What if You Could Go To Russia - Helsinki Finland - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com

What If We Could Go To Russia?

Surrounded by darkness, she’d packed her belongings into the trunk of a grey Skoda. The nuns and other volunteers gathered around to wave goodbye. A few days before G’s early-November birthday, we wished her happiness and watched the car’s headlights disappear down the driveway from the monastery where we’d met and into Romania’s dense forest.
“See you next summer!” Our enthusiastic parting words that November night.
Ireland. Scotland. Switzerland. Iceland. Hiking. Camping. Wild and Free.
She had a tent. I had… a backpack. We’d get new gear, look for sponsors.
We were going to be true adventurers. Pioneers. Rough and tough.
Real women in real nature.

From November through March, G and I stayed in touch over emails and Facebook. Our plans were yet to be set. During that time, another plan was forming in my mind. What if we could go somewhere different? Somewhere less traveled? And somewhere with showers, paved streets and the most colorful domed churches?
What if we could go to Russia?
What if we could go to Russia? Well then by all means, we should go to Russia!
Five months after our original idea was sparked, we let that flame die down and lit a new fire.
All we needed were plane tickets, boat reservations, and two more friends to join in.


Scroll through the photos below to see Helsinki Finland Up-Close:

Two in a room of six. Solo travelers who after starting the morning dining on Croque Madame at a local bakery had split up to spend the day strolling through shops in Toulouse. Nearing midnight on April First, K was telling me about her day’s findings and we were reminiscing about our past few months of travels. Both in our upper twenties, we reflected on ridiculous yet incredible experiences had while traveling alone, and eagerly anticipated upcoming trips with family members. She was leaving early the next morning to meet Mom in Spain and I had a few weeks left before meeting my own family in Croatia.
“And after?” I asked, “What are your plans? Any chance you’ll be going North?”
She acknowledged the possibility, so I pressed further.
“Any chance… you’d go to Russia?”

The idea was dismissed immediately. Russian Visas need to be planned and applied for well in advance. Not only that, they also must be obtained in your home country. From Australia and the United States, it was clear neither of us would be able to apply during this trip.
Before she had time to turn away from the thought entirely, I put the icing on the cake.
“If you can get there without a visa, even for a few days, would you go? With my friend and me? For my birthday?”
Yes of course!
“I’ll send you the details right now.”

K looked through an email of information and agreed wholeheartedly.
24 hours we’d known each other. Why agree to meet for a trip in two months on the other side of the continent? Why not?



Scroll through the photos below to see Helsinki Finland Up-Close:

“My friend said she will come!” G wrote.
That was it.
Our fourth mate, D, agreed to fly halfway across the world to celebrate with one friend and two others she’d never met.
What if we could go to Russia?
Then we’d go.
So we went!


Scroll through the photos below to see Helsinki Finland Up-Close:

The four of us met in Helsinki the last week of May. G and D flew together from California, K was coming from Bosnia, and I’d flown from North Ireland. It was the starting point of our trip and a celebration for all.
G was celebrating a new job, D had just graduated from University, I’d be turning 29 over the weekend, and K… she was celebrating a broken foot.
We rented an apartment for a few days in Helsinki while G and D adjusted to the time change, giving us plenty of time to see Finland’s capital.

A map picked up at the airport led us on a scavenger hunt, searching for Helsinki’s main attractions. As we prepared to embark on our cruise across the Baltic Sea to Saint Petersburg, we searched high and low for local curiosities and foods. We hunted for karelian pasties, nordic walkers, stand up paddle boarders “SUP Boarders”, and fresh cinnamon buns. Our favorite pastime was spotting groups of students with yellow reflective vests and “Typical Helsinki People.” Particularly: Typical Helsinki Men with man buns.

Yes, we giddily turned into a group of ‘grown girls’ and goggled at guys with their long blonde hair pulled back tightly into a man bun. They weren’t on our map’s scavenger hunt, but were the most fun find of all. The karelian pasties? Those were not so scrumptious: A less than exciting mix of rye flour and rice mix formed into a football-shaped pie. K and I split one and that was more than enough. As for the cinnamon rolls? Highly recommended. The reindeer sausage and fish soup served at Harbour Market? Also worth a try. Bear meat? You tell us. We skipped out on this delicacy, stored like tuna in tin cans and selling for nearly ten euro a pop.

Together we completed the Helsinki scavenger hunt to the best of our ability in a short time, and grew more and more anxious as the days passed.

What if we could go to Russia?
“We’re going to Russia!” we’d stop and tell each other every so often.
No questions asked.


Scroll through the photos below to see results of our Helsinki Scavenger Hunt!


Curious about this Helsinki Scavenger Hunt? Take a look at it HERE

Curious about our upcoming trip to Russia? Stay tuned!!

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