OK, if anyone gets that reference and why it is relevant, feel free to post it in my comments. So I wake up on my boat. And for the first time this trip, I am mildly hung over! Hooray! I can still feel gross after a night of drinking - it just has to be in combination with motion sickness produced by sleeping on a boat. The boat is huge, a 13 story city, I am on Deck 2 (Below the cars, fortunately they don't move while I'm sleeping, and the Pixar myth of sentient cars is just that, a myth). Deck 7 is a huge mall with a 6 story atrium, very cool actually, although I wouldn't be buying anything there.
This time I forgo the shipboard breakfast (Wasn't thrilled with it on DFDS), and focus my energies on getting packed, soon the boat is disgorging its passenger and car complement into the busy harbour in Helsinki. And once again, I am on foot with my backpack on my back. Once I am turned off the harbour road, I step into a relative ghost town...Helsinki is deserted, at least the part I'm in. I feel my way through the streets using my map, and unsure of myself, I ask the first sympathetic looking person for help, a young Asian woman, who responds that she works for Silja, the boat company I came over with, and she doesn't know the city well enough to help me!
It's ok, though, I am pretty confident I have it right, and 3 minutes later I'm at my hostel door. I immediately drop my backpack and take my daypack with me and set off to the city center.
I make my first stop at the Scandic Simonkentta, 5 minutes from my hostel, to tell the manager that I want to leave a bag with them for the day. No problem, Hotel staff seem very helpful. From there I head over to the train station where I pay for and collect my rail tickets to St. Petersburg. Good, everything is in place.
I head to nearby Cafe Strindberg and enjoy a Jam Pastry with a Latte and I people watch as I drink my coffee and eat my pastry. Little quiet moments like these make a vacation worthwhile. When I get up to continue my walking tour, who should pass me but the Asian girl I met over an hour ago! She is happy to hear I found what I was looking for and that's about it! Still, small town, I guess.
I am in search of Internet cafes (I am doing stuff other than blogging, in case you hadn't figured that out!) At noon, Stockmann's department store opens and I get 15 minutes of free Net time with my bottled water purchase! Nice. Stockmann's also has an excellent free men's room, unlike in Stockholm, where it's like Urinetown (Officer Lockstock sez Ya Gotta Pay to Pee!).
I move to Helsinki's excellent market square, where I am supposed to do a Rick Steves self guided walking tour, but I'm distracted by the wares on sale from a number of vendors here, as well as the awesome smelling food being dished up at the market. I shell out 8Euros at one stand for an excellent grilled smoked salmon with potatoes and salad. My belly full, I begin my walk which takes me through Senate Square and the Lutheran church which presides over the harbor atop some very steep stairs. inside the cathedral a confirmation is about to take place, but I sneak a peek inside anyways, the cathedral's interior is huge and the acoustics are a marvel. From there, most of my walk is a bit boring, taking me back into the downtown area, past places I've already been! I notice a few more details now though, and I find a branch of the library open, where I can do some more blogging. Eventually, the tour brings me to the Church in the rock, which was actually a church built into a massive rock. Again, great acoustics, nice looking church, lots of brass. I pass Finlandia Hall, which is supposed to be an architectural wonder. I will take the tour there when I return to Helsinki next week.
I take a bus up to the supposedly striking Sibelius monument. I have known about Sibelius for 16 years. Here's how. In 1988, John McTiernan directed DIE HARD, still probably my favorite movie. He used pieces of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Ode to Joy, as an homage to Kubrick, who used it in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, to underscore moments of violence. McTiernan passed on directing the sequel, and Renny Harlin, a Finn, took the helm. For his classical homage, he chose Finlandia, the seminal work of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It's the music that's playing at the film's climax as the planes land. Sibelius is a hero to his country and a monument of steel pipes with vinelike designs has been erected in a park in Stockholm to pay homage to him. The monument would have looked nicer lit up at night. I take a quick look, a few pictures, and return to the hostel.
At the hostel, I confirm I am in a dorm room, not in a private until tomorrow. I don't get to know most of the guys I am sharing a dorm with. I do chat briefly with one American guy who's trying to get to St. Petersburg but hasn't sorted out his Visa issues yet. Guy sold his car to travel for a year!
I rest and am about to go for dinner, but I meet some fun women from the UK and strike up a conversation with them, as 2 of them are headed for St. Petersburg on the same train as me, and the other one has just come from teaching English there for some months! We all decide to go watch the world cup together at a sports bar (By now, I have not heard from Brenna). I head to the sports bar with Lucy, who is from Cambridge, while the other 2 - Rachel and Caitlyn from Belfast, head off for a bit to eat. The line is long, but Lucy and I get the table no one else wants in the bar downstairs (The real party is upstairs, and we have ok, not great views of the TV.) Unfortunately, Caitlyn and Rachel see the line and don't join us, I don't blame them, the lines were pretty bad, and they ended up seeing it at the Molly Malone's (I've since seen identical Irish pubs in Tallinn and St. Petersburg!)
Lucy's a great companion to watch the game with. Not a very big football fan, she says, before going off into a rant about what's wrong with the game, England's game, the fans, etc. I have a hard time following some of her detail but both of us talk about the experiences of watching the games abroad, me across Scandinavia, her in Russia. Lucy's prediction of a high scoring game after the early French goal doesn't pan out as yet another game goes to penalty kicks! Still the action was pretty good for the most part, and Zidane's dramatic ejection kept things interesting.
After we went for Shawarma. Lucy's also going to Tallinn tomorrow, so we make plans to meet the next morning. I head for bed but she stays up to chat with some Aussies who are hanging out in the common room.