Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Underwater Checkers

I began the last day of this most invigorating few weeks of travel at a Seaplane Hangar Maritime Museum. Not your usual tourist attraction, but interesting to see the Estonian Ice Yachts, board a submarine (not in the water) and watch kids play a giant big-screen video game shooting down planes with large electronic anti-aircraft artillery guns. From the museum, on to a restaurant at the top of a TV Tower with a stunning view and yet again incredible food. (I took photos to eventually put on the blog.)

The floor below the restaurant had an exhibit honoring Estonian achievements and I have to say I was impressed. I had no idea that Skype was invented by an Estonian and felt like I should meet him and thank him for making the 16 months without seeing 3-dimensional Talia more bearable through the constant (and miraculously affordable) Skype version. And actually could have met him because the inventor’s daughter goes to the music school of my host! Remember, this is a small country. Kind of like Iceland, where my friends would say things like, “I saw the president yesterday in the produce section of the supermarket.” Then I learned about an astronomer who discovered the structure of the universe. Hmm. That’s all? And I was going to mention the composer Arvo Part in my last homage to Estonia, whose lovely music I first encountered in the 80’s and has continued to make his mark.

But my favorite was the Estonian entry in the Guiness Book of World Records—the most number of people playing checkers underwater—in skin-diving outfits. My camera ran out of batteries just at the moment I was going to photograph the screen image, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Who thinks of this stuff?

There was a beautiful botanical garden close to the TV tower, but no more time. “Always leave something for another visit” is one possible travel philosophy and since my hosts in Finland and Estonia both expressed a wish for a return engagement next June, I hope that indeed I can see them then. Plus go biking on some of the “rails to trails” paths, long inviting miles of flatness, through forests and along the sea.

After lunch, I boarded the plane for the 20-minute hop to Helsinki (and weirdly, no Estonian passport control and thus, no stamp marking my visit), exited out the same gate where I met Soili 18 days before, a different person now then I was then. I had incredible luck checking my bag the night before my early-morning departure, shuttled to an airport hotel, walked around the neighborhood a bit and ate at the hotel restaurant.

With all due respect, a word of advice to Finland: Keep the good education and dark bread, but for God’s sake, lose the iceberg lettuce!!! I ordered a Mediterranean salad which had good goat cheese, but was mostly iceberg lettuce with one tired leaf of arugula. In general, every salad I had in Finland was iceberg lettuce, a food that should be declared extinct in 2012. In fact, I propose that Finland get in the Guiness book of World Records by tossing a million heads of iceberg lettuce into the Arctic Sea. But be careful not to disturb the Estonian underwater checker players.

1 comment:

  1. I´m glad, that You liked our event :)
    You can see more pictures and videos about underwater checkers tournaments here:

    With Best Regards
    Martti Raavel
    Organizer of underwater checkers tournament


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