Landing back in Helsinki I found my way back to Jennica’s place and we decided to go out for dinner and visit her friend Emma. We’d met Emma on Thursday night when I got in and we’d taken Donna, Jennica’s dog, out to the dog park for her late night business. It’s interesting… in a lot of cities, the dog park has become the best place to socialize. Jennica has met several good friends at hers and my friends Al & Teya do the same down in San Diego (and they don’t even have a dog!). So we met Emma, who’s a chef and evidently the restaurant she works at is pretty good. Also, they were changing the menus on Monday so a Sunday night trip for dinner seemed appropriate.
We got to the place, Say Delicious, and it was, indeed, everything it was cracked up to be. We got there near kitchen closing time so Emma came and joined us then the three of us headed out for late night drinks to Musta Kissa, an amazing little bar. I had a cider called Green Goblin (seriously, how could I not?) after being told I had to drink. Okay, not that I had to but the discussion involved the social attitudes of drinking and trust. I was told if I ever wanted to live in Finland it would be difficult because I would order a coke or water instead of beer or spirits and eventually my social life would diminish as people wouldn’t want to go out with me. Not because they didn’t enjoy my company, but because the social contract included a quid pro quo. For instance, at Musta Kissa I bought Emma her first round as a “thank you” for the nice meal. Not a problem. But when we had both finished our drinks, Emma wanted a second and I was hesitant. The social contract required I let her buy me a drink so we were “even” which would be fine, the perfect case of “I’ll get ya next time.” Except in this case there was no guaranteed “next time” as I might never see Emma again (which, honestly, would be a shame because she’s awesome). So when she went to get her second round if I didn’t have one there would be a socially awkward imbalance. Now, we’re all adults, this isn’t a huge deal, obviously, and wasn’t about to spoil the evening we were having, but it is an interesting observation to make. This goes back to something Jennica had said to me 6 years ago my first time in Helsinki, that Finns drink so they can actually have an excuse to talk to each other. This is part of those cultural differences you never think about when you’re traveling (or living) in a country not your own. Anyway… after two Green Goblins and some brilliant conversation, we said our goodnights and headed home.
Monday our plan was to meet up with two other friends from the dog park, Ed and Minni later in the afternoon which left our morning open and casual. Jennica decided to take advantage of having a visitor (me!) to see something she’s never seen despite having lived in Helsinki her entire life – the Stadium Tower. This is a 235 foot (72 meters) tall observation deck which overlooks the central stadium. The stadium and tower were built in 1938 and actually used as an Olympic venue in 1952. Being not so fond of heights, it makes sense she had never been up there, but now it was time! As we approached, I explained that both times I’d been to the Eiffel Tower, I’d walked it so going a mere 72 meters was no problem! I was all set to take the stairs.
Thankfully the stairs were closed. We had to take the elevator. When I told the guy selling tickets I would have gladly walked he jokingly offered to open the stairs just for me. I gratefully declined his generous offer and up we went. The views from the top were absolutely amazing (photographs just don’t do it justice). We even met a group of foreign students up there who were supposed to send us some pictures but never did (sad, really).
From there, we met up with Ed and Minni at the water and grabbed a ferry to the zoo so we could spend the afternoon looking at animals. I’d been to this zoo once before but was still looking forward to it, as an activity to spend time with new friends as much as anything else. And we did have a great time! Ed is from Yucatan, met Minni while she was traveling, they fell in love and now Ed has been in Helsinki for three years, they’re married and incredibly cool! We all laughed a lot, got lost, were chased by peacocks and made friends with ostriches. Really, going to the zoo is one of those things you need to do with other people for maximum enjoyment. Not to say you can’t have a good time on your own (I have and I do) but there’s something special about being there with people who share a sense of humor. It allows you to say out loud all the stupid, cheesy jokes you’re thinking and getting the laughs from them. You’re also getting someone else’s jokes and comments, gaining knowledge and insight. Needless to say, it was a fun outting.
When we left, we ended up in little bistro not to far from Jennica’s place called Cafe Piritta where three of us had gourmet hotdogs and Jennica had ribs (mostly so she could bring the bones home for Donna.). The conversations continued and eventually we knew it was time to head back towards home (we were going to meet up with Ed a little later at the dog park anyway).
Once we were back in for the night, I packed and prepared and was ready to go when my alarm went off at 6:15 in the morning. Said good bye to Jennica and headed out – I had an 8:30 ferry to catch. The ferry was no problem and I walked from the port to the bus station on my own (no maps or asking of directions needed – getting to know a bit of Tallinn) and eventually caught my afternoon bus back home. Another long day brought me back to Kaunas just after midnight.