Friday 6/19- Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia & Return

Ulla, the woman handling agent at the airport, suggested, when we arrived, that we go to Tallinn, Estonia for a day.  It is only about 70 miles south, across the Gulf of Finland (part of the Baltic Sea).  We did that today and it was a great experience.  Bill & Judy Schramm joined us on Wednesday so the four of us flew across the water to Tallinn.  There was about a half hour's worth of paperwork on either end.  I decided to go IFR.  I know that it involves charges, but as the controllers were explaining VFR to me last night, I realized that IFR was the easiest way to go.  (Avoid this area because there is gunnery practice, and this area because it's restricted, etc. etc..)

Tallinn is heavily advertised, here in Helsinki, as a one day tourist stop.  There are high speed boats in Helsinki that make trips back and forth.  Flying the 25 minutes across the water gave us our first look at Estonia (top pix).  We landed at Tallinn (2nd pix) (10M foot runway with quite a few international carriers) and were picked up by a 50 passenger bus.  The four of us fit quite comfortably.  We were taken to passport, customs, etc. and filled out some paperwork and paid 640 Kroons ($45).  We took a cab into "town".  Quite a bustling town.  Bruce Singer (the painless dentist) sent me some email that I got this morning before we left.  He said that he saw that we were going to Tallinn and that his daughter was working there for a time.  He gave us her phone number and we called upon landing, but she was not in at the time.  The "old city" in the center of town was an area without cars.  We stopped for lunch (3rd pix) and then walked around the area (4th pix).

Some things surprised us.  For a country that was just "opened" in the past 8 years or so the people were dressed quite well with all the latest "styles", including these new shoes that have really thick soles and heals.  There were many cars, including Mercedes, Lexus, Volvos  and Honda's but I didn't see any American cars.  I stopped in a souvenir store and bought my "Tallinn Coffee Mug".  We don't have too much extra room in the plane for a lot of "stuff."

We actually landed about 10:30 AM, got to town about 11:30 AM, and left for the airport about 2:00 PM  After about a 1/2 hour of passport control, immigration, and stuff, we were taken to the plane by the same bus.  I started the engines and called Ground Control for my IFR clearance.  We were told to hold our position because we hadn't cleared customs.  Apparently, just as in the US, sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  A woman had a rather long walk to the plane, I showed her my paperwork, she had me fill out another form, and we were cleared to go.  Upon arriving back at Helsinki we were directed to taxi to the "customs area" and wait for the customs agent.  We did, he showed up promptly, then we were directed to taxi to parking.  We did, and then upon walking to the terminal we were told we should have waited for the passport control agent.   We waited outside the terminal (as directed) until he arrived (about 10 minutes).   More paperwork and then we could leave.

Tonight we went to "the island" for the big bash (bottom pix).  Loaded with booths, demonstrations (I am now completely familiar with Flaxworking: braking and scutching), and food.  This was Midsummer Day eve, along with Christmas the two biggest holidays in Finland. 

As I mentioned in the section "Aviation & Travel Tips,"  it seemed like a good idea to order Jane's book of handling agents.   I ordered the book from England and they were expressing it to Helsinki.  Unfortunately they messed up and forgot to ship it.  Left to our own devices, I called Bornholm, Denmark, checked out the information for the airport, made reservations in a hotel, called Templehoff Airport in Berlin, made arrangements to land there and got a reservation number, and made hotel reservations in Berlin.  We plan on being in Bornholm Saturday and Sunday, leaving Monday for Berlin.  When I spoke with Templehoff, I mentioned the 50th Anniversary events and the guy I was speaking to said "N aircraft are always welcome.  {Some explanation---  Aircraft identifications begin with the country of registration.  The US is 'N', Canada 'C', England 'G', etc.  This month, June 1998, is the 50th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.}.

This was quite a day.  Estonia???  It was never in our plans!!

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