Finland (Oct 2005)
One of the most interesting people I met on my travels was a Finn called Juka. He was great fun and was (depending on your culture/perspective) either totally honest/tactless/straight/blunt/rude e.g. when talking to Latvian girls "I prefer Lithuanian girls - they are much nicer".
He also liked his alcohol - before leaving the hostel for a club "F--k I am not drunk enough yet - I need to drink a bottle of vodka first". He invariably drank half to a full bottle of vodka before going out - "Finns drink for effect, not for enjoyment"; and every 4th word seemd to be "f*ck".
The Finns have a reputation for drinking (November is known as "Little Christmas", as celebrations start that month). However I find it hard to believe all Finns are as "blunt" as Juka, but others I have met admit Finns tell it as it is. Due to their history they don't like Russians and aren't much keener on Swedes.
The Tallinn/Helsinki ferry was luxurious with casinos and restaurants as well as self service. However, it was also reminiscent of the old duty-free booze cruises from Dover to Calais, it seemed that everyone was spending the 3.5 hour journey getting drunk and then loading up trolleys and suitcases to bursting point with vodka and beer.
There is nothing wrong with Helsinki it is just unexceptional - hence the lack of pictures. Juka warned me that Finaland was very expensive - it was.
I was intending to travel up to the Artic Circle and from there to Sweden/Norway which are also reputed to be very expensive, so I decided to head for Berlin/Prague instead. Helsinki prices may not have been such a shock if I had not first travelled to Eastern Europe with its cheap prices i.e. one euro for 2 beers rather than €10.