that has been something I laugh about fondly from time to time. LOL oh Henry. But if not for me and Chooch, would he have ever even gone to Estonia?? WOULD HE HAVE EVER EVEN HEARD OF ESTONIA? We have really broadened his horizons. He should be thanking us.

OK, I am busybusybusy today so I will report back later this weekend with probably non-vaca stuff.

Dec 022023
 

You guys. I admit, I had my doubts when Chooch suggested going to this place called SEURASAARI in Helsinki but then he sold it by pointing out that it’s also affectionally called “squirrel island” by the locals, since it’s inhabited by adorable squirrels and other allegedly friendly wildlife. Anytime we plan a trip, I’m always begging Henry and Chooch to throw some of their ideas into the hat because while I do enjoy being in control, sometimes I want other people to step up and say, “This is what we’re doing today, and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

Henry suggested nothing, as I’m sure you could have guessed, but Chooch did provide some suggestions. I can’t ask for this and then reject it all, you know? So Squirrel Island it is!

It was just kind of a hassle to get to because we had to transfer one or two times, I think and then walk a bit because we couldn’t figure out if there was a bus that would take us straight to the island, so we basically were just dropped off at the entrance of the long road leading up to the island, but that ended up being a nice walk, actually.

I wanted to talk briefly about the bus ride though because we were facing a trio of girls, maybe 19-21? I have a hard time detecting ages nowadays. But it was clear that one of the girls was the leader, as she was sitting in the middle showing the other two things on her phone. It sounded like they were looking at apartment listings maybe? They were speaking in Finnish but every once in a while, parts would be in English, like when the leader said, “Oooh, super cozy!” And then at one point she was like “*Finnish Finnish Finnish* That FUCKING BITCH!” in unaccented English, and I was trying so hard not to crack up because she said it in such a cheerful tone. I was obsessed with her and wanted to go wherever she was going, but our stop came up first.

On the walk to the island’s entrance, we passed several old houses that had been converted into restaurants and cafes. They all looked, well, super cozy that FUCKING BITCH. It was pretty much like walking through a wooded park – not too much traffic and very tranquil. I’m kind of glad that the bus dropped us off on the main drag because it was a very pleasant walk!

Immediately upon arriving at squirrel island, there was a refreshment stand so we had to get some ice cream.

SALMIAK for me, of course! God I miss that salty licorice goodness. That FUCKING BITCH.

OK, I know – it’s getting old. I’ll stop.

The actual “island” is accessible by a pedestrian bridge, no need for a ferry. The cool thing about this island as well is that it’s an open-air museum, where you can see old buildings from rural Finland in the 18th-20th century. It’s free to walk around, since it’s a public park, but paid admission is required to access the insides of the buildings. We were there STRICTLY for squirrels, so we opted out of that.

I’m gonna go ahead and give props to Chooch, because this place was an absolute delight. We really needed to get out into nature after days upon days of amusement parks and big cities.

JUST LOOK AT THIS.

Gorgina.

(One of my favorite YouTubers says that and now I have this impulse to say it constantly like a nervous tick even when shit’s ugly.)

So over me, lol.

Ugh, these trees. Gorgina.

Ugh, this windmill! Gorgina.

My fucked up eyes couldn’t even tell at the time that I was taking unfocused pictures in portrait mode, lol I hate myself.

Dude, a telephone booth from 1913!!

Apparently, this place has a NUDE BEACH but it was CLOSED on the day we were there lolol.

Here’s a video that Chooch took of me trying to give a squirrel a leaf (SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW WE WERE ALLOWED TO BRING ACTUAL FOOD TO FEED THE SQUIRRELS! I’m so used to people here yelling at me for feeding the squirrels so I assumed it would be verboten!):

For some reason, this was viewed over 10,000 times in Instagram/Facebook?! Why?

Then we lost Chooch at some point and at first I was like, “Whatever, he’s 17. He’ll be fine” but we were also near water and I started panic that he fell in and drowned?? I don’t know why my mind immediately went there, oh wait because underneath it all I’m still a mom, but I got REAL SWEATY about this. Henry was like, “Can you calm down, I’m trying to identify this bird over here” but then Chooch eventually rejoined us – stupid ass was looking for a goddamn geocache. He is so annoying!!

Here are Chooch’s photos from that day as well! He actually created a shared folder, I can’t believe it. Also, his camera lens appeared to be super smudgy so that’s cool.

This was the bridge leading to the island, btw.

Ugh, his idiot geocache.

Other notable things:

  • there are tiny birds there that will land on your hand if you’re patient enough. Chooch spent many minutes trying to make this happen. It never panned out for him, though;
  • we saw some people playing some game in a field with sticks and a ball – maybe it was this molkky thing? (see video!)
  • there were several groups of college-aged foreigners that we encountered and it looked like they were for some team-building camping thing? I’m no camper but if I had to camp somewhere, I wouldn’t mind doing it there I guess.
  • clean bathrooms

Then we walked all the way back to the main road again and caught the bus back to our place and got vegan pizza for dinner. We tried to make it an early night because we had to get up fucking early as shit the next day to catch our ferry to our fifth and final country – Estonia!

Nov 262023
 

Honestly, I should have just included this stuff in my last Helsinki post but I was being lazy. But after we chilled in Senate Square, we continued walking toward the water and spent a good amount of time checking out all of the wares being shilled. We bought some gifts and souvenirs, and met a really lovely couple who makes jewelry from spectrolite, “an uncommon variety of labradorite feldspar.” I bought a pretty little pendant and the wife part of the couple burned all three of our names and the date into a nice little wooden box, which is her husband’s contribution to the business. There were one or two other booths we saw with people hawking spectrolite jewelry, but I got the best vibes from this lady and I felt very good about the purchase. She was just a joy to talk to!

Finland is amazing.

Chooch rode the sky wheel on his own because it counts as a credit on some stupid app he downloaded at the suggestion of someone from our trip, causing him to branch out from just collecting coaster credits. Now he needs ALL CREDS.

It was lunch time by then, so we decided to get that out of the way before attempting for the second time to make it to this elusive “squirrel island.” On the way to Hesburger – a local fast food chain with vegan options – we ran into the South Korean embassy! I love you, Korea. Don’t you ever worry – as much as I loved Sweden and Finland, you are still bae.

<3 <3 <3

I don’t know what this building is but I thought it was beautiful.

OK yo – Hesburger was amazing. I don’t LOVE going away and eating at fast food places, but I made an exception here because I had heard so much about how great Hesburger is and I wanted to support a place with vegan options. Plus, this trip was expensive, you guys. We needed to take the frugal route every now and then, and that’s what’s up.

The whole vibe of this place was so cool, like a vintage garage. Did not feel like a fast food joint at all, honestly, but more like…a gritty cafe? I got the VEKE soy tortilla and it was divine. Anytime fast food doesn’t kill my stomach, I take the win.

I loved the stools!!

Kasarmitori Square, where Hesburger was located.

Definitely didn’t choke myself nearly to death on immature giggles here.

And then it was time to – fingers crossed – embark on our journey to Squirrel Island, which I was told that “the bus will only take us so far and then we have to walk but I don’t know how far.” 0.O

Moimoi for nown0w.

Nov 222023
 

I woke up on Wednesday feeling kind of allergy-ish which was bound to happen. Henry and I walked to the nearby K Market (it is with a heavy heart I report that the K was not for Korean) and OFC I found my favorite industrial strength cough drops in LICORICE flavor!

And why am I not surprised that Finland has the cutest toilet paper mascot??

While in this tiny market, I decided that I wanted to get a loaf of the good-good brown bread that I had been almost exclusively relying on for a.m. sustenance throughout the whole trip until now. Fending for ourselves for breakfast?? This was really one of the only drawbacks to trading a hotel for an airbnb, honestly. Anyway, Henry was being a big fucking jerk about it because he didn’t want to have to buy AN ENTIRE THING OF BUTTER as well, when we were only going to be here until Saturday and couldn’t take it with us. He’s such a cheapskate sometimes, I really swear to god. So, then I slammed the bread back down and stormed off. Then I came BACK and shouted some stuff about how I’m A FUCKING GROWN UP AND I MAKE MORE MONEY THAN HIM because this is definitely how GROWN UPS ACT IN GROCERY STORES. So, then he was like CALM DOWN (probably, it seems like something he’d toss in my face like a patronizing grenade) AND GET THE BREAD AND BUTTER, I DON’T CARE but then I was like NO I’M NOT ALLOWED AND I DON’T WANT IT ANYMORE ANYWAY.

I ended up getting the bread and the butter and I ate it several times a day and yes, we left a nearly full tub of butter behind in the fridge when we left Saturday morning, but it was worth it because that bread and butter made me happy every time that I ate it.

Fucking men.

There was a Fazer Cafe right across from K Market so we popped in there too for some coffee and to get Chooch breakfast before heading back and by then, I was simmering down a bit.

Oh also! (Sorry, it is now several hours later and I had approx. 5 sips of a BEER so buckle up, baby.) This was one of…what? Two? Days where we were able to sleep in and get a slow start to the day even though I was in everyone’s ear, being bossy about NEEDING TO GET STARTED. The main plan for the day was to head out to Squirrel Island, which is actually called Seurasaari. When I told Chooch to please for the love of god give me some things he was interested in doing on this trip, that was his big want, and it was sweet because obviously I’d like it because SQUIRRELS and he was interested in it because NATURE and who cares if Henry wanted to go because we were going. End of story.

Of course, there was a fight betwixt Henry and Chooch over how exactly to get there. Chooch was like, “We have to take the Blah Blah Bus” whatever that means, so we walked to the bus stop and waited.

This lady ended up getting super flustered and scolding Chooch in Finnish for not flagging down the bus, like any of us knew we had to do that and if she knew it, why didn’t she flag one for the team?!

(At least, I think this is what was happening. Maybe she was just angry at the bus driver and was trying to commiserate with us about it?!)

It turns out the next bus wasn’t going to come for quite a while so Chooch was like, “We can walk to another stop and get a street car” or something, I don’t know, it was two months ago at this point and I was sick, if you recall.

So we got on a street car / tram / trolley whatever it’s called and about 5 minutes in, I started having A COUGHING FIT totally reminiscent of all the times I would be on the T going to work and I dunno if it was the dry air or what but sometimes I would get a TWINGE in my throat that was uncontrollable and this was well before COVID but even still I didn’t want to be That Disgusting Person hacking away in an enclosed space so I would get off the T waaaaay before I was supposed to and walk the rest of the way to work.

Because I’m neurotic.

Anyway, this happened that morning and I was like WE HAVE TO GET OFF OF THIS THING ASAP and I practically pitched myself headfirst out of the door.

We were right by some mall thing so we went in there and found a pharmacy where I bought cough syrup and allergy medicine. There are the exciting and exotic details of my life that you came here for.

Coughing fit quelled, we got on the SUBWAY/TRAIN whatever they call it there and took it to Senate Square! Actually, we just took it “near the water” because I wanted to go where all of the local vendors are, but we ended up accidentally running into Senate Square. We’ll just pretend it was part of the plan.

There was a little cafe there so we bought cafe and sat down to eat the donuts we bought on a whim from a donut kiosk in the subway station. They were good!

This might have been one of the only days that I left for the day with NO JACKET. Just me and the NCT U shirt on my back.

Chooch racing the little brother he obtained somewhere along the way.

I wanted Henry to take our picture here but then some guy was I WILL TAKE ONE OF THE WHOLE FAMILY and I was like, “Oh. I mean, OK sure, yeah. How…nice.”

I wanted an obnoxious filter and I got it.

Being out in the fresh air was definitely helping me feel better, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure I get sick every time we go somewhere longer than a weekend.

More later!

Nov 192023
 

One of the first things I like to do before going to a new park is looking on their website to see if there are veg/vegan options. I don’t know if you guys have noticed but the websites for most American parks are stupidly unhelpful. If you’re luck and can find a “dietary restrictions” section, they might have a list of their “restaurants” that have something for us of the NO-MEATS persuasion, but then you get there and find out it’s a soft pretzel, a wilted salad, OR if you’re really lucky, a soggy ill-cooked veggie burger.

These parks on our trip though – they spoiled us rotten. Linnanmaki was no exception! Before we even left Pittsburgh, I had like 4 places there that I wanted to eat at and knew it would have to be a game time decision. Can I just point out that every single food place on this list has the vegan symbol??

We ended up choosing Hurlumhei, which offered TOFU BURGERS. I love tofu. I will choose that over an Impossible/Beyond/black bean burger any day.

Look how fun the interior is! It definitely didn’t feel like we were eating inside an amusement park. I think that’s such a great perk to parks that are free to enter – they usually tend to step up the food game so that non-riders are inspired to pop inside for food. There seemed to be quite a few nice sit-down restaurants in this place. Maybe not at the level of Bakken, Tivoli Gardens, or Liseberg, but better than, OH I DON’T KNOW, Kennywood.

We have season passes for Kennywood and I think we would go more often if they had better food options, where we could maybe say, “Hey, while we’re out this way, let’s go to Kennywood for dinner and ride Phantom several dozen times.” But instead, it’s like, “Let’s eat at home first and then go to Kennywood for rides and an ice cream cone.”

Chooch got a fancy frappucino-ish thing and then acted like I was making him cut out his own kidney with shrapnel from a sardine can when I asked for a taste. He is SO GERM-PHOBY and also really just a brat at the core of it all.

I honestly think he tries to mask the stinginess with the fact that he doesn’t want anyone using his straw. Mm.

FIRST FINNISH SQUIRREL SIGHTING!! Living his best life, lunchmeat in hand/paw. We spent entirely too much time interacting with this cutie, to the point where people were walking by and stopping to see what the hell was so fascinating to these idiot Americans.

Is it weird that I think a lot about how I wasn’t squirrel-obsessed yet when we went to Korea, so I didn’t notice the squirrels there but now that’s near the top of my list of things to do if we go back, above “get married”? Because I’m really gonna go to Seoul Forest. How we have been to S.Korea twice yet never made it to Seoul Forest either of those times is kind of criminal and in the vein of “But Did You Even Really Go to Korea?”

I will say that Finnish squirrels look like they’re straight out of a fairy tale, though. 10/10, exceeded expectations.

Omg the slowest ops in the world were running this ride. They really wanted every single car to be filled so they had us just sitting there picking at our cuticles waiting for more riders to maybe show up even though this ride was buried in the back of the park in a dead end!

Fun ride though.

Chooch made me take this picture because I think his phone was dead and he wanted to send it to a friend because it was the opposite of Ice Spice. I don’t know why I kept it?!

I loved this little arcade and snack area!I want to have neon spirals on my ceiling!!

Finally, it was #CAROUSELFIE time. Also, these benches. This landscaping. Am I in Snow White’s backyard?! I will never be able to properly convey the magic that this park exudes. You know a place has to be pumping out subtle wafts of serotonin when the three of us manage to go the whole time without temper tantrums, empty “THIS IS THE LAST TIME WE’RE GOING ANYWHERE TOGETHER” threats, or disparaging remarks about each other’s annoying breathing/eating/chewing/attitude. I mean, of course Henry was annoying but there is not very much out there that can distract from that.

Which one should we use for the #carouselfie wall??

17 and he still pouts when he doesn’t get the carousel animal he wants but this time he snagged his #1 choice of elephant so he was pacified.

Wouldn’t it be fun if Henry learned how to make fiberglass sculptures and then we could turn our yard into a creepy storybook forest type of nightmarescape that would maybe deter religious solicitors?

I also think it would be cool to have this is a bed post.

Vuoristorata!

I will never stop missing the licorice selection. It was A++++++ in every country we visited on this trip. Lands o’ Licorice.

As usual, magnificent restrooms!

Ugh Kirnu. Back-to-back parks with these awful Intamin Zack Spins. I am not sad that there are none left in the US. Anyway, behind it, you can see the water tower that now houses an indoor family coaster, which you can choose to ride with VR goggles. I think there were three themes to choose from, and we all ended up choosing the horror one. IT WAS SO FUCKING GOOD!! I couldn’t believe how much it elevated this basic little dime-a-dozen family coaster that you find pretty much in every park. It was excellent and I have no idea why we didn’t go back and try the other two themes?!

Chooch and I also rode a bunch of unique flat rides, the rapids ride, and we all rode the train. We stayed until the park was about to close and then began our short journey back to the apartment. I felt sad immediately after leaving. This place, man. What a babe.

Here’s a video of our first day in Finland, including Linnanmaki footage but starting with arriving on the ferry that morning, the train ride to Helsinki, the rickety elevator in the apartment building we were staying in, to the walk back after getting off the tram from Linnanmaki. Now that I’m recapping this, it’s hard to believe that all of this was just one day. I feel tired reliving it.

Nov 162023
 

Weird to say “BUT THEY’RE SO CLOSE!!” when talking about two countries that are separated by a large body of water (and are only accessible by car/bus/train in the far northern regions, not applicable in our case)* but when I saw how cheap and easy it would be to, you know, just hop over to Helsinki from Stockholm, I started really drilling home my case for Linnanmaki, Helsinki’s amusement park.

*(I had to come back a day later and add this because in my head, I knew what I meant but I figured it was only a matter of time before someone called me out for being geographical ignorant, I mean, in a world where strangers still actually read this shit, you know what I mean?)

  1. It looks fucking precious in every video I watched;
  2. It has Taiga, an Intamin Blitz coaster that opened 2 years before what is arguably one of the best coasters in the world: VelociCoaster at Islands of Adventure. We are obvi huge fans of VelociCoaster, so I used that as a big selling point;
  3. I just really wanted to go to Finland in general and this seemed like a good “excuse”;
  4. It’s for a good cause, as Linnanmaki is “owned by the non-profit Children’s Day Foundation, which operates the park in order to raise funds for Finnish child welfare work. In 2019, the foundation donated €4.5 million, and so far has donated a total of over €120 million to this cause.” – Wiki
  5. Including Taiga, it has an impressive 8 coasters –  not too shabby (ugh I actually hate that phrase so I have no idea why I used it and furthermore no idea why I didn’t just delete it?? My old boss at Olan Mills used to say that all of the time and it’s not like I didn’t like her, but it was so annoying) for a small city park!

Um, now that I’m really reading this Wiki page, I’m learning so much. Here’s a … fun? … fact:

Since its opening in 1950, two people have died in amusement ride accidents at Linnanmäki, both caused by negligence on the part of the rider. In 1953, an employee, a roller coaster brakeman* who was sitting in the front row after his shift on the last ride of the evening did not attach the safety bar, fell off and was hit by the train. In 1985, a guest, a boy, also sitting in the front row, had managed to open the safety bar and stood up to wave to his friends. The boy then fell in front of the train, which ran over him.

*Also, if you’re wondering what a coaster brakeman is, shame on you for not reading my Tivoli Garden post, where we rode our first ever brakeman-operated coaster!

Another fun fact, this one I already knew, is that the park is built on a hill about a mile outside of Helsinki, and derives its name from Vesilinnanmäki (lit. ’Water Castle Hill’), the name locals gave to the hill way back in the day since it had two water towers. Both towers are no longer in operation, but some kind of city zoning law prohibits the towers from being removed. One of them was converted to a maintenance shed for the park, and the other now houses an indoor family coaster!! I love that. That particular water tower especially is now an iconic landmark in  the park. Also, thank god it doesn’t look like the gross kinds we have in America. I would never ride a roller coaster inside one of those. Fuck you.

NOT MY PHOTO, TAKEN FROM WIKI:

(Now I’m Googling Finnish water towers and all of their water towers are like sculptures, quirky architectural feats. Fill a coffee table book with ’em, they’re so photogenic and not GROSS AND LOOMING like ours. Ugh.)

Anyway, we took a tram from our apartment and then had to walk for maybe 10 minutes or so before reaching the park. I will never complain about walking while on vacation – it’s truly the best way to experience a new city! If we had taken a bus all the way there, Chooch couldn’t have mocked whoever this Paavo Nurmi pal is.

J/K guys, of course I know that he was a Finnish Olympic running man pal.

Totally without Googling just now.

Actually, guess where he was from, spefically?

TURKU, the city that Henry RUINEDU. That actually does a ring bell now, know that he’s from Turku because in one of the many travel videos I watched in preparation for our day in Turki that never happened, I remember seeing some monument to an Olympic runner and honestly, how many Olympic runners could Turku possibly have produced?

This underpass had cool murals and did not even have a HINT of a piss stench like Pgh underpasses.

I’m not sure we took the best walking route to the park, but after hiking up a hill (Vesilinnanmäki amirite??), we made it to the entrance! The timestamp on my phone says we arrived at 3:24PM.

Tervetulua! (One of the only words I remember from the one solid week of Finnish I limped through on Duolingo.)

After getting our wristbands, we went STRAIGHT for Taiga which is located near the entrance so good for us, etc. etc. The queue itself was amazing, but since there was barely a line at all, we didn’t really get to take much of it in. I mean, I’m not complaining! Apparently, “taiga” is a type of bird in Finland, I think.

There was a brief line that we had to wait in only because it was one-train ops, and right away, we noticed that SAM from our Norden Coaster Trip was in line for the front row! He spotted us too and actually left his spot to run back and say hi to us and my heart, you guys. My heart. He fist-bumped Chooch and me, and then also Henry which was an “ugh why” moment, but still – it was so fun to see a familiar face!

He said he had been at the park all day and was just marathoning Taiga at this point, having already collected all of the other coaster creds. It was such a whirlwind – he IS SO HIGH ENERGY that all I remember was him just spraying us with excited sentiments while shaking his head in his That’s So Sam manner, telling us to look him up if we ever come to LA, and then running back to reclaim his spot. I didn’t even have a chance to ask him if he was with anyone! I guess not, because he was one of the singles on our trip. We somehow never saw him again after that so that was sad. :(

No^^^This one is a BIG NOPE. Imagine the most Wild Mouse-type of coaster you’ve been on, probably in like a mall parking lot for your local town’s traveling carnival, right? Where you’re thinking you’re gonna tip right over the edge every time it whips around a hairpin turn? Now imagine that same ride, but the car purposely tips and tilts as it careens along the track.

That’s this piece of shit ride.

IT WAS SO AWFUL.

Right next to it is the park’s power-coaster mine train which was fine! Henry was pissed though because Chooch and I left him in the dust and got on a train before him and he had to wait for the next one even though there was still room on ours?? He was acting like such a fucking martyr about it too. He PURPOSELY stayed back in line rather than follow us onto the platform. Well, his mistake because since he was on the train after ours, I was able to stand at the exit and film him riding a family coaster alone with a frown on his face :)  Video compilation to come!

STAN LOONA! It’s still crazy to me how worldwide popular Kpop is now. Also is it weird that I want to join the Kosogang without knowing anything about it?? I just spent an absurd amount of time thinking about it.

This was in line for the park’s Mauer spinning crazy mouse – SALAMA. Um….did I enjoy this ride better than Taiga?? I THINK I DID?? Don’t get me wrong, Taiga was great – great layout, great launch – but am I becoming too snobby?? Too hard to impress?? I think what I want to say is, come for Taiga, stay for the rest. Because honestly, if it wasn’t for Taiga, I’m not sure this park would have even been on our radar, and what a PITY (lol, I will never say that in full seriousness, has to be backed by major drama kid emotion) that would have been because damn you guys, just DAMN, this ended up being one of my favorite places on the whole trip.

Linnanmaki, you are a fucking BABE AND A HALF. Be my forever Valentine.

Chooch Up Close.

The family that ignores each other….fights less together? I dunno. Still seems like we fight a lot. However, we were like besties the entire time we were at Linnanmaki. It was just that good. Totally brought us together. Aw, the audience says collectively.

The garbage and recycling bins!! Love you, Finland.

Each section of the park was themed so well. The landscaping was on point. Bathrooms were spotless. Employees were delightful. There weren’t even any annoying park guests!

This is the subject of my current gem art project, which is twice as big as the ones I’ve done in the past so RIP my back. But yeah, you know I’m always down to clown. This darkride was fun and the cars were like suspended half eggs, which was very cool (I have video, you’ll see!) but overall it was just one scene after another of clowns doing stuff, like cleaning up elephant shit? It was nice but not very memorable. Except for the elephant shit part, I guess.

There’s another dark ride over by Taiga and THAT one was a real treat though! It was themed after a haunted hotel and I loved it.

Not as death-trappy as some of the other fun houses we got banged up in on the trip, but idiot Chooch temporarily lost his phone in the exit slide because it fell out of his pocket and didn’t make it all the way down the slide. Someone had to fetch it for him, he’s so embarrassing.

Some of the brakemasters that have worked on the famous Vuoristorata coaster! Chooch and I sat in the back, and I thought it was rather delightful, but apparently he and Henry didn’t care for it. Please watch this video – I am so happy that we got to ride two of these (three if the one in Bakken hadn’t recently been updated to eliminate the need for a brakeman!) on this trip. It’s a slice of history! It’s things like this that make amusement parks worth visiting when you’re traveling abroad – you get to experience things you can’t here in the US and isn’t that a huge reason to travel?? I need to remember the next time someone mocks me for planning vacations around roller coasters because up to now, my only comeback has been, “Shut up.”

Fuck this ride too!! Ukko, more like F-Ukko, amirite fellow 5th graders on the same humor level as me. You go up a vertical lift hill and then travel upside down for way too many seconds before finally reaching that twist in the track way up there. I was screaming you guys. Fucking screaming. ONE AND DONE for this broad.

I think I will end on that note for now, since I actually packed this post with LITERAL FACTS and shit, can you believe it?? I always want to go into these posts with all of the 411 but then I get lazy and it’s like, “Here are pictures, we rode stuff, Henry was mean and wouldn’t buy me xyz.”