Finland 2008: Day 6 – Seuresaari

I got up this morning, walked to the station, for several reasons and was extremely hot by the time I got there. I left all my stuff in a locker and good thing I did because I´ve gathered a lot of stuff by now.

I did the shopping thing and then I got my bus to Seurasaari, which I´m probably spelling wrong and I have no idea how to pronounce where I got menaced for a piece of chocolate by a squirrel and generally pursued by some very very tame birds.

It was lovely there and I´m very glad I went. It would have been a pity to have missed it because it was just really nice. It was a little wooded island joined to the mainland by a bridge and there was nothing there except old wooden buildings. I think it´s sort of an open-air old-timey museum in the summer but in the winter it´s just deserted except for too-tame wildlife.

I came back into the city centre, got the tram down Aleksanterinkatu, which is one of the main streets here and saw the cathedrals which are both very impressive. Then, having travelled up and down the street in both directions, I eventually found the information centre, which wasn´t nearly as good as I´d hoped but did have a leaflet on Seuresaari for destruction for my book.

I also had a heart attack in the middle of the road when my wallet wasn´t in my left inner coat pocket where it´s been for the last five days. Luckily, I´d put it in my bag, who knows why. It had my locker key in it, that means absolutely everything I´d brought is locked away. It is now hanging around my neck, guarded by a dragon.

It feels a bit early to be going to the airport but it´s pretty dark already, at 3.42 and it´s getting wet as well.

Finland 2008: Day 5 – Helsinki

I had a lazy morning this morning – after four very busy days, I just wanted a day off. But this afternoon, I forced myself to go for a walk, managing to get back on the tram that goes past the hostel by magic. I didn´t get off there, though. I went past the main station and wandered around that area. It´s damp and grey and getting dark and Sunday afternoon. It´s not too cold though, I have my hat and scarf out of habit but I´ve only got my hands up my sleeves out of habit, not because it´s too cold.

Finland 2008: Day 4 – Tampere

I couldn´t quite figure out how to get a local bus to some of the Helsinki suburbs so I went to Tampere today instead of tomorrow. Another train and this time I definitely had a return ticket, after the woman who sold me the ticket yesterday being more concerned about my pronunciation of Turku than whether I came back again.

It was cold in Tampere, but that wasn´t surprising. It´s further north than anywhere I´ve been so far and it wasn´t nearly as nice today as it was earlier in the week. I hadn´t seen any rain but some of the roads were wet – but the wetness stopped so suddenly I´d concluded that they must have been washing them.

It was definitely raining in Turku. I´d talked to a girl on the train who was studying to be a teacher and she´d suggested I go to the Moomin Museum, so as soon as I arrived, I found the information centre and got a leaflet about it. Unlike Turku, the route couldn´t have been easier. I followed the high street straight down until I reached a “double road” and it was just on the other side. I found the building itself easily enough but the Moomin bit is underneath and not very well signposted unless you walk around the place.

It was cute. The Finns like the Moomins and this museum was built to feel like a forest, with magic lights in the trees. It had a lot of original pictures and things from the artist all over the walls and they´d built 41 little mini scenes from various books. They also had a little stage and a dressing up cupboard so children could act bits out if they wanted to. The only problem was that no photos were allowed, and they had the usual Finnish set-up of museum workers sitting around keeping an eye on you, and they were more than ready to jump on you if you got your camera out. I got some postcards and wandered back out.

It was freezing. I took a couple of photos and headed back down the main street, stopping every now and then to go into a department store to warm up – that´s the amazing thing about Finland. No matter how cold it is, five minutes in a shop warms you up ready for the next half an hour. By now it was really raining and by the time I got back to the station, I didn´t really feel like going anywhere except back to Helsinki. I looked through the guide book, and it seemed there wasn´t a lot more to see, other than shops and art museums and everything else was around the city rather than in it, so it was ok to come back.

I got on the train and found a good seat only, five minutes later, to be removed by a Finn who managed to make me understand that even though I´d been there five minutes already, it was his seat and he would like me to move. I did but if anyone had asked me a second time, I may have been a little less tolerant of the Finnish seating system.

My new seat was bad. It was backwards, which I don´t mind, but it was between two windows and the one I could actually see was blocked by the woman in front hanging her coat there. As soon as she got off, I took her place, which not only had a big window but also it was facing two other seats so I had more legroom.

My jeans were wet halfway up to my knees and because I kept crossing my legs, by now they´re damp all over. I´ve figured out how the internet works at the station – you buy a ticket for €2 for an hour and it gives you a username and password and you can use it at any Sidewalk Express place for seven days, so I don´t actually have to sit here for a whole hour. I´m going back to the hostel soon and I´m going to eat some bread and marmite and have a nice warm shower.

Finland 2008: Day 3 – Turku

I got my first long-distance train, to Turku which is on the west coast, or Åbo as it´s called in Swedish. The Swedish is actually much easier to follow than the Finnish and most signs are in both. Sometimes there´s English but it doesn´t necessary make sense.

I walked through lots of little streets and more by luck than judgement found the market square, then the Tourist Information where I got a map and found how to get to the castle.

There were lots of tall ships on my way down to the castle, proper wooden ones that looked like they were falling apart and huge great iron monstrosities, as well as the usual collection of the military ships.

I liked the castle. It´s been put together bit by bit over about the last thousand years and you don´t go with a guide, although there are plenty of people in national costume waiting to point out the route, which crosses over itself hundreds of times. Unfortunately, it closes at 2.30 which seems daft.

I got the bus back but made the mistake of getting off at the market square because everyone else did instead of waiting until the station like I knew I should have done. Luckily, I could remember how I got there in the morning, right up until I found myself on completely the wrong road, with traffic going in only one direction instead of the two I definitely remembered crossing.

I wandered, I walked past lots of wooden houses nestling among concrete towers and eventually, I found a likely-looking round and guessed from a sign that the station might be to my right, which eventually, it was. I got back on my train and by the time I´d gone about twenty minutes, it was already getting dark and it was pitch black when I arrived in Helsinki. By now I´d worked out the tram system and had no problem getting back.

The problem was when I got back because it was really really noisy. The people outside my door had turned the TV up to “ear-popping” and they didn´t shut up until nearly two in the morning and then were off again before eight.

Finland 2008: Day 2 – Suomenlinna

I started the day by wandering around Helsinki, having got off the tram after two stops. I hadn´t really realised just how much Helsinki is by the sea and everywhere I turned, I seemed to run into more water. I found the Subway I´d spotted from the bus last night and although I recognised a lot of places on the way to the station, I couldn´t find the station itself so I got on another tram, this time with a ticket.

I had decided to go to Suomenlinna and managed to find a map that showed me how to walk there. I missed the boat because I was trying to figure out the ticket machine but that gave me time to eat my bread, from the market hall by the sea, and get a seat on the next boat.

I really liked Suomenlinna. It´s a sea fortress built on several islands which are all connected by bridges and it seemed I had picked a good day to wander around. It has some amazing views and there are so many little islands and bits of rock sticking out of the water.

It did concern me a bit how soon the sun was setting – it was definitely beginning to get low by about 1.30.

On the way back, I was brave and stayed outside on the boat to take some photos. I went back to the hostel via the bookshop and I was amazed how many books there were in English, and in German.