So…back to Europe! Last year when I was traipsing all over some of Europe’s greatest cemeteries, never did I think I’d be back almost exactly a year later to do the same thing. I really did think it would be a few years before I would be able to return, even so, I had Kerepesi in Budapest and Merry Cemetery in Romania at the top of my list of places to go. However, as luck would have it, two of my presentations got accepted at a conference in Finland this summer, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what else was up there.
Unlike last year, this trip was not scheduled around cemeteries. This time, I’m going to places that I’ve always wanted to visit, but never did because so many other places were further up the bucket list, or I just couldn’t afford it. Northern Europe is not known as a budget destination. However, with the euro at a pretty good exchange rate, it seems like a good time to visit. After deliberating quite a bit about where to go, and for how long, I finally decided on the following itinerary: Arrive in Helsinki, head straight for Tallin, then from there take the train to Moscow. Five days there and another five in St. Petersburg. Then back to Helsinki, where I’ll be for the start of the Helsinki Festival. After that, spend a couple of days at my conference, then head down to Turku, before taking the overnight ferry to Stockholm, where I’ll have (mostly) four days to look around before heading back to Helsinki by ferry and then fly back to Japan.
When planning the trip I did a little research about each of these places to determine how long to stay where, but I didn’t really look at the rest of the countries. If I had, I might have spent the entire 24 days in Sweden. Or visited more of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the latter which has the amazing Hill of Crosses. Not exactly a cemetery, but definitely worth a visit. I did do my due diligence however, for the places that were on my list, and have found at least one (or more) cemeteries worth visiting on my trip. It’s not as big as last year (thankfully) but neither am I travelling for so long (thankfully). Right now, the list looks a little like this:
Jyväskylä, Finland: Jyväskylä Old Cemetery
Helsinki, Finland: Hietaniemi Cemetery
I don’t know if I’ll see all of the Russian ones, but I hope to make most of the others on the list.
Also on this trip, I’ll be able to engage with another passion of mine, which is living history museums. Once I found out that Stockholm was home to the world’s first living history museum, that solidified its place for me as a part of this trip. I spent three years working as an interpreter at a living history museum in Toronto, and I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for them ever since. Like my passion for cemeteries, living history (although I didn’t know it by that term then) also started young, with me wanting desperately to live (and dress) like my childhood heroes, everyone from Laura Ingalls to Anne of Green Gables to Jo March. There does seem to be a thread that connects everything from a cemetery (a place to remember people who died), memorials (similar), battlefields, concentration or POW camps (to pay homage to the literal place where people died or withstood terrible conditions), to re-enactors who literally try to live the experience(s) of those in the past, to historical interpreters at living history museums who are trying to present and educate people on why old buildings, crafts, and the people who lived and worked in them are worth knowing about.
Although I probably won’t write about them on the trip, here’s the living history/open air museum list:
Tallinn – Estonia Open Air Museum
Helsinki – Seurasaari Open Air Museum
Turku – Kylamaki Village (in Kurala)
Stockholm – Skansen Living History Museum (the one that started it all).
In any event, here I am now, on the ferry to Tallinn, and after a good nights rest (I hope) I’ll be able to get Tallinn’s Estonia Open Air Museum and maybe a cemetery or two done on my first real day of this trip.