Subject: about Finland and Estonia
Hi Tuija, It is so wonderful to have the luxury of replying to such charming and welcome responses without having to pay $26 per hour for a slow Internet connection. We thank you for your reply to our travelogue, even if it is to the only somewhat negative part of our Grand Adventure (which still continues). Perhaps we are being unfair to Estonia and its people. But, and it is for us a big but, we had had the pleasure of traveling leisurely throughout Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland before we took our ill-fated trip to Estonia. The people of Greater Scandinavia (since some do not include Finland) were so unabashedly friendly, gracious and helpful, we were simply SHOCKED by the lack of happiness in Tallinn. They have real border guards! Marty remembers going through East German (overseen by the ever present Red Star Officer of the USSR) borders from Hamlin to Berlin. The weather was colder in Germany, but the guards were the same (without the Red Star even). We were then accosted by children beggars on the way into town. We like to walk to enjoy the local environment, so maybe most of the other debarking passengers did not have to run the gauntlet, but it was horrible. We did not encounter one beggar in Scandinavia (as we define it) in just under three months of travel. Then, when we did find the beautiful old town area, the scenery was beautiful, but the people who were attending to the businesses there were just gruff. Hey, you don't want my money, I'm out of here, was our attitude. (Which is why we eschewed St. Peterburg - you want my passport? Say what? Not in this life time.) And you are right, Tuija, sometimes one runs into a grumpy person in a shop or two. Makes one wonder why, though, doesn't it : if you aren't into serving people, why are you in a retail business. Anyway . . . . The problem with Tallinn was ubiquitous: we did buy linens, must confess, but only in spite of the salespersons. Did you ever go to the Post Office, buy stamps, ship things? My Goodness; we bought goods from their country and wanted to ship them home to friends and relatives, but it was like passing from West to East Berlin all over again. Rude, very impatient (my command of Russian is pitiful), but we did show our pluck and got it done, by golly. We did indeed LOVE Helsinki. But we also had the joy of dropping down into Finland from Kirkenes, Norway, first by Taxi across the border, then by School Bus/Mail Bus through Lapland. Gorgeous: forests, lakes, reindeer, an occasional home in the wilderness. We will never forget it (a few pictures help ;-). After Rovaniemi, Vaasa and a trip or two, we were awed by Helsinki. She celebrates her 450th birthday this year. Think of that: the United States is barely half that old! But we also have some pictures of a Rave parade in Oslo, just in case you don't think the Norwegians know how to *party down*. We stayed at the downtown Radisson, with lovely views of the Greek and Lutheran Cathedrals. We could watch all the trains coming into the city as well, which was very exciting. This city was truly teaming, what with the celebration and all the people visiting. When we first arrived, we asked a young couple if we were walking in the right direction to the Radisson. She asked us: where are you from. We said: Hawaii. She replied: What the hell are you doing here? True story. We laughed our way the rest of our trek to the Radisson - we were headed in the right direction, you see. We were in Helsinki the better part of two weeks. We loved it immensely. We loved all of Finland (especially Santa just above Rovaniemi ). We had one of the colder summers you describe, Tuija, so nary a mosquito bite between us RO LOL. What impressed us the most, besides the beauty of Finland, was the warmness of the people. I hope every visitor to America has the warm memories from his or her contact with our great country, that we have from Finland. And, maybe next time we get up to your neck of the woods, it will be a HOT summer. We can do with the mosquitoes, since you know we love the warmth, living in Hawaii some of the time . We even put up with cockroaches, which would never survive in Finland (or Sweden, Norway, Denmark, haven't seen any in Germany either RO LOL.) Every country has its charm and draw backs. None of Scandinavia's peoples are anything but a joy to experience. We recommend the region to any traveler. It is safe, clean and fun. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Hey, didn't mean to try and be a pundit. We loved our trip there, and are looking forward to Australia. We think you might like the mighty 'down-under' too. We have only been there once, but it also was an Adventure. Australians make you think you are their best friend, even when you are just asking them why the cars are driving on the 'wrong' side of the road . Best regards to you and all, Marghe and Marty (in California).