Friday, June 24, 2011

Helsinki, Finland

It's about 10 o'clock on Friday night. Time to do a little catch-up on my Scandinavia trip.

I left on Wednesday. My sister Diane was kind enough of to drive me to the airport with her three kids in tow.

My British Airways flight left around 7 p.m. -- 45 minutes late because of heavy traffic on the runway. The flight was nice. Had a chicken curry meal. And I tried to sleep but it just wasn't happening.

The plane arrived in London around 7 in the morning, their time. My next plane to Finland wasn't leaving until 10:20, so I had plenty time to kill. I hit a bar/restaurant and had an English breakfast (bacon aka ham, sausage and beans).

The flight to Helsinki, Finland was only about two and a half hours, but it felt like forever because I was so tired.

Landed in Helsinki about 3 p.m. their time. I caught a cab for the half-hour drive to the hotel. I was getting kinda worried 'cause it was so far from the airport. Not to worry. The hotel, Hotel Finn, is in the city centre.

The hotel is unusual in that it's on the top two floors of an office building. I'm on the top floor, the sixth. I like how the building's very European with the stairwell surrounding the cage-covered elevator.

My room's nice. Little on the small side, with a bathroom. There's a shared shower down the hall, next to the reception desk, which isn't manned at night.

Anyway, I wandered around yesterday (Thursday) afternoon. Sad days for me, I quickly found out that it's the Summer Solstice, a public holiday where most stores are closed on Friday.

As I walked around the neighborhood, I thought the buildings looked a bit Russian (buildings have flat concrete -- not a lot of ridges -- colored mainly green or brown). My assumption proved true, as I learned later by reading that Russia ruled Finland for about 200 years. Finland broke away after the Russian Revolution in 1917, and Finland was still an agrarian society until circa 1950. They've come a long way!

I went to bed around 9 o'clock, since I was up for over 24 hours. I woke up around 2:30 a.m. for an hour or so (tossing and turning), then slept until 8:30 a.m., Friday.

Street my hotel was on. (Helinski, Finland; June 23, 2011)

One of the few stores open, in the morning at least, was a supermarket in a nearby mall called The Forum. I picked up toiletries there on Thursday night. Friday morning I bought a croissant and bottle of orange juice.

Afterwards, I wandered around a little bit. Took some pictures of the local harbor.

Around noon I ran into a cool group of Finns. Well, only three of 'em were actual Finnish. The other two were Iceland and Ireland. Cool group. I had a good time talking with them for an hour or so.

For lunch I slipped into a cafe/bar/restaurant across the street but down the block from my hotel. I got a roast beef sandwich on Panni bread (is that right?) and a bottle of apple or orange juice. The stereo played The Beatles and INXS. What, no Finish music?

Obvious time. Something I've noticed is that the Finnish are a pale lot. I mean, to the point of being ashen. Guess it makes sense, since it's so cold here in the winter. Oh, and speaking of weather, it's rarely above 60 degrees here. Brrrrr!!!

After lunch I hopped on a tour bus. It did a little loop. I saw where my ferry is, the one I take tomorrow night to Stockholm.

For dinner I was going to a restaurant called Kosmos. I was walking around for an hour, trying to find it, but it's two storefronts away from my hotel. Sadly, it was closed, so with the help of the hotel receptionist, I went to some place a half-mile away that specializes in Finnish food. For a starter, I had a house salad (lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, hot bacon, egg). The main course was reindeer in mashed potatoes; the former looked like roast beef -- the kind you find on a sandwich -- and it was a wee-bit salty. Good though. Desert was chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Oh, and I asked for lemonade as a beverage. Turned out to be Sprite soda, just like in the UK. Need to remember not to order that.

After dinner, I just chilled in my hotel room, resting after all the walking around I did today. Real quick, something I learned on this afternoon's bus tour. Finnish also speak Swedish. Makes sense since they have a bit of history. Apparently, most of the signs and everything here are in Finnish and Swedish. A little trivia to end this post. . . .

Harry Potter invades Finland! (Helinski, Finland; June 24, 2011)

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