Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Around the World: Helsinki

April 11, 1992

The ferry is enormous!  There are eight decks that include a huge duty free store, a disco, three bars and endless cabins.  Among the passengers like myself that have not booked a cabin, is a guy from Germany named Wolfgang.  His unkempt beard and hair give him a wild, Grizzly Adams look, but despite appearances, he's quite gentle and kind.

The ship's disco plays songs by The Clash, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Bob Marley and UB40.  Just hearing something familiar is a great boost for my spirit.  I find a space on the dance floor and let the music move me until fatigue guides me to a quiet corner in the foyer and catch a few hours of sleep.

The ferry docks in Turku just after 8 a.m where Wolfgang and I will catch the train to Helsinki.  Customs is thoroughly checking everyone as they disembark.  The cover of my Canadian passport is sufficient for customs.  When the guard sees Wolfgang and his German passport, he is pulled aside and two guards start grilling him with questions and demand to search his bag.  I step off to the side to wait, but one of the guards tries to encourage me to leave.  I explain that I'm waiting for my friend, convinced that Wolfgang is only threatening in appearance.  The guards look at me and back to Wolfgang and thankfully conclude that neither of us have any intentions to cause trouble.

Helsinki reminds me very much of any northern Canadian town, just in a different language.  It even has the same rinky-dink touristy trinkets, the kind that nobody local buys.  There's a plentiful selection of reindeer and elves, Finland's version of maple leaf shaped fudge and miniature mounties.

Feeling very at home in a foreign land

I'm exhausted from three nights of cat napping on trains and ferries.  Wolfgang remains in Helsinki while I head back to Turku for the comforts of the hostel.  A hot shower and a good solid sleep in a stationary bed feels  like heaven.

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"Luxuries are never so comfortable as are the familiar, ordinary things of home."
~Eucharista Ward