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By this Author: nat-ali

Stockholm, Sweden

Last Day

16 °C
View Suomi (Finland) 2008 on nat-ali's travel map.

Our last day, and our trip feels as abbreviated as this entry! Seeing cities in one day leave little time for rest, let alone sleep. We typically rise at 6, travel for a few hours, then upon arrival in a city, walk non-stop to see the sights, until dinner at 6, and hit a nightspot to meet denizens of that city.
At last we arrive at today, which began inauspiciously with a long hike from the terminal to the Tunnelbana, dragging along our rolling luggage, but we made it to our hostel, got our bearings, and headed out for our requisite 6 hours in Stockholm. For the first time this trip, I felt like one day was not enough. Although we managed to see old town, catch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, and see City Hall where the Nobel Prize is awarded, we could have spent more time to see the market, Skansen park, and VasaMuseum. We did, however, end our Scandinavian adventure with a nice dinner atop Katerina Hissen overlooking all of Stockholm, and met a very nice couple. And now we're back at the hostel, ready for another early morning taking the train to the airport for am departure. We've gotten up before 6am too many times to call this a vacation, and won't even come home with a tan to show for it!

Posted by nat-ali 13:49 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Tallinn, Estonia

sunny 19 °C
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Wednesday morning the weather was not so bad, but again we slept the whole passage, so tired were we after our late night. Tallinn was definitely a highlight. Very cute little town, with a little Russian influence, including borscht for lunch. The only drawback is that it's completely overrun by cruise ship tourists. We're getting accustomed to hitting all the must-see sights in 6 hours. We separated from our travel companion, Nick, when it was time to board the Silja cruse ship to Stockholm. The passage was much like the San Juan ferries, plying the narrow waterways between chains of tiny islands. We didn't partake of the all night buffet or disco, choosing instead to catch up on sleep and recharge for Stockholm, but this is famous for being a party ship. Sure enough, as we disembarked, nearly every passenger had their limit of 4 cases of duty free beer, even bringing their own handcarts!

Posted by nat-ali 16:32 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

Helsinki, Finland

storm 16 °C
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We left Jyväskäla early Tuesday morning with the Danish couple to catch the am train to Helsinki. Although the views were expansive, I'll be honest, we were so tired we slept the whole way. What a difference the city is after being in the countryside! We had to stow our luggage at the rail station so we could explore the city, awaiting check-in time at our hotel, but had to haul one of the rolling bags all over the cobblestone streets. We saw the famous churches in Helsinki, the Lutheran (white one) and Cathedral (red one), and also Temmpeliokirkko, the church excavated into the rock. It was kind of like Holland library at WSU, with only the dome visible above ground. We got market lunch of paella, then caught a ferry out to Suommenlinna, a fortress island in Helsinki Harbor, but it was a bit underwhelming. No major fortifications or armaments, and the 'open prison' is now an artist's colony. Also the weather turned stormy, but we persisted. Finally we came back to town, to rest and regroup over Kebabs. After dinner we went out to the Helsinki 'Ice Bar' (walk in freezer in the basement of a Mexican restaurant - skip it) and the Hotel Torni rooftop bar, with a view over the city. Serendipitously, we got talking to another couple who mentioned that boats to Tallinn were cancelled due to the storm, so we had to go to the rail station at 1am to rearrange our passage plans to ensure we made our connection to Stockholm.

Posted by nat-ali 16:30 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Jyvaskyla, Finland

semi-overcast 19 °C
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Since leaving Jarno's hometown of Somero, we traveled north 3 hrs to the university town of Jyväskälä, where Jarno & Henna go to school. We arrived in the afternoon and didn't have much to do, so walked to downtown on the bike path by the lake. It was about 6km (4 mi) so just as we arrived downtown it was closing time and we got turned out of the very first shop we tried. But we had been invited to a Finnish baseball game by one of Henna's friends at the wedding, so we went to that. Let me just say that Finnish Baseball is the most confusing and inscrutable sport. First, the pitcher is also the catcher, and pitches from home 'nest', throwing vertically like a kid throwing to himself. Second, the batter has several chances to choose whether to run on his hit so he can take a chance on getting a better run. Third, the bases are not in diamond shape, but zig-zag. That's about all I was able to glean from the game, but if you ever get a chance to watch Finnish baseball, do!

Posted by nat-ali 05:00 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

Finnish Wedding

semi-overcast 18 °C
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They're married! Turns out a Finnish wedding is very much like an American wedding. The bride wears white, they play 'Here Comes the Bride', and there's plenty of food and dancing at the reception. The ceremony was at a beautiful brick church at 5:00. Then the bride and groom were driven away in a Jaguar as church bells pealed and the guests moved on to the reception hall. The biggest difference was how long the reception goes on. First awaiting the arrival of the couple in the parking lot before entering the hall. Then the receiving line, 150 guests, one at a time. Then the photo slide show, narrated one picture at a time. Then dismissal one table at a time to the buffet line (Great Finnish food, prepared by Henna's mom, a cafe owner/caterer). Then a music performance, etc. etc, all the usual wedding stuff, but with 20-40 minute breaks between each activity. At an American wedding, the guests would drift away with every downtime, certainly after a couple of hours. But here everyone stayed until 1:30 in the morning, even danced every dance. And the most glaring difference was the competitiveness to catch the garter toss - they actually want it! Nick was about tackled in the stampede to catch it! So alas not the next to get married. But it's a definite glimpse into authentic Finnish culture. The people have been absolutely wonderful, and we exchanged email addresses with all our new friends in hopes of visiting the U.S. someday. Especially Jarno's parents have welcomed us like family. It's so neat to be included in such a special occasion.

Posted by nat-ali 08:04 Archived in Finland Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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