Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Finland to Berlin Germany!


Onward and upward from Estonia to Finland!

From here I must take a ferry. I started to think that this motorcycle trip around the world includes so many ferry rides.. seems like I am cheating!

But then I remembered that the earth's surface is 75% water.. and I'm on a motorcycle, what do you expect Sherri Jo??? Just be glad I don't have to put on scuba gear and ride through it!!

So this is the soon to be very frozen Baltic Sea...



I am excited to go to Lahti, Finland... home to one of my great sponsors, Rukka. But first a quick ride through Helsinki!





Wonderful Pasi from Innotesco in Australia, (www.innotesco.com.au) whom sponsored me all my Rukka riding gear, organized for me to stay with his neighbor and keen Ducati riders, Markku and Pia. Not only is it so nice of them, but it's a great way for me to get to know about Finland, and how the people live here. Due to my need to get south for the winter, it's that much better in such a short time to get a feel for the country I am in..
Yes...that's a nice layer of frost on the road and yard..lucky me...


I stayed the night, they made me a great dinner in the special outdoor bar-b-que house.. and topped it off with a nice hot Finnish Sauna.. Now I can compare this popular custom with hot springs in Japan, Banya in Russia and now Finland! This one in Finland is so convenient.. it's in the house.. walk right out of it and into the shower as a daily practice.. I want one!

Next morning I am to meet Mari at Rukka. I am so happy to be here, because my riding gear from Rukka is incredibly important. As I had mentioned before, I learned that Rukka was the best gear you can have early on in my research for this journey. And now that I have been wearing it every day for the last 5 months, I can honestly say that their advice was right!

I ride in pouring rain all the time, and the suit keeps me dry.. and I have fallen down enough to know that the protective pads do their job! And I think the gear looks great and holding up perfectly after going through so much every day, that is quality..!! I'm sorry to sound like such a sales lady here, they didn't ask me to.. but it's just the truth and if I could recommend one thing from this journey it would be to get Rukka - no question!!



While I was there, Mari gave me more gear to help keep me warm. The windstopper liner for inside the pants are a must have layer.. they have helped tremendously!! A kidney belt I never considered before, but it is positioned right where the cold wind sneaks in between jacket and the pants and keeps me super warm.. a huge help there. And 3 new sets of gloves! Nice big fat warm ones, which since have kept me from barely using my heated hand grips in freezing temperatures.. so wonderful, and another pair which I will try out in warmer weather. I am so grateful to Rukka, thank you all so much!! http://www.rukka.com/ or in Australia/New Zealand http://www.innotesco.com.au/

And to top it off, these wonderful girls organized a proper hotel room for me in Lahti. I got to stay the night in a really nice place that had it's own bathroom, in the same room! (I've been on the shared community bathroom budget for quite a while ;-) AND double size bed!! (those shared places come with little tiny skinny beds).. So! I took the time to wash all my clothes in the hotel sink.. and live in style for the night..woo hoo!! I was happy!

My route from Finland was going to be over to Sweden, down through Denmark and into Germany. However as Mari and I researched the 10 day forecast in her office, this was not going to be a smart option. Too much cold and snow on the way for the next several days.

So, back down to Helsinki which offers a direct ferry all the way to Germany. Once in Germany, it's pretty fair to say that the temperatures are marginally better, staying above 0 C.. which is good enough for me.

We sailed through the night, so not much for photos.. I arrived Rostock Germany, and set to making a new route plan. Just head straight south! The farther south I go, the warmer it will be!! Rostock had a military services thing going on.. Not sure what it was, but that commander looks the part..! I thought of 2 things.. Hogan's Heroe's (I used to love that show) ...

and with all the wars, what it must be like to be a soldier in the old days... marching through all the tall wet cold grass without goretex or Rukka gear!! ;-)


So off I went.. and got on that very fast moving german Autobahn.. It was scary at first, but to be honest, the system works really well. Stay out of the far lane (for me)... keep to the right. Those cars going 300 km-hr fly past like little rockets and I got used to it!! Ha! Sort of.. German roads are built to perfection, it was no problem.

I arrived Berlin! Here I plan on staying the weekend and getting my bike completely serviced.


I ask where to park the bike and this hostel says it fine just out front on the sidewalk - and it was! In the center of the city, no worries!

You wouldn't believe.. I found more naked men around this city.. gee whiz how the invention of buttons and zippers have changed the world.



And I can add one for the boys finally.. the beginning of women's liberation?? Notice, the man above is about to kill a male lion, and the Woman below is going for the lioness.. I wonder about the meaning in that?

I took a little tour around town and learned so much about the history.. so much that it boggles my mind.

I got a lot from visiting the Berlin Wall.. I don't need to tell you much about that one.. can't believe it was so recent history!





Berlin city really surprised me. It was so new, modern and clean.. mixed with heaps of old and history. (I quite honestly expected dreariness if that's a word and didn't get that at all!) Not being a city girl, I actually felt comfortable there. I also met some great friends in Berlin from my enquiry on the Horizons Unlimited website. Nick and his girlfriend Tanja pointed me in the right direction with lots of Berlin advice and then had me over for a MOST DELICIOUS home cooked meal with more friends.. It was such a fun and suspicious night. Berlin is a place I hope to go back to!! Thanks guys!!

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Estonia

Red sky in morning, bikers take warning...

Little bits of snow starting falling from the sky in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is such a massive city, so best option was to get on the highway around it and start heading west from the other side.

Not long after, it turned into big rain and lasted the rest of the day. I knew this was coming, I saw the forecast, but as I said, I was ready to ride.

The goal is to get to Tallinn Estonia, where I will then take a ferry to Helsinki Finland.

Along with the heavy rain were strong Baltic Sea winds. It was not a nice time to say the least.. I was freezing cold.

As I get close to the border, a mass of rain, snow and ice were bucketing down at the same time. I pull in to a little cafe, which I needed anyway for my last big hit of borscht. And a hot tea.. It took forever to stop shaking but I eventually did.. sucked it up and got back on the road.

Arrived Estonia border.. the Russian side was a pain.. there were no instructions or indication of where to go.. and each door I tried they gave an angry snappy response.

Once through, I got to the Estonia border gates, and that was the tough one! I was there for 2 hours! They didn't like my Australian registration not having a water mark on it. What can I say?? I have my Carnet too.. she wasn't happy with any of it, left me there forever while I think she walked to town to make phone calls. I was fairly patient though, I have had super easy border crossings the entire journey, so I figured I was due for one of these. But Estonia!!?? And maybe everyone is grumpy today due to the foul weather.. go with the flow, it always works out in the end - and it did...

I made it to Tallinn to a little secure mini hotel/hostel..



Covered the poor bike up, it's worked hard.. and needs a rest. I stumble out of the place to track down some dinner and got pounded with HAIL!!! Gee whiz!! I should not be in this part of the world at this time of year!!!


Picture on blog probably too small to show, but it's the hail..

The next day, was even colder.. bike was covered with ice. I will stay put for the day.. no hurry to get to Helsinki.

And I am quite entrigued from what I see of Estonia so far.. as I rode into Tallinn, I passed ruins and interesting old structures, that may not have particular significance, but they are just different than I had seen in any of my other travels so far.

Remember the two women I met riding their motorcycles in South Korea, Sheonagh and Pat? They have many friends around here, and they put me on to Maura in Poland, who then put me on to Anneli in Tallinn. She sent me a message on Facebook and invited me to an end of season biker party that night.

Woo hoo!! I could go for some hard core biker entertainment! Here they are... singing away...


Ha - just kidding, this is not the biker party.... (from Ukrainian restaurant I went to in St. Pete)


We had a rock and rollin' fun time at the party. There were other clubs there, but these girls who invited me, Anneli and Maris belong to WIMA Estonia. www.wima.ee (Women's International Motorcycle Association) Which I had never heard of, but apparently has chapters all over the world. Everyone at the party was so welcoming and proud of Estonia.. I loved hearing their stories - between music sets and the obligatory drunk stripper girl intent to take over the dance floor!! Just in case the weather doesn't improve, I was invited to stay for the winter in the basement of a good looking young man... well hidden from the wife.. (who just couldn't believe for anything that I was from Australia until I showed him my drivers license) Lucky me..Mmm, no thanks!!!


As usual, I know little about this country.. and I learn that Estonia was Independent.. then occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941.. and then reoccupied by Soviet Union in 1944 until they regained their independence in 1991. Only a few years ago! So it was so fascinating to me to hear what life was like for these girls during Soviet occupation. One of my favorite stories was what it was like in school to go through bomb drills (we had tornado drills in Indiana). But the bomb drills included those scary gas masks. Young Maris was a rebel and sent to the office for not taking it seriously and laughing at everyone in gas masks.

SINCE, the weather is still bad, I decide to stay an extra day as Anneli and Maris have invited to show me around Estonia. I'm glad it was bad weather, otherwise I would have just passed through this little country and missed out on so much character!




Anneli has planned a day trip (the wind and cold was so bad that even these super keen biker girls opted for the car...)

They first take me to Padise Monastery. Started in 1220, the monastery went through many ownership changes as the land was conquered.



I put the second picture in because I am curious if that light that showed up next to me is a portal door to another world?? I didn't see it at the time, my head is turned the opposite way, or I would have poked my head in to have a look! Just kidding.. But honestly that light does not match the shape of the window above... so it does look a bit weird!


Exploring the attic of the abbey domed roof and then climb up to the tower. 


I loved climbing around in this old monastery and imagining what it must have been like to build it by hand, stone by stone, hundreds of years ago.



Clearly a bit cold today.. let's get back in the car!

Next stop to Haapsalu, Estonia where we visit this great old castle..


Another amazing structure, so full of history and hardship. But hardship no more!! This great castle comes equipped with free
wi-fi!!


Imagine what they could've done with wi-fi when they were fighting from the watchtower in the 13th century!!

A walk back through town takes us in to have a nice warm lunch and hot cup of tea.


And to finish off this most interesting taste of Estonia, we end at Ivar's house who along with his wife are keen collectors of the old Indian motorcycles.




The most impressive private garage collection I have ever seen!!


The seat was so comfortable on this 1929 bike.. can I trade???

Thank you so much to Anneli and Maris.. was a great surprise to meet these girls and who showed me and taught me so much about their country in such a short time.
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