Tag Archives: Helsinki

Holiday report – no canals this time!

Riga
Riga

What an anticlimax coming home to lashing rain and colder temperatures this morning than we had in a week of travelling through Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

Looking outside at the rain I can’t get inspired to write anything about canals today so here’s a few jottings about our holiday instead.  Personally I can’t see the attraction of sitting on the same beach for a week, so we tend to do the opposite and sit on buses and trains instead, which I can understand will not appeal to many especially those who prefer to relax on hols!

However we had the most marvellous time, starting in Riga, thanks to Ryanair.  I find Ryaniar’s use of technology to be superb and rather than complain about being charged extra for using their automatic check-in terminals at Stansted (as opposed to free online check-in)  I will actually praise them for thinking out a radical new solution to preventing check-in queues.  It took no more than 2 minutes to find a free terminal, collect our boarding passes and hand a bag in to the baggage drop desk.

Riga was wonderful but surprisingly desserted.  There was no traffic, no noise, no pedestrians in many streets – altogether a little bit eerie.   The old town centre is very attractive with a mixture of quaint and very grand buildings.  Every corner has a coffee shop – no queues – and free wifi is the norm.  The cheaper restaurants offer self service menus till late  into the night and we especially liked the Pelmeni – self service bowls of different flavoured ravioli style dumplings – a great feed for a couple of quid.  You are charged by weight, which is a very common feature in Latvia – pile it onto the plate and pay only for what you take, weighed at the till.

The day’s highlight for total relaxation turned out to be a tea shop with hundreds of teas to choose from and a first floor piled with cushions to lie on with a view of the park, all within a couple of minutes of the town centre.

The river Daugava was perhaps 400 yards wide through Riga and with at least a three foot swell I was pleased to be visiting by land and not arriving by boat on a river with breaking waves.  A narrowboat here would have no chance of staying upright but boat trips do exist, although like so much aimed at tourists here, the operating season will only be May to September.  Continue reading Holiday report – no canals this time!

Wifi in Finland and Estonia

Helsinki trams - wifi enabled
Helsinki trams - wifi enabled

Changing the subject from life on board slightly, this week I have been on holiday.  Not quite as exciting as our last trip to Moldova and Ukraine, but still off the beaten tourist track.  We flew last week to Riga, capital of Latvia, travelled overland to Tallin in Estonia and flew back yesterday from Helsinki, Finland.

When WiFi was in its infancy in 1994, Estonia was reported by the BBC as being the most advanced nation in the provision of wireless hotspots for everyone. WiFi.ee still maintains a huge wireless network for public access, and absolutely everywhere we travelled almost every bar, restaurant and even shops also provided completely free wifi access to the public. 

WiFi.ee currenly runs 1164 hotspots covering 45,000 square kilometers and almost all of them are free.   Using my iPhone I was able to connect within a few yards of first trying without any problems at all.

So it was actually even more refreshing to discover that, after taking the ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki (free WiFi on board of course) , virtually the whole city is WiFi enabled.  Hotels try to make their money by charging but over most of the city is a combination of official free WiFi hotspots, an even bigger network of shops and bars providing access and best of all, the number 4 tram from the ferry port to the city centre also provides free WiFi.  Other tram and bus routes may also be covered, under a trial scheme. 

How cool to be able to log on for an email check on the way to town on the tram, but it doesn’t stop there.  Trams are fitted with GPS devices which as well as updating the “next tram” signs at the tram stops, even show their location on Google Maps.