I told the bartender at Folkklubs that I was looking for something to do until I had to go to the airport, and that I had a car. I would prefer something scenic, that I could walk around in some. He recommended visiting the town of Sigulda, about an hour away. I looked it up the next morning, and saw that it had a few castles in the area as well. I checked out of my hotel a little before 11:00 and started the hour’s drive there.
The route there was mostly four-lane highway (though a good portion of it was under construction) and through mostly dense forest. I arrived just after noon and parked by the train station. From there I walked to the first castle, Sigulda Castle. I spent about an hour there, poking around the impressive ruins. In the distance, I could see another castle. I thought about walking there, but it would have been another mile or so, which would put quite a distance from my car. It was raining off and on, so I decided a better use of my time would be to drive there.
Turaida Castle was amazing! You can walk around the outside of it, so that you really get a feel for how large it really is. The grounds are really one giant museum, with sculptures, parks, and buildings that have exhibits in them. I easily could have spent another couple of hours there, but I needed to get to the airport, and left at 3.
I took a different route back, one that was more rural. It was still mostly dense forests, but it took me through several villages. Many of them had old buildings that, if I had more time, I would have loved to stop and explore.
I got to the airport just after 17:00 for my 18:30 flight to Helsinki. The flight was about an hour, landing in Helsinki just after 19:30. I took the train from the airport to the central train station in Helsinki, about a 30 minute trip, then caught a cab to my hotel. I was pretty hungry by then, so I found a brewpub, Nolla, about a mile away and walked there for a couple of beers and a bite to eat.
After looking at Untappd for local places while I relaxed, I decided to make one more stop before heading back to the hotel. Just around the corner from Nolla was Tommyknocker Craft Beer Bar. There’s also a Tommyknocker Brewery in Colorado, so I was curious if there was any connection.
It was a tiny place, but the logo was exactly the same as the Colorado brewery! I even saw, partially hidden by stacks of equipment, what appeared to be a logo on the wall for that brewery. I asked the bartender if there was any connection, but she had never heard of the brewery. I was now a bit concerned that they were using that logo without permission, I contacted the brewery on Facebook. After a few minutes, they confirmed that they are partners. Satisfied, I had a couple of beers, that walked back to my hotel.
I have two full days to explore Helsinki. So far on this trip, I haven’t bothered to with public transportation. The cities were small enough that I could walk to most of the places I wanted to go. Helsinki is much bigger, though, so I’m going to spend some time figuring out what I need to do (particularly using the trams) before heading out to explore. The National Museum of Finland is not far from my hotel, so I’ll probably start there.