This is a blog about my travels. My "regular" life is much too boring to bother blogging about.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vegas-On-The-Baltic, and Helsinki

So here was the deal: an overnight sail from Stockholm to Finland, followed by a frenzied handful of hours in Helsinki, followed in turn by an overnight cruise back to Stockholm. Pretty much everybody who has ever met me knows that this isn't ideal for me. But I agreed to it because

1. I had awesome company for the cruise
2. This whole trip has been unideal and rushed, so why not rush Helsinki as well.
3. These cruises were evidently a cultural experience unto themselves.

And you know what? I had a blast. I may have had too much of a good time, as I barely got any sleep Friday night and basically explored Helsinki whilst running on fumes. And it's true, the cruise is a hell of an experience, with a very definite Vegas-on-the-Baltic vibe. There was a nightclub, a casino, slot machines, overpriced restaurants and tacky shows such as an American Idol style karaoke contest and an ABBA tribute band. The whole thing seems obviously geared toward Finns. Everybody who worked on board was Finnish, and all the emceeing for the shows and such was done in Finnish only. There was also a sauna. The passengers were a strange mix: seniors, families, and working class Finnish youth (mostly males) looking to get drunk on duty free alcohol.

I may have sung "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the karaoke lounge.

Helsinki was very pleasant indeed. I wasn't there for very long, but I got a half-decent taste of what it's all about. It seems very livable, and there is plenty of water and green space. Very cool, but in an unpretentious way. The architectural mix is fun (19th and early 20th century), and was a welcome change of pace from Copenhagen and especially Stockholm. I encountered a lot of interesting bars, and some kickass music stores, where I ended up buying an album of Finnish surf music from the early 60s (I'm kicking myself for not buying the CD of Finnish do-wop classics). Mostly everybody I encountered was lovely. I was tired enough to butcher the Finnish word for "thank you" on three occasions, and each time the merchant apologized to me on behalf of the Finnish language. AWWWWWWWW! Finns are so cute and self-conscious!

I don't really have much else to say at this point.

This is my last day in Stockholm before flying back to London tomorrow and Toronto the day after. Or so says my itinerary: unfortunately, the ash cloud looks like it will probably screw this up completely. I told my Mom in an email that I should probably make it to London tomorrow night, but now I'm not so sure. Either way, it seems likely that at least one, if not both, of my flights will be disrupted in some way. We'll see. Come on north winds!


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