Planning the Baltics, Part 2: The to-do list

This should be more appropriately called "Diaries of an Over-Planner."

Once I booked my main flights, I needed to now plan out how many days I'm in each city, and what order I'll be visiting the cities.

Before I booked my main flights to/from the Baltics, I had discovered some key inter-country travel experiences that would influence my flights: I really wanted to ride a ferry connecting Oslo and Copenhagen, and I really wanted to ride a train somewhere in Scandanavia, because the scenery is supposed to be amazing.

First I needed to plan around that ferry. I think I first discovered it in my budget travel book, and it seemed like a fun overnight option. The boat departs around dinnertime, you go to sleep, and you wake up the next day in the next city! Sounded like an interesting way to travel.

But then things got interesting, because I found out the ferry was not going to be how I would be even BETTER.

No, this wasn't going to be like the ferry I'm most familiar with, which I've taken while driving up to the Wisconsin Dells from Chicago. No, it wasn't a basic car-shuttle that holds 15 cars maximum, has you sitting in the open air as seagulls fly overhead. It had rooms. Like Harry-Potter-Train rooms. I could book a private room with a window and a bed for less than $100. You could get fancier, as there are deluxe and super deluxe rooms that resemble a four-star hotel room, but for me, I just need a basic bed, and this room provided me with a private bathroom and locking door. For me, it read as "hey you can do sink-laundry and lay all your undergarments out without fear of embarrassment." I was sold.


Calvin (from the Monsoon Diaries, with whom I booked my Central Asia trip) had gone to the Baltics last year, and he told me to check out his blog to see what they did in each city. Lo and behold, they also went on the ferry. Calvin mentions on his blog, "Much to our surprise when we boarded, the ship isn’t the same basic ferry we took to Antarctica, but rather a fully equipped, fully tricked out cruise: Deck 6 – Spa floor with saunas, jacuzzis, mani/pedis, and massages; Deck 7 – Shopping mall and a huge wifi-capable cafĂ©; Deck 8 – An arcade room with games as contemporary as Time Crisis 5 and Terminator Salvation , a wine bar, a live music venue, a pub, a buffet restaurant for $40USD/pp, steakhouse, and an Italian restaurant; Deck 9 – A nightclub with DJ and Top 40s, and outdoor bar; Deck 10 – An outdoor deck bar; Deck 11 – A VIP section for high flyers."

I had previously been arranging my nights in each city on a calendar based on the nightlife. Did I really want to be on a ferry overnight and miss a Saturday party night? Well, now that thought is gone as there are DANCE FLOORS on the ferry. And so many more things. Not only was I sold, but I was planning this entire trip around the freaking ferry ride. The single room I wanted was only available certain nights, so I had to plan my stay around that availability. Once I booked my main flights to/from the Baltics, I immediately booked this ferry.

After booking the ferry, I had a little more time to think about the other cities, and in what order I'd be enjoying them. I had Copenhagen, then Oslo, then Stockholm...but the remaining cities were out of order, with only Tallinn in place as the final destination. Oslo I'd stay one night, since everything I've read says the city isn't very lively. Stockholm seemed more interesting to me, so I'd spend two nights there.

While back in the suburbs a few weekends ago, I shared my rough plans with my parents. My mom said to me, "Well Nana was Norwegian, and Aunt Jill went to Norway and has met family that still lives there! You should talk to her about it." You see, Aunt Jill is the keeper of the ancestry info for my mom's side of the family. Here was Mom with the wrench, throwing it right into things. I was only planning on staying in Oslo one night!

Some phone calls and emails later, my Aunt Jill provided me with some info on the family tree, and whom she'd met while in Norway when she was around my age. How people met up with long-lost relatives without the internet way back when, I may never know.

So now I've changed my itinerary to two nights in Oslo to allow for time in a nearby town where some distant cousins may or may not live. I still have research to do, but the Norwegian census info is online for anyone to use, and it's translated to English. Either those Norwegians are like the Israelis and want you to seek out your ancestry, or they are just super organized. All their records from the 1800 census to present are available online, translated to English. All the records from the 1100s to the 1800s are present in various offices in Oslo, but those aren't translated.

Anyways, all of this is leading to a list that I've accumulated of things I'm looking forward to experiencing in all my piecemeal research for this trip...
  • Finding some Nordby family history in Norway and hopefully meeting a distant cousin
  • Riding a Scandanavian train
  • Eating pastries. There's lots of pastries in these places...I checked. 
  • Some weird art installation that's a talking sewer on the street. I read about it on some website and of course now I can't find a link to it and sound like a crazy person. [EDIT: I found it! It's in Helsinki! I'm not crazy!]
  • The ferry. Did I mention the ferry? The ferry!
  • Perhaps splurging in Copenhagen on a "Dining with the Danes" experience, where a local family cooks you food. 
  • Meeting fun people in the hostels.
  • Going to an AK-47 shooting range? Maybe? This is apparently a big thing to do in multiple cities that I'm visiting. 
  • and SO MUCH MORE! Every time I do more research I see more and more amazing things to do. 

Thus the fun part begins...actually arranging my itinerary! But this is also the stressful part. Stay tuned for more...