Archive for September, 2006

Finlandia

Well, as it went the journey from Bergen through to Helsinki was surprisingly easy and even relaxing in places. The train ride from Bergen back to Oslo was even better this time round, the same scenery but with better weather. My afternoon in Oslo was dull but restorative and consisted of using the internet and watching some happy clappy band sing songs of praise at the station. My afternoon is Stockholm was lovely but not of particular note. The sun was out and I cruised around all of the central areas with my big old backpack on. Sweaty back and shoulders but nice sightseeing. I didn’t get up to much particularly adventurous, just meandered my way from the main train station in the north of the city to the ferry port in south stopping at most major tourist locations and trying to sneak in for free. The ferry ride was good fun too and had all of the classic/rubbish activates to get up to i.e. quiz on the top deck, bingo, duty free booze and a couple of games of waste-your-money-in-the-casino. I met a nice couple whilst admiring one of the best sunsets of all time from the back of the ship and spent the rest of the evening playing cards and drinking beer with them. Next stop, Finland…

There isn’t much I can write to explain just how enjoyable my stay in Finland was. The city of Helsinki is much like any European city and by now, as I mentioned, I was becoming a bit blasé with regards to the European capitals. There is always a nice building here, a nice church there, a few big roads full of McDonalds and normally a big park in there too. However, staying with people who really know and love the city they live in is an infinitely rewarding thing. Jyry and his friends were the warmest and most fun group of guys I have met in a while and remind me a lot of my good friends back in London which turned out to be just what I needed. Every night of the week, whether they had work, or not they would be happy to walk or bike down to the area of town known as Kallio or invite us over for a beer, which surprised me since Jyry’s description of average young male Finns was that of a generally insular bunch who drink too much. It struck me that this could possibly be said of me and my mates and maybe thats why I felt right at home once the ice was broken. The mid-week though was just a precursor to the weekend to come. Plans had been made for a weekend visit to Jyry’s cabin in the countryside.

It was immense…

The cabin itself was an old-as-time log cabin about as close to the edge of Lake Lojha as you can get without being ankle deep. In fact, the only reason it is allowed to be so close to the waters edge is because it was built long before regulations were brought in 50 or so years ago stating cabins must be built further back from the shore. I guess the easiest way to describe it is to appeal to the romantic vision most people would have of an old log cabin nestled snugly where forest meets lake in the Finnish wilderness. Easier still is to just go look at the pictures! The night consisted of the manliest activities one can imagine short of spearing a wild moose and eating it raw. We roasted countless hunks of meat over an open fire, fired up the traditional Finnish sauna (of course!), cooled ourselves off in the lake and listened to hour upon hour of Finnish power metal…all the time drinking about as much beer and vodka as it is possible to without causing permanent damage. It was nothing short of a perfect night with the lads done Finland style and one I am unlikely to forget. Soon enough though, it was time to leave and after saying my goodbyes and inviting everybody in Helsinki to come stay with me in Hong Kong when I get my own place I was on a train to St. Petersburg, Russia. More interesting stories ensue but right now I simply don’t have the time! Another update tomorrow…

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