Discovering Helsinki, Finland and Estonia – an LGBT Tour & Road Trip

We started our tour of Finland as any LGBT traveler would, with the city first.  We’d never been to Finland, nor this part of the Baltic region, so every site and sound, including the language, was completely new to us.

We started our trip by simply walking and eating our way through the city, enamored with the wide variety of Jugend-style homes and buildings along the way.  Finland is an interesting country, having been a part of the Russian and Swedish empires over the centuries, which is reflected in their people, their bilingual signage and more importantly, their food.  Every time we looked for uniquely Finnish food, we were steered towards either Russian or Swedish cuisine (or Mexican, which seems to be quite popular in Finland now).

Our time in Helsinki was short, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Hannu and Raul of Gay Travel Finland… pioneers in the LGBT movement in Finland and the first gay couple to be legally married in the country!

We then made our way by ferry to Tallinn in Estonia for the day.  We had no idea what to expect, but found our way to the old city, a UNESCO heritage site and an absolutely captivating medieval time capsule without the overly touristic feel.

The next day, we returned to Helsinki and went straight to our camper/van rental, which was a first for us.  We took off heading east, amazed by the signs saying St. Petersburg, Russia only 300 km away.  We didn’t go to Russia on this trip, but rather explored the scenic town of Porvoo, and then continued on, picking our first RV camp site on the coast. From there, a little sunset hike was in order.

The next day, we continued on, heading north through the Lake District of Finland, where we discovered a lot of history mixed in with bilingual signs in Russian and Finnish, with a stronger emphasis on all things Russian in this part of the country.

We wrapped up our trip exploring the cities of Tampere and Turku, and found ourselves trying the archipelago drive just when the season had ended, not sure if the ferries between island were even running or not.  They were, except for the very last one, which made for a different type of archipelago road trip where we drove all the way through and then backtracked on our way back to Helsinki and then home.

It was an incredible experience, and makes us both want to 1) rent a camper/van again, this time a bit larger so that I fit well in the bed, 2) make sure to bring a little French press coffee maker with us next time, 3) bring flip-flops for those multiple exits in and out of the camper/van while settling in for the night amongst the pine trees and mosquitos, and 4) hope for better political times so that we can keep going to St. Petersburg and not worry!

Matt Skallerud and Richard Brower enjoy eating well and traveling more! They met while they were both an active part of the IGLTA team, and are married and now live in New York City.  Richard’s talents are finding incredible flight deals from JFK to points all over the world, as well as locating the best eateries along the way. Matt is part of Pink Banana MediaPink Banana World and the #ILoveGay network, and enjoys merging his personal and professional worlds along the way on these trips.


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