I managed to repack my bags and get everything safe and secure. On the Monday morning, Mike shook my hand goodbye as he had to get somewhere with internet to do some work and left me to sort my stuff out and freshen up for the journey to Tampere Airport and on to Frankfurt.
I’d been told by several people that hitching in Finland and the other Nordic countries is pretty painless and quick.
They were wrong. Certainly on this occasion.
Part of my problem was a dicky stomach, probably from enjoying myself too much over the previous few days without enough food or rest. Then the weather turned for the worst. Not just a little drizzle, but heavy downpours, scheduled for just when I was preparing to stick my thumb out.
After an hour, I threw my hitching notebook in a bin as it was soaked through. The next number 10 tram took me to the central railway station and I asked about public transport to the airport. Tourist Information told me I would have to get a bus or train to Tampere, and then another bus out to the airport. Tight for time, but just posible with some luck. Thing is, I was sure there was a direct bus from Helsinki so I asked again at the train ticket window.
The incredibly helpful woman there informed me that, yes, there was such a bus and it ran two times a day to fit in with the flight schedule. The one at 17:15 would get me to the airport just as check-in opened for the Frankfurt flight. It’s 2 1/2 hours and â‚¬25, but dry and comfy and sure to mean that I wouldn’t miss the flight. She also printed me out a full timetable, details of how to read it, and a map of where the bus picked up from.
While I was outside looking for the actual stop I spotted the 615 to Helsinki airport that I coudn’t find the other day. There are two bus parks at Helsinki railway on opposite sides of the building! After 10 minutes I still couldn’t find the stop for the service I was after and decided to get indoors and out of the rain until closer to departure time.
This I did and used the time to send off the usual postcards. At 17:00 I went back outside and looked again. This time I saw the right bus coming into view. It slowed down and pulled up at the other side of the square, away from the other buses. Had I not seen the bus itself I’d never have found the stop. The driver was fine and didn’t ask for any cash so that was even better.
I settled in, watched some Dead Zone on my PSP, listened to music, read and dozed on the trip up to Tampere.
When the coach arrived, a young woman jumped on board and yelled “somethingfinnishIdidn’tunderstandtickets25Euro!”
Ah, she wanted money. Thankfully I’d withdrawn cash as she wasn’t taking Visa. So I didn’t get the ride for free. Well, this is RyanAir after all.
RyanAir fly from terminal 2 up at Tampere Airport and… well. It’s the worst airport I have ever seen. It looks like a handful of pre-fabricated shells bolted together. Electric cabling is “tidied” out of the way with cheap guttering, paint is flaky, advertising posters are nailed directly to the walls, there’s nowhere near enough room for the crowds queueing, security takes an age, there’s no space at the departure gate… It’s horrible. I mean, I’ve been to some ugly, cramped, crappy airports, but Tampere really takes the biscuit.
Thankfully, due to the awful queues, by the time I got to the departure gate I only have 10 minutes to wait until boarding. I would like to point out that the staff themselves were exemplary from the check-in people to the security officers. It’s just the airport that sucks.
The flight itself was uneventful apart from some “mild” turbulence that felt like being shoved through a tumble dryer that was taking its own trip along a roller-coaster. The sunset as we headed south was magnificent – a burning, fiery red. And sadly on the other side of the plane so I couldn’t get a picture.
Frankfurt-Hahn was a different kettle of fish. Clean, bright, spacious, efficient, wonderful. Within 20 minutes (I think – my watch stopped working just before the plane took off) I was reunited with my rucksack and on the â‚¬12 coach to Frankfurt proper.
I knew which hostel to head for as I’ve been here before and checked myself in. A quick internet check and then bed to get up early and catch Hans arriving!