To Rovaniemi! Or… not

Today’s the day the plans changed.

I woke at Mike’s and sorted all my stuff out. I’d arranged to meet the others at the airport where Antoine had hired a car for the journey to Rovaniemi where we were to meet Heydi and some other surfers for the weekend.

A tram into the city and then a bus to the airport makes it an easy journey. There is a regular service bus (the 651, I believe) from the train station but I couldn’t find hide nor hair of it. I did spot the 451 which said it went to the airport, but it didn’t seem to run on the weekend schedule, which was being used due to the holiday.

I ended up on the official aiport shuttle bus, which costs a little over €6. I like that you can pay with Visa on board, so no need to grab any cash from an ATM. You can pretty much use plastic anywhere and for any amount in Finland.

I hooked up with Tiina when I got to the airport. Ulf was busy swearing at his laptop in the car somewhere and Antoine was trying to figure out exactly which company he’d hired the other car through. There were no ofices available under the name of the company he’d booked with. They must have been an agency that then deals direct with someone else.

We left him to find an internet connection so he could re-check his emails and sat and chatted for a bit. Then we decided to unload Tiina’s car and get everything into the terminal ready for Antoine’s girlfriend arriving so we could take everything to the new car in one go.

Only Antoine went to get the car and rang us to say he was parked near Tiina’s car, so we had to double back and take everything over to that one while he waited for his partner to get through customs.

As we were packing the car up, Tiina was mentioning about a party in Helsinki and a lot of thoughts that had been bothering me started to flood in. The 10-hour plus car journey to Rovaniemi. Getting back from there to Brussels in 4 days. Finding anywhere to stay while I hitched down. Not having seen much of the area I was already in. Getting up north and not having the time to see a lot of places up there I’d already hoped to.

So… I opted to stay in Helsinki for the weekend. After Ulf had magically made all of our luggage fit. So he had to “unfit” it so I could retrieve the beer, though I did leave them two bottles of vodka as an apology. I hope that helped toward my share of the car hire and fuel costs.

We loaded up Tiina’s car which she had to return to her mother. He mum’s a really nice lady who doesn’t speak a word of English, but who was happy to show off her apartment with it’s own 2-person Finnish sauna! She dropped us back off at Tiina’s before whisking the car away again. I settled into Tiina’s, had a shower (it was a really humid day) and after a light lunch we started cracking open the beers and watched a couple of DVDs.

Thing is, the party never really happened. One friend of Tiina’s, Lauri, came over and helped us drink more beer before we all nodded off at some silly time in the morning. I didn’t even make it as far as the blow-up bed, choosing to crash on the huge sofa instead. I swear this constant daylight plays tricks with your mind!

Tiina surfaced really late on in the day, making the most of her day off work. We packed some more beer into a carry-bag and jumped on a train into town where we transferred onto a ferry bound for Suomenlinna. This is a small island around 15 minutes’ boat ride off the coast where a fortress was built back in 1748. It was constructed by the Swedes (then owners of what is now Finland) as protection against the Russians.

Many Fins head there for an afternoon, taking picnics and beer to chill out. It’s quiet, clean and nicely situated to watch the enormous ferris pass by on their way to Sweden. At around 5pm, two of them went past where we were sitting and it’s an amazing site. The channel they’re sailing down looks far too small for them but is deceptively deep, and they dwarf everything nearby.

After a couple of hours, we travelled back to Tiina’s loaded up on more beer and food and walked round to Lauri’s.

I want his apartment.

I mean to say, if I was designing my own it would bear a remarkable similarity to his. The main room’s all black wood with a projector instead of a TV. Two life-size plastic models of characters from computer games “guard” the sofa and old editions of Judge Dredd reprints (in Finnish) adorn the walls. Then there’s the 24Mbit internet connection, which makes browsing the net feel like you have a local copy of it on the hard drive.

He also showed me possibly one of the coolest historical artefacts I have ever held in my hands – and I mean “cool” with as much respect as that word can be used. It was his grandfather’s war diary written during the months he served in WWII. It was all in Finnish, but with some illustrations. Tiina has read some of it and the details are apparently – to say the least – harrowing. Lauri is thinking of working on a book based on the information from it, including a full English translation. As soon as it appears on Amazon, I will be buying a copy.

We drank beer, enjoyed a decent dinner and watched a couple more films – and lots of Family Guy. Once more, far too late in the day (or early, depending how you judge it) Tiina and I walked back to her apartment and crashed. This time I tested out her inflatable bed. Really handy in a 1-bed apartment as it inflates in about a minute using an inbuilt electric pump. It’s pretty comfy, but I preferred the couch.

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