Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Heaven in Helsinki

The Finns love their summers! Even almost two months past the summer solstice, the daylight stretches well past 10pm here as the sun hangs on the horizon. Maximizing our time and the sun and hopefully warding off the impending jetlag, we noshed at an outdoor table bordering the plaza at the central train station. The conversation pauses were long and comfortable as Scandinavia lends itself to people watching. The demographic is quite homogeneous, with brunettes perhaps making up the biggest minority.

Ricardo turned the BIG 3-1 today! So what better way to celebrate than hit up the club that boasts it is the biggest in Scandinavia? The bartenders hooked him up with a faux plastic ice cube which flashes brilliant colors in the mixed drinks. Unfortunately, our batteries went out before the flashing cube and we had to hit the sack at the hostel. Since we were so tired, it almost didn’t matter that the beds fit almost like belt sizes. I think we both ended up with a size 36 waist bed… just enough for one half turn in the night.

With a refilled tank, we hiked around the central city tracking the Lonely Planet recommendations. The main park = lush. The fish market = tourist trap with tasty paella. Kiasma = cool, but overhyped. My favorite, errr, most memorable exhibit was an artist attempting to capture wind. She used time lapse photography coupled with a laser light attached to the end of the branches. She separately attached a pen to a branch and strategically placed a canvas at the tip. Creative? Yeah. But I probably would’ve prefer to seen this “masterpiece” at an middle school back to school night.

So one friendly recommendation before you travel out here: get your pockets sewn up. Nope, not because of pickpockets. It is because you will have lots of change. I had four coins in my pocket and realized that it was roughly $12 in change. If I come back, I’m bringing a metal detector to their parks. Speaking of, we my new Lasik eagle eyes I found a bill worth around $8. Why is found money so exciting??

And, almost as fast as an HBO Entourage episode, our time in Helsinki was up. We had an overnight ferry ride to Stockholm from Finland, which I figured would be fairly demure, even on a Friday night. WRONG! Turns out one way to celebrate a weekend is to do a 24 hour bender by doing a roundtrip on the Silja Line from Finland to Stockholm, then returning. The rallying cry for the night was “International Waters.” For example, when we were deciding to purchase either a flask or a liter bottle of duty-free Vodka… International Waters!!! Full liter. When pouring the first RedBull Vodka (RBV), should we pour a 3:1 RB to V or a 2:1 ratio??? International Waters… 1:1!

I’m not too sure what time I got to bed, but I do know that the cleaning lady woke me up. It was a bit disconcerting that the two other guys in our 4 person shoe box were already gone. But it actually takes quite a bit of time for 2,500 people to stream out of an ocean liner. We made it out and we were now in Sweden … navigating to Stockholm is another story.

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