A Travellerspoint blog

Cruisin'

sunny 25 °C

Finland is covered in lakes and many of them are connected so you can travel hundreds of miles throughout the country in a boat. Sanna and I took an 8 hour boat cruise from Hämeenlinna to Tampere in late June. About half the journey was along a narrow river and the other half was across some large lakes up to 10 miles wide. Here is the boat we were on:

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The cruise boats had room for 100 people but for some reason on this day there were less than 10! Sanna and I were happy about that.
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I took many pictures of the waterfront cabins and other boats so here are a few of my favorite:

I like this guy's cabin cruiser. I love his hat.
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The original pontoon party boat.
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This is a sauna barge! You can tow it behind your boat!
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Finnish people love saunas and they are often social places where friends get together for evening relaxation or pre-parties.

Some buildings are old. Others are new...
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A few of the nice little cabins.
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Not the nicest building but check out the dock.
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Since Finland has many islands along the coast and in the lakes its common for people to own them. Some crazy people even build summer houses on them!
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The bridge on the left went to his second island.

After so much cruising Sanna was tired and took a nap. (She is actually asleep here!)
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The end.

Posted by mrwallac 11:20 Archived in Finland Comments (1)

Towtruck of the Sky

sunny 25 °C

Some sunny afternoons we see gliders high above our house. I decided to visit the small airport they call home to see what I could see and had a great time. I met a pilot who explained to me the details of flying a glider and showed me on the map where they are allowed to fly.

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The gliders weigh only about 600 pounds and they actually add water to make them heavier. On a good day like this they can stay up indefinitely and go hundreds of miles!

I also met the tow plane pilot who happened to be a young Canadian guy. Six days a week he tows up to 40 gliders to a couple thousand feet. Finland is the third country he has done this in. He does it for a few months in each place and then travels around with the money he saves. Cool! We chatted for awhile and he let me stand on the runway and take pictures while he tookoff. He said he would let me know when there was an open seat in one of the 2 seat gliders so I could catch a ride sometime soon!

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He looks like he ate something sour but actually I took the picture while he was talking.

Many people rent the gliders from the airport. This woman is paying 25 Euro an hour for the best glider. Can you see her parachute? Where does she put her hand luggage?
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Up up and away!
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Posted by mrwallac 10:09 Archived in Finland Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Random Happenings

sunny 20 °C

It's been another month in Finland. Wow these things go fast. Summer has been kind to Finland with lots of warm weather so I am damn tan. In addition to my standard days of reading, studying and sunning with Sanna, lots of little things have happened in the past month and I have taken pictures of some of them:

We took a day trip to Tampere where Sanna's sister Heidi lives. We had a picnic with her and her boyfriend next to one of the many large lakes that surround the city.

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I didn't take many pictures of the city during this visit but instead I mainly took pictures of this girl who kept jumping into my shots:
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One recent sunny afternoon a giant bee got in the house. Not just your normal giant bee but the type that come from movies that can carry away small dogs. This thing was HUGE and sounded like a motorcycle flying around the house. I put on all my winter clothes including gloves and hat to fight the monster. After carefully orchestrated teamwork (now? NOW!!!), Sanna and I got the bee into a box and outside.

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That's right folks, 3.5cm (1.5in) long! We looked it up online and it was a queen Yellowjacket looking for a big meal before building a nest and starting the super colony of your nightmares!

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Every Thursday there is a motorcycle gathering at a nearby cafe so I snap pictures as they go by.

This guy is cool:
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But this guy is cooler:
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Sanna's uncles own a nearby farm so sometimes we visit to see their new puppy and play with their toys like their Russian military vehicles, their tractors or their boat.

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The Finnish military tank training center is nearby and we visited their museum. One fact I like is that the Finns captured hundreds of Russian and Nazi tanks during WW2 and then used the tanks against them. You could even climb on some of the tanks! Yay! (Yay cool machines not Yay instruments of death)

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Speaking of animals and tanks here is one of nature's tanks which rolled through our yard:
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So those were some random things in the past month. Some more exciting things happened too (planes and boats and a large fire are involved) which I will post in future blogs.

Posted by mrwallac 00:08 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

What Is Finland Like And What Am I Doing?

sunny 24 °C

So what's it like in Finland and what am I up to you may ask? Well for the summer I am staying with my girlfriend at her parent's place since they spend most of the summer traveling in their motorhome or chilling at their summer cabin. The house is on a country road about a 10 minute bike ride from the nearby town of Turenki which is a 45 minute drive north of Helsinki.

I came here knowing it would be difficult to work so I decided to make the most of my time by studying various subjects that I am interested in while Sanna is at work. Most of my study time goes into learning more about business, investing and the Finnish language. I’m not sure which one is the most difficult because Finnish is a tricky language. Do you know how to respond when someone asks you where sähkönkulutusmittaristo is? I also read about photography since I recently bought a new camera. I thought I knew a thing or two about taking pictures….I don’t!

Sanna and I have both been sick multiple times since I got here in April so we haven’t had many opportunities to travel. That hasn’t been a problems since its been so nice to hang out here enjoying the natural surroundings and exploring the local area.

Spring is here so everything is growing like mad in the nearly 19 hours of sunlight per day. I actually go to bed before the sun does! Here is Sanna's parents' house and gardens:

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Sanna's parents plant tons of vegetables. Here you can see me being very helpful:
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You can also see the neighbor's house in the background.

Here is a picture I took of the neighbor's shed while playing with my new wide angle lens and polarizing filter. Excuse the oddly blue sky. Do you see the butterfly?
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There are lots of birds around like this colorful pheasant:
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Lakes are everywhere and most of them have public docks and swimming spots. Since the weather has been so nice Sanna and I have biked to a few of them.

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The nearest city is Hämeenlinna which has this cool 13th century castle on the river
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Don't the windows look like a face that wants to eat passing people!

Speaking of eating people, this is Sanna's supercute nephew Eeli. If you ask him where his tongue is he will show you!
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Posted by mrwallac 22:06 Archived in Finland Comments (1)

The Volcanic Ash Cloud Mailed My Bike To Estonia

My flight to Finland was through Dusseldorf, Germany on April 15th. The flight to Dusseldorf went fast since I sat next to a French lawyer who recently quit her job in Paris and opened a bakery in Miami beach with her brother. My layover in Germany was nine hours so once I got there I checked my stuff into the airport baggage check and took the train into the city center. It was a nice day so I walked around taking pictures. Here you can see the nice waterfront along the Rhine river:

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There were also these awesome buildings by Frank Gehry:

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after walking for hours I had to get a German lunch. (Beverage not pictured)
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Overall I enjoyed my day wandering the city and it was worth leaving the airport to kill my long layover.

A couple hours later and I was sitting at my gate in Dusseldorf airport waiting for the flight to Helsinki. They made an announcement that the flight was delayed and I thought it was no big deal. Lots of people were on their phones but that's normal in an airport right? Fifteen minutes later they announced the flight was canceled and we were to go to the Air Berlin ticket counter. WTF was it canceled for? It was a sunny Thursday evening! I didn't know what was going on and followed the crowd to the Air Berlin desk. Why were some people running? It was not until I joined the MASSIVE line that I overheard people talking about a volcano. I had no idea there was a volcano erupting! I started talking to people and finally got the story. Man I wish I had a smart phone and it worked in Europe but I had neither. An hour or two later when I got to the front They told me I was booked on another flight the next day and that they gave me a free night stay at the Hilton. Sweet. This ain't so bad.... I dropped my bags and bicycle, yes a bike in a box, at the bag check and headed to the hotel. There I met up with the people I was talking to while waiting in line and we discussed the situation. Will we fly tomorrow? Will we never fly and have to find another way home? Some people were panicked. Not me. No big deal. I can wait a day or 2...

The next morning we found out our flight to Helsinki was canceled again. Then myself and my three new friends got more nervous. We all spent the next hour online reading up on the volcano and looking for other ways to Finland. It was so hard to know if the flights would go soon or not. Some websites said no. The airlines said they would update things later that day. I decided to stick around another night since it would not be easy for me to take all my bags and a bike on a train or bus. One woman who was with us was desperate and said a group of Finns were going to take a van taxi to Finland! That would be more than 24 hours of driving! Do their meters go that high?

We went back to the airport, waited in line, got free food, and were booked on another flight the next day. I think I was on German TV. There were people laying everywhere and film crews were all over it. That woman and some other Finns left in the taxi. Now the group was me, Gary and Mervi. Gary is an artist/photographer from Canada who grew up in England and has lived in Finland for the past 20 years. Mervi is a Finnish waitress who was on her way home from working the past 4 years in Bermuda. We headed back into town and found a hostel.

The rest of that Friday and Saturday I spent confident that the planes would fly soon. I explored the town more and got to know Gary and Mervi. I spent some time reading about the volcano situation and checking online for other ways to Finland. Trains and busses and ferries were all full for the next few days. It finally sunk in on Sunday that I would not be flying to Finland. I waited in line at the train station for hours with hundreds of other stranded people and bought train tickets to Stockholm for nearly $300 that did not depart until Tuesday. Damn that's expensive! If I could get to Stockholm then I could take a ferry to Finland. I then walked to the bus station and found out there are bus tickets to Stockholm on Wednesday for more than $150 less so I bought those. Then back to the train station to cancel the train tickets. The bus station lady had said to come back the next day to see if spaces had opened up on an earlier bus.

Monday morning I went back to the bus station and found out there was space on a bus leaving that afternoon. Mervi and I bought tickets. Gary decided to take a different bus to Estonia and try to cross into Finland that way. Now what to do with my damn bike. I wish I never brought it. I went to the airport and got all my bags and bike out of the bag check. $100! WTF! It seems like everyone was profiting from my misfortune. My plan was to ship the bike to Finland. With Gary's help I got all my stuff on the city train and we went to the post office.

WHAT!? The bike box is too big to ship to Finland!!? WTF am I supposed to do now? They won't let me on a full bus with all this crap! Oh, I can ship it to Estonia? I think I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who lives there. An hour and a few phone calls later my bike was on its way to someone I didn't know in Estonia. I guess I will have to take a trip to Tallinn...

Mervi and I boarded our bus to Stockholm. We planned on 24 hours of (not) fun. We only got 2. Had to change buses. Then we got another 6. Time to change buses. At midnight we were standing at a bus stop in Hamburg Germany with 40 other Swedes and Finns all trying to get to Stockholm. Finally our bus showed up...FULL! It was already full of people going to Stockholm. They oversold the bus (and at an inflated price I might add). Panic overtook many people standing on the curb. There was a rush of people past the driver, yelling, pushing and soon the bus was full of people standing who demanded to be taken to Stockholm. Extremely lucky for me, Mervi was one of the first on the bus and claimed two of the very few empty seats for us. I put our bags under the bus and pushed my way to our seats. The bus driver tried to clear the people standing in the isle but no one moved. He had to go get security from the bus station to do it. After the people were cleared and bus tickets checked a woman ran onto the bus with a crying baby and pleaded with people to give up their seats! Seriously. No one moved. We pulled away from the bus stop and watched 30 pissed people fade into the Hamburg night.

All that took time. Now we were late. Guess what? Rookie bus driver! We got lost multiple times and people would go to the front of the bus and loud arguments ensued. Where was the GPS you many ask? He had one but he didn't know where the gas stations were that he was required to go to. And then there were those times we got lost due to road construction... We drove the bus onto 2 ferries to cross from Germany to Denmark and Denmark to Sweden. Skipping a few rest stops we made it on time to Stockholm the next afternoon in time to catch the 16 hour overnight Ferry to Helsinki.

The ferries are hug cities. There are shops and shows, restaurants and bars, pool, nightclub, and even a barber. I took a bed in a dorm room for $40. I have actually taken this ferry before. I really enjoy the view because the boat winds through hundreds of islands, many of which have little summer cabins on them. For a picture of what I am talking about check out this old blog post of mine: http://mikerwallace.travellerspoint.com/18/

Here is my artsy shot from the ferry:
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FINALLY IN FINLAND!!! 24 bus hours, 16 ferry hours and 6 days late I arrived in Finland! My lovely girlfriend Sanna picked my up and it was time to start living in the country of a thousand lakes (187,888 to be exact)!

Where is my bike?

Why don't I see any ash in the sky?

Posted by mrwallac 01:13 Archived in Germany Comments (4)

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