Tag Archives: travel

An Unforgettable Easter

Happy Belated Easter! Instead of opening Easter Baskets and hunting for colored eggs, I spent my Easter weekend cruising the Baltic Sea with some great friends! Danna, Adam, and I met our friend Corey* (who’s studying in Parma, Italy for the semester) in Stockholm on Friday to begin our travels (or continue them)! We boarded the Silja Symphony where we spent the night at sea, heading to our first stop- Helsinki, Finland.  When I booked our cruise, I had no idea that it was a themed cruise; however the theme was very fitting for four Cornellians: “I <3 NY.”  With banners of the Statue of Liberty hanging from the ceiling on the main deck, it was interesting to see the impression of New York from a Nordic perspective! After a night full of fun, laughs, and wandering, we docked in Helsinki at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning! For the day before Easter, plenty of people were out and about! We walked through the Old Market, where farmers and fishermen alike were selling their goods.  Helsinki does not seem like it is a huge tourist city, despite being the capital of Finland.  We were able to navigate the tram system, which took us to a really neat Rock Church.  The entrance of the church was carved out of rock; the rest of the church was built underground! Unfortunately the church was closed for repairs, so we didn’t get to experience an underground church.  The tram also took us to the far side of the city where we found a street market with some very tasty pastries! We saw some amazing sites

Me and my travel companion, Little Russ in Helsinki

but before we knew it, we were on the bus to a different harbor terminal for our two hour trip to Tallin, Estonia! Since we were on the boat for two hours we decided to just book seats on the deck.  And after walking around all day in the beautiful weather, everyone in our group was soon fast asleep!

When we docked in Tallin, we were all well-rested and ready to start our next adventure! Our hostel- Marine Keskus Hostel- was conveniently located right next to the harbor! Estonia is a small country located north of Latvia and west of Russia.  During our stay in Tallin, we were only 360 km from Moscow, Russia! Saturday night we watched the sunset from a deserted pier next to the harbor and went back to our hostel to relax for the evening.


Easter morning dawned sunny and bright in Tallin.  It was a jam-packed day of site-seeing, experiencing the culture, and often asking a lot of questions! We started our morning at another street market where we all found something to remember the experience by.  Afterwards, we wandered into the Old City.  The Old City of Tallin is actually surrounded by the New City which is different from Stockholm where the cities are built on separate islands with bridges connecting them.  We entered the Old City and Adam and Corey ventured up onto the top of what remained of the City Wall.  Danna and I walked by the street vendors and discussed if we should get hats.  Now, this may sound so simple, but I have to tell you, these are some of the coolest hats I have ever seen! I can’t fully explain these hats, so I’ll have to show you instead:


The picture quality is poor because it’s blown up, however, these hats are so long that you can use them as a scarf too! I can’t wait for the first sign of snow next winter so I can wow everyone with this hat 😉  For the rest of the afternoon we walked around as much of the city as possible and saw some amazing buildings and sites!

Tallin Town Hall: the oldest Gothic Town Hall in Europe
Tallin Town Hall: the oldest Gothic Town Hall in Europe
One of the many churches in Tallin.
One of the many churches in Tallin.
The remaining tower of a castle and the pink Parliament building!
The remaining tower of a castle and the pink Parliament building!

As we boarded our next boat (the Baltic Queen) to travel back to Stockholm, we unanimously agreed that Tallin had been our favorite part of the trip! Tucked away in the very northern part of Europe, it was not an over-developed tourist city, but a very relaxing and culturally-rich experience! I would love to go back and spend more time in Estonia!

Monday morning had us back in port in Stockholm, Sweden! After traveling to the city center on the metro, we decided we would all like to visit the Vasa Museum, which was on one of the smaller, out-skirting islands in Stockholm.  The Vasa Museum is built entirely around a War ship-named the Vasa- that sank in the Stockholm channel on its first voyage in 1628.  333 years later the Vasa finally was lifted from the bottom and broke the surface of the water.  Because of the low salinity in the Baltic Sea, the worm that is responsible for so much of the decay to wooden boats cannot survive; which meant, that 95% of the Vasa was still preserved.  Scientists spent years cleaning and rebuilding the boat to accurately depict what it would have looked like in 1628.

The top of the Vasa, as seen from the 7th floor of the museum
The top of the Vasa, as seen from the 7th floor of the museum
The Vasa from the ground 1st floor
The Vasa from the ground 1st floor

The museum was phenomenal and it was amazing to learn the story of this ship.  The reason the boat sank, is that after the boat was almost complete, the king demanded that the architect put in a second level of cannon ports.  When the ship was in water and carrying the proper amount of ballast to keep the ship stable, these ports were too close to the water.  So they lessened the weight of the ballast-which made the ship tip much more easily. This is the reason the boat capsized and sank.

We ended our day with some Swedish ice cream and our good-byes to Corey at the train station.  Adam, Danna, and I traveled back to Uppsala and Corey went to his hostel to await his early morning plane back to Parma.  It was definitely an unforgettable Easter!

* Wondering what it’s like to study abroad in Parma Italy? Check out Corey’s blog “Pass the Cheese, Please!” at http://blogs.cornell.edu/coreyabroad/

Navigational Accomplishments

Well, I made it! I’ve officially been in Sweden for nearly twelve hours!  About two months ago, I decided to travel to Sweden with Icelandair.  The main motivation for this decision was that they allowed every passenger two bags that could way up to 50 lbs (23 kg) each! Not to mention there was a lay-over in Iceland-which I thought was much cooler than the lay-over in London.  Since I only live about two hours from New York City, JFK wasn’t a bad choice in airports either.  After my dad and my boyfriend helped me carry my luggage to check in, they waited with me on the twenty-minute long security line.  That was the reason our good-byes were so rushed and I blame the haste for why I cried.  I’ve said thousands of good-byes in my lifetime yet none of them were as tough as the one’s I said that day! I honestly think that I was so upset to say good-bye because it is so definite-I know that the next time I will see them in person is on June 4th when I fly back to the States since none of my family has their passports! Fortunately for us, technology will allow us to talk face-to-face through web chat-a luxury none of my ancestors had!

As I boarded the plane later on that night, I realized that Icelandair has very unique decorations:

Head Rest
They had about six different phrases randomly spread out throughout the cabin on the head rest.  The one you see above was the one that was on the headrest for my first leg of the trip! Not only was there a wealth of knowledge on the headrests, but the pillows as well.


I loved all of the tidbits I took away from my flight; and that is before we ever left the gate.  Once we were in the air I discovered a channel on my personal television that imparted very useful information about Iceland like “People in Iceland speak Icelandic.  It is so similar to what the vikings spoke that modern Icelanders have no problem reading ancient viking manuscripts and documents.”  And for those staying in Iceland, the airline offered a language tutorial on your personal television too! The only negative about traveling with Icelandair is that all food on the plane must be bought: there aren’t any complimentary meals, despite being an international, over-night flight.

Once I perused the duty-free shops during my hour lay-over in Reykjvak  Airport, I was back in the air again, this time with an entire row of seats all to myself! This made it much easier to sleep for the majority of the two hour and forty minute plane ride. Once I collected my baggage and was carrying my fifty pound duffle bag I realized there was no way I would make it if I had to carry it all they way to my train so I found a cart and was on my way! Once I was through customs I stopped to battle a pay phone for nearly thirty minutes trying to call my parents and my boyfriend to let them know I made it alright!

I traveled north on the Arlanda C Train (the commuter rail) and was fortunate enough to meet five other exchange students to take the journey with which helped calm my nerves a little bit.  Once I arrived at Uppsala Centralstation, I was greeted by two exchange students from France and Canada who helped me navigate the bus system to campus and sold me my bike! Once I arrived on campus I was greeted by the head of the International Student Committee who showed me my accommodations and gave me a little more insight on life at SLU (like how to do laundry and where to buy groceries)! I’m so thankful for all three ladies who helped me get settled in and made me feel welcome! Unfortunately by the time I was on campus and settled, it was already dark, so the pictures of the city are going to have to wait for another blog!