Friday, August 26, 2011

Suomi Finland Tourkele part 3: It's Time To Cross The Ocean

8/1 - Helsinki

There are probably other things to do in Helsinki between noon and 4 pm on a Monday, with a 30-pound pack strapped up, but I wasn't able to discover them in time. So I hiked for the water, which got a little complicated, but I ended up in an ok place, lacking only beer, which I had no way to carry, and a harmonica, which I should have remembered to grab at Guitar Center or something before I left. Oh well.

198. Wing on a private development.

199. Mural behind a gas station.

200. Up the street to the Lutheran cathedral.

201. Finally out of the wire. The panorama should help with the feeling of openness that you get after hiking past half a klick of security fence around the ferry terminals.

202. Tank atop a hill on the far shore.

203. Island and barge in the channel.

204. East shore and impressive sky.

205. Over to Suomenlinna.

206. Naval academy at Suomenlinna.

207. End of the security fence.

208. Sky over some roofs.

209. Just a calendar shot. The difference between summer and winter here, when the bay's presumably frozen, must be particularly violent.

All in all, things are looking pretty good. I saw a bunch of stuff, shot good pictures, and didn't burn up too much notebook space. I also got a much better feel for my camera: the focus isn't always the greatest, and panorama mode is a little finicky, but the low-light mode rules. We'll see how it does under festival conditions, but things look promising so far.

210. Freight lighter or something.

211. Fireboat? with a squared-off bow.

There's not nearly as much traffic, and the scenery is about the exact opposite as regards natural/artificial balance, but the general idea right now is the same as whenever I had to kill time in HK.

212. It's not just the black spar sticking out the front of this ship; the engine was making an ominous noise as well.

213. Sailboat, mast down, just drifting with the waves.

214. Crossing between posts that mark the channel. The geology being what it is here, any ship that hits an underwater obstruction at any speed is at significant risk of turning into one itself in short order.

215. That ram-beaked ship from 212 coming back, carrying a truck, which makes it look slightly less threatening.

216. Zodiac flying the naval ensign; probably cadets, but you never know.

217. Seaplane coming in towards Helsinki; not sure I've ever seen one of these live before. Unfortunately, this completely didn't come out; that blot in the sky is the plane.

Time really flies when you're watching the water; only half an hour till I go down to the terminal, whether to get checked in or to grab a few beers at the gas station and wait on the gates actually opening.

218. Tug dragging a dredging rig. Not just the scoop, but worker container cabins and a signaling mast as well.

219. Car queue for the ferry. The boat in the background is from a different company; the line to get on the Viking liner goes on for another block and a half.

Boarding was pretty well-managed, with less of a pileup than at Oslo last year. After managing the crush inbound, it was down, down, down, nearly to the car deck, to come to my berth.

220. Most of the cabin. Those who've seen Aeturnus' immortal film of their tour with Deicide that never was will recognize this level of accommodations. I could have saved significantly and just gone in for a single bunk, but I have far too much gear to impose on up to two strangers like that.

221. Rest of the cabin. The halls are as small as the rooms, so it'll be a little tricky getting out at Stockholm in the morning. It's a good thing the cheap train's not till noon.

Plan is to hang about until we're underway, then go up and get dinner, hit the duty-free, then probably get drinks and take pictures like last year. Nearly all of this trip will be within sight of land, so there should be no shortage of subjects, whether or not I happen to be topside when we stop at Marienhamn at like four in the morning.

222. The upside to paying for three times the berths is that you get three times the discount booze tickets.

In general, ferry dining sucks. There are too many people trying to get into the same restaurant, which has its entry directly on a corridor that's under use by other people, none of whom have any idea where they're going. I gave getting dinner a pass for the time being, and concentrated on pictures and duty-free stuff.

223. Third angle on this island.

224. Back into Helsinki along the track.

225. Down into Suomenlinna.

video3: Rounding Suomenlinna.

226. Looking back at the fortress.

227. The sun reflecting off the ocean. This was a contributing factor in there being fewer pictures; our track was obviously pretty much straight west.

228. Out over the archipelago.

229. Eastern shore receding.

230. Islands to the east.

231. Lighthouse off the port bow.

232. Over the archipelago back towards town.

233. Closer look at two more interesting islands.

234. Seascape panorama; I was trying to get the two UFO-tower-thingies obsessed over Sunday, but had to scan the camera too far.

235. Closer look of the islands and city.

236. This trip's haul. Quota, check; PET bottles, check (both festivals still under Glasverbot); conversation piece, check; ethnic identifier, check. Lass'ns fei'rn!

I wrote this up in my room, but won't be staying long; I still have to eat (and potentially exploit my booze tickets) and I'm located right by the engine room. This, also, is training; can't sleep at festivals if the thrum of a drive shaft will keep you up.

So it took about half an hour to get a beer and a prepacked sub from the cafe. Why? Because there was only one line, and most customers were ignoring everything else in favor of the meatballs and potatoes. Since this is a ferry service between Finland and Sweden, you'd think that someone'd've figured this was a choke point and fixed it. Nope; issues with supply of meatballs and potatoes accounted for nearly all of the latency. So, of course, instead of screaming at people, I gunned my Lapin Kulta (the original Golden Stream of Lapland), chomped through my sub -- note, green peppers kick ass on ham and cheese -- and sketched up a two-path solution in the available space. FUCK YEAH I'M AN ENGINEER. There's 99+% probability that it'll get crumpled up and tossed -- I left it drawn in a weird mash of English, Swedish, and Finnish on a napkin -- but we all live in hope of that natural 20.

237. Actual route map.

238. I came up on deck at exactly the right time. Lighthouse to the south.

239. Island chain back to the east.

240. More islands to the north. We're hugging the Finnish shore.

241. Further out to the south, probably bound for St. Petersburg.

Dunno how much I like this deck bar; the dude tending bar is too sharp to take another coupon for a lingonberry gin and juice, and they're spinning chillout house rather than having DIY live performances of random country standards. But if you don't end up in da clubb at some point, you haven't really visited modern Scandinavia. Lord Est and Sentenced not only require but create each other; when you deal with winters like there, of course you want to party like a motherfucker as soon as you can take your coat off.

242. Himmelsströmen.

243. Tanker sitting just out of the channel.

AAAWnaw they do tuna on pizza here too. Off the list! License feckin pulled!

As nice as the discount is in theory, the drink at hand isn't really worth spending another 11 euros total on to use it. After I polish off this non-discounted one, it's probably inside to grab some snacks, then downstairs to pair them with duty-free Heineken, then doze off.

244. More ships, on our same heading.

In the duty-free shop, it's pretty transparent how poorly the ban on cabin drinking is enforced. Everyone in line's got like four cans/bottles of loose potables, practically yelling out, "screw getting judged in the disco, Imma drink with my friends/alone, in my own space, at my own rate". Me too; delicious Tirolean sausage and passable Dutch beer will see me through the night and into the new day.

Q: Isn't it depressing, drinking by yourself in a 7-foot cube with no windows?
A: If that depresses you, you suck at life; I'm in my fourth decade, and there's 3 or so billion people in this world who'd kill to make it that far, even drinking alone in a 7-foot cube. Life may be pain and piss, but it's a hell of a lot more interesting than the alternative.

My lack of packing skill continues to frustrate me. Even though the plan was to recharge the batts for the camera on the ferry, so I could shoot ceaselessly in SKM and on the coastal train if needed, the charger and the adapter were both buried, and in different pockets. Was I drunk or something this morning? No, just dumb, as usual.

Other than that, I'm all set: alarm set, change out, maps and timetables pulled, breakfast even sort of organized. Tourist part's over; from here out, it's all transit to festivals.

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