A day in Helsinki

Many travelers decide to take a day more in Stockholm or Copenhagen instead of heading to Finland’s capital. I visited it for a day, while staying in Tallinn last summer and I truly enjoyed the city. However, it was a cold day when I was there – the temperature was below 15°C and the wind was howling. Not that surprising considering we are talking Scandinavia.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to get through the city. Helsinki is compact and walkable, and it has an excellent public transportation system. A very popular option is underground metro, but you can also use bus or tram. The last one was my choice. I highly recommend buying day ticket, if you’re in hurry. It’s going to save you lots of time. Prices can be found here. All of the transport options operate on the honor system; you don’t need to present a ticket, but if you’re caught by a patrol without one, expect an 80 euro fine.

Things to do

1. Swim naked in the oldest public indoor swimming hall in Finland
Yrj0nkatu Swimming Hall is not only the oldest indoor swimming hall but also one of the most impressive buildings in the city. You can swim care-free and enjoy the sauna after. They have separate swimming days for men and women. Women are welcome on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun, while men get Tue, Thu and Sat. If you want an authentic Finnish experience, buy a second floor fare, because it includes so much more.
Address for your GPS: Yrjönkatu 21b, 00120 Helsinki

2. Grab fresh fruit at the central market
Perfect place to do souvenir shopping, buy fresh vegtables and fruits (berries everywhere!) and eat some local food. You can’t imagine how happy this market can make you feel when it’s one of the first things you see in the city after you get off your ferry feeling hungry.

3. Be in awe by Temppeliaukio Church
Build in a rock and opened in 1969, this rock church will take your breath away. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics.
Address for your GPS: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

4. Take a photograph in front of Tuomiokirkko Cathedral
One of Helsinki’s best known landmarks. The green domes of this white-walled Evangelical Lutheran Church that towers over Senate Square (Senaatintori) was originally built to honour the Russian Tsar, Nicolas I. It was finished in the early 1850s.

A day in Helsinki | The Cheerful Wanderer

5. Walk up the hill to Uspenski Cathedral
It was completed in 1868 and is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Unfortunately it was not possible to enter inside when I was there, but I’ve read it’s just as stunning as on the outside.

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Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe

Europe is ofter referred to as the most romantic continent. Not surprising, there’s so much diversity that every one can find something for themselves.

10. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, also known as the Nordic Venice, is a harmonious city filled with colourful façades and eye-pleasing monuments. Modern art and historic charm are one in Swedish capital.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

9. Lisbon, Portugal
Hilly colourful streets, charming restaurants and cozy little cafés are just some of the reasons that contribute to the romantic character of Lisbon.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

Photo credit: Flickr

8. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
No matter what the time, strolling along the waterways in Amsterdam always feels calming and romantic. Water does its job, we could say. At night, the bridges are illuminated, which makes the city even more magical than it already is.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

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20 reasons to visit Estonia

It’s no secret there’s a small country up there called Estonia, but how much do you really know about it?

Estonia got on my must-visit list around two years ago, when I saw a picture of Tallinn at one of my favorite travel blogs. I was blown away with what I viewed, the capital city seemed to be so colourful! This summer I got a chance to explore more than just the most touristic city in this Baltic state. Here are 20 reasons why you should book your airplane ticket as soon as possible.

1. Colourful streets
As I mentioned, this was one of the main reasons I wanted to see Tallinn. If you’re like me, enjoying to photograph cobbled streets and buildings of all colours, you’ll feel like you’re in heaven when visiting Tallinn. My camera was out all the time. Two tips though: don’t wear high heels and for the best photographs in summer months, get up early before all tourists start pouring in.

20 reasons to visit Estonia | The Cheerful Wanderer

2. Cute restaurants and bars
As a food lover, I must point this one out. You can order a cake in almost every bar (and they are all incredibly delicions) and the food is great. If you’re travelling on low-budget, I highly recommend you Drakon, a is an old-fashioned pub in Tallinn wherein all the meals cost 1-3 units of money. It’s right next to Town Hall Tower, so located at old city centre, but unlike other places around, this one is very inexpensive. When entering, you’ll be taken into medieval times, when the soup was drank out of clay pots (and not eaten with a spoon) and electricity didn’t exist. Perfect place for rainy days, which I couldn’t avoid. I can guarantree elk soup and carrott pie are very tasty.

Another amazing restaurant in Tallinn is Trofé. Their grilled salmon was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten (and I eat all the time!).

I mustn’t forget to mention Must Puudel, a retro bar with a wide range of beers, dreamy ice cream (peanut ice cream with salty peanuts…) and great meals. It is super groovy, but a little hidden, so make sure to go in. Also, the staff is really friendly.

However, you can’t really avoid touristic prices in Tallinn, that’s why I suggest you to visit more cities that you can easily reach using public transport or by car. In Viljandi I enjoyed Seljanka soup for 2€ (if I’m not mistaken, that would be around 6€ in Tallinn).

3. Tallinn airport
The largest airport in Estonia is only 4km away from the city centre. It’s small compared to bigger airports (Istanbul, for example), but so very cute. Excellent facilities, comfortable seats, modern look and positive messages on toilet doors (“Lipstick will save the day!”) all helped to make it my favorite airport. They also have the coolest business card exchange there with houndreds of cards pinned to the board.

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Europe  ·  Italy

Five days at the heel of Italy

Puglia, the region in the heel of Italy’s boot, offers you to escape from the crowds, but still enjoy authentic Italian cuisine (it doesn’t get any better than that!) and historic buildings. My recommendation would be to book your accommodation in Bari, the capital city of the region, because it has great national and international connections.

We landed at Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport late afternoon and took a local bus to the city (the bus tickets can be bought at the book store on the first floor of the airport, and yes, you must buy them in advance). After a long unplanned walk around the city, we found our way to the hotel we booked. It was a short walk away from the bus and train station, so the location was perfect. Same foes for the price; I usually pay as much for 3 nights at hostels in 10-bed dorm. Free breakfast, which was served every day, was another wonderful addition.

On our first full day there, we did some sightseeing and enjoyed the sun. Luck was on our side; the weather was absolutely beautiful the whole time. The path also led us to Swabian Castle. The Norman-Hohenstaufen Castle, widely known as the Castello Svevo (Swabian Castle), was built by Roger II of Sicily around 1131. Destroyed in 1156, it was rebuilt by Frederick II of Hohenstaufen. The castle now serves as a gallery for a variety of temporary exhibitions in the city. It was a big disappointment, though. Half of the area was closed due to building work, which is something nobody tells you when you pay for your ticket. Apart from a short film and a small museum, you couldn’t see much. Make sure you walk through the old part of the city, it’s magnificent! If you’re looking for a list of attractions – visit one of the tourist offices (one is on Piazza Moro, in front of the railway station, and the other in the city at Via Giuseppe Sangiorgi) and take a lovely free map, which is very helpful, when wandering around.

The following day we took a train to Alberobello. I fell in love with that city when planning the whole trip (as much as it was planned). It’s a small town, about one hour away (by train) from Bari. Alberobello has only about 11 000 inhabitants and is famous for its unique prehistoric trulli buildings. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighbouring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs. You can read more about that on Unesco website or watch a very short documentary here.

Five days at the heel of Italy | The Cheerful Wanderer

The center of Alberobello is very attractive with many terraces. That’s where the biggest and the main square and the town hall are. Not that far from the square, there’s the Basilica. This beautiful church was designed by the architect Antonio Curri.
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