Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"The Shipping News (I'm missing my DVD collection right about now)

The last 48 hours have been quite an adventure. When I booked passage on the ferry from Rostock to Hanko, I assumed that I would be given the cheapest ticket possible, seeing as how I was using my eurail pass to pay for it. It turns out that they booked me in a 4-bed room, with a shower and toilet connected. And there was only one other lady in the room. So essentially for the cost of two nights in a pricey hostel, I had a bed for two nights with my own bathroom. Wow. And because there were no windows (we were in an interior cabin), there was nothing to keep me from getting the sleep I really needed to get over this illness, whatever it is.
The lady I was bunking with was kind of funny. She was a Russian used-car saleswoman, and she insisted on having me practice my Russian skills late into the evening, whilst she downed an entire bottle of some apple-tasting liquor. And the volume increased with each glass. Oh it was fun. Finally I had to tell here that I needed to sleep, so she let me.
We didn't actually leave Rostock until 6 am, but they allow people to start boarding at 10 pm the night before, so I got a fair amount of sleep that first night. And when I woke up we were well underway. I took a shower (A PRIVATE SHOWER!), then set about exploring the ship. It was like being in a hotel on the water, but very overpriced. They wanted 9 euros to use the wireless internet for an hour! I said no thanks (knowing that the wireless signal in the hostel here in Helsinki is free). There were three different bars, a disco, a business center, lots of shops, a spa...you name it, they had it, within reason. I spent a lot of time catching up on sleep though. The gentle rocking of the ship with very relaxing. The snack bar did have a nice soup of the day, though I can't tell you what kind it was. It felt good on my throat, that's all that really matters.
I woke up this morning just as we were arriving in Hanko. Ekaterina offered to give me a ride to Helsinki, but I turned her down. First of all, she was starting to annoy me (funny, but very loud, especially when she was on the phone with her children). Also, I know better than to accept rides from strangers, especially when there was a relatively cheap bus right there at the dock. And she would have had to drop me off far from my hostel, which as convenient.
There were only three of us on the transfer bus to Helsinki. There was a German girl, who was traveling mainly by bicycle through Scandanavia (how cool is that!?). And there was a portly young man from Lechtenstien (at least that's what his jacket said - in three different places). He didn't speak very good English, but it turns out we are both staying at the same hostel - the Stadion Hostel. It's INSIDE the Olympic Stadium, from when Helsinki hosted the 1952 Olympics. It's a decent place. Though nothing compares to the place I stayed in Rostock. That was the best hostel of the trip by far.
Because I couldn't check in until 4 and I only have 48 hours in the city, I decided to do some sightseeing. I met a Finnish guy when I was at the YOHO in Salzburg, and he gave me a list of things to do. I started from the top today. He was right - they were all cool places to go. First, I took the 3T tram that circles the city, to get my bearings and to see a bunch of the landmarks. I was suprised by the amount of green - tons of parks, especially compared to Berlin. I got off at the Kauppatori - the main marketplace. From here you can see both of the main churchs, with an especially good view of one of them (I can't remember the name at the moment). I bought some lunch (I think I'll go back there for lunch tomorrow, it was so good), wandered around a bit, then hopped on the ferry boat to Suomenlinna - the fortress island. I learned a lot of the history of Helsinki on the island. I am clueless when it comes to European history (though I'm learning quickly). Finland has only been an independent country since 1918. It was originally part of Sweden for about 700-800 years, then it was taken by the Russians before it got its independence. It was the Swedes (with the financial backing of the French) who built the fortress, which they called Sveaborg (the Swedish Fortress). The Finns renamed it Suomenlinna when they gained their independence.
Now I'm back at the hostel, regaining the warm that I lost on my wanderings about the city. I think I'll track down some pizza for tonight - I have another craving.
Pictures from Rostock are now up on Flickr. Take a look.

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