Argh, Motherland!October 30, 2013
Back from yet another trip across the Baltic sea. I’m starting to feel that I’ve pretty much filled my quota of boat cruises.
Though this time did differ from earlier experiences, previously me and Paulina have almost only traveled on the Stockholm – Turku route (as well as the Stockholm – Mariehamn route). So to mix it up, we went took the boat that runs between Stockholm and Helsinki.
Our trip was actually some what spontaneous. A couple of weeks back a friend of ours, Sandra, asked if we were interested to go with her and a few other friends on a cruise to either Riga or Helsinki. The reason why she asked was because she had a lot of unused travel points that were about to get expired, and she needed to use them before they got invalidated.
I’m really not Helsinki’s biggest fan. But it is Paulina’s favorite city, and because Riga doesn’t seem to be the most interesting destination, the choice was some what obvious.
Anyway, as I was saying, Sandra had a lot of extra points, and because she needed to burn them all, she upgraded me and Paulina to a deluxe cabin. I’m pretty sure I’ve explained about the different kinds of cabins that one can find on the “Finlandsfärjor”, but to explain it briefly again, most of the cabins type have either two or four bunk-beds and a really small bathroom. The deluxe cabin on the other hand sports a double-bed and a fairly large bathroom.
The boat trip to Helsinki was pretty uneventful, then again, seldom does something unordinary happen when traveling between Sweden and Finland. But it was pretty fun to travel on another type of vessel. The boat that we were on is called Silja Symphony, and just like her sister vessel, Silja Serenade, they both have a promenade street that runs through the middle of the vessel. Almost all of the gift shops and restaurants are place along this promenade. I’ve once before been on Silja Serenade (a long time ago) which was also the one and only time that I’ve been on the Stockholm – Helsinki line.
Usually me and Paulina spend most of our time on the boat in the cabin, mostly because there isn’t that much one can do on a typical cruise. But because me and Paulina weren’t the only ones on this trip, we decided to try out some of the entertainment that was offered. Symphony has two entertainment areas, on in the forward part of the boat, which is the larger, and a smaller disco-bar at the back. We went to the larger one were they had some kind of live music event going. The band that was playing when we arrived was some a kind of country like band. After they got off the scene another, younger band got on and played more modern pop:ish like music.
We arrived to Helsinki early Sunday morning. Almost every time that I’ve ever visited the Finnish capital there’s been bad weather. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been there when it hasn’t been raining. A couple of years back, when I was on a business trip, I almost got to see Helsinki in the sunlight, but sadly, I had already left the city limits when the sun rose.
This time was no exception. When the boat got closer to Helsinki on the morning, me and Paulina were enjoying the sun shining through the windows while we were eating breakfast. Once the boat actually got to the harbor the weather quickly changed, from a warm late-summer day to a cold, wet and foggy autumn day.
Because I’ve never experienced Helsinki in good weather, I’ve always seen the city as a pretty dull and gray place. And almost all of the buildings in the city center is built either with gray rock or concrete, which doesn’t really help the image at all.
The boat was scheduled for a six hour stop in harbor and I had actually planned on staying on the boat throughout the duration. But I changed my mind in the last minute, I felt like I needed to socialize and not be such a killjoy. We left the boat at around 11 AM, and because it was Sunday morning almost everything was still closed. We found a small café near the harbor where we sat around for an hour before we left for the inner city.
The first place we visited, which is almost mandatory when in Helsinki, was Stockmann, which is the equivalent to Nordiska Kompaniet in Stockholm or Harrods in London. In other words, a shopping mall filled with overly expensive luxury products. I think we spent all in all five minutes in there before we left.
We walked across the street to the next logical stop, Forum, which is another shopping mall, albeit a bit smaller and a lot cheaper, though we ended up not doing any shopping. Whilst standing outside something unexpected happened, Vera appeared from thin air. I’d say it’s a pretty slim chance to meet somebody you know randomly in a city the size of Helsinki, especially if you don’t know all too many people in that city.
We subsequently went to one of Fazer’s cafés inside forum. Fazer is, as I suspect most of my readers know, a semi-large Finnish company, most famous for it’s bread and chocolate. And their coffee was bland and bitter, exactly how I like my Finnish coffee.
One thing I try to do every time I visit Finland is to eat at Kotipizza. I asked Vera where the nearest Kotipizza was located, and she said that she didn’t really know, but if she had to guess, she’d say Kampen. Kampen is yet another shopping mall just a few steps away from Forum, it’s also the main bus-station in inner Helsinki. After a lot of nagging on my peers, they finally gave in, and followed me on my quest to salvation (i.e. find the most delicious pizza that has ever been made). After spending, what felt like ages, in Kampen, without finding a Kotipizza, I had to admit defeat. None of the others were especially hungry, and therefore they weren’t interested in spending more time looking for something that might not even exist in that mall.
Helsinki doesn’t have that much to offer when you’ve only got so little time. So we walked back to the boat after four hours hanging around town. There’s not much to say about our journey home on the boat, but we did spend the evening at the disco-bar, watching drunk Finns singing karaoke. Needless to say, I went to bed early.