Iron Maiden, 24 hour sun, and a whole lot of crazy Finns

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July 20th 2008
Published: July 24th 2008
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We checked out of the hostel in Tallinn early and walked to the port to catch our ferry for the short two hour crossing to Helsinki. The boat was essentially one large duty-free mall! We arrived around 930 am, and hiked to our hostel which was a good ways from the port. The hostel was a university dorm during the year, but a hostel in the summer so the rooms are all self-sufficient. We didn't have a lot that we wanted to see in Helsinki so we did things leisurely. We first went to the Temppeliaokio Kriko, which is a church that is dug into a rocky hillside and much of the rock is has been left exposed within the church. It was cool walking around it because it was nothing like any other church we had visited so far. We then walked past the Kiasma Museum of Modern Art, which looks like a giant Nike swoosh, the angular Alvar Aalto design Finlandia Talo and the opera house before returning to the train station to book tickets for the rest of our journeys in Finalnd. We bought some food afterwards and chilled back at the hostel.

Our next day in Helsinki saw us visit the island fortress of Sveaborg which was built by the Swedes on several islands out in the harbour as a defence against the Russians during the 18th century. It didn't work. It was dun to wander around the fortress and see the massive walls and guns still very much intact. Also, the massive ferries that ply the Baltic pass through a small channel between it and a neighbouring island. We got see to one of these ships go through the narrow channel, and then we saw how strategic the fortress was. We headed back to the harbour after the fortress and we walked around the sites that were adjacent to the Kauppatori (fish market). The Russian Orthodox Uspensky Cathedral was cool, as was the massive Lutheran Tuomiokirkom, the latter being the symbol most often associated with Helsinki. After our walk, we made dinner and chilled at the hostel.

We woke up nice and late the next day because we knew we were taking it leisurely. We had already seen everything we wanted to so we revisited some sites after checking out of our hotel. One of our new high lights was the Finnish Museum of Architecture which showcased, ofc ourse, famed finnish architecure. After we walked around the fish market again and some stores and souvenir shopping. We waited for the night because we had our last night train, this time to Rovaniemi. The night train was called the Santa Claus Express, but a little more on that later.

So we woke up in Rovaniemi and had showers (the train had showers on it, it was pretty cool). So we walked along to Hotel Santa Claus, where we thought we were staying. We chucked our luggage in their left luggage room, and headed 8 km north of Rovaniemi to to Napapiri, which is where the Arctic Cirlce Marker is, as well as Santa Claus's office. We arrived there and took some photos of us crossing the line in various fashions. It was the furthest north that either of us had been so it was cool from that aspect. Then there was Santa Claus. He lives at the North Pole, but keeps an office in Napapiri. That is where all of the letters that are addressed to Santa go. He and his helpers actually answer over half of them. But if you got a letter from Santa and it didn't have the official Santa Claus postage stamp on it, then it is a forgery! The area is essentially one large gift shop, but you can meet Santa if you want, and Kif did (it was awsome). There was also a large forest service tower that you could go up and the views over Lapland were stunning from up there.

We went back to Rovaniemi, and went to Arktikum, which is a museum about (not surprisingly) the Arctic. It was really cool and had many exhibits on animals, the Sami people, Inuit, the Aurora Borealis, and a bunch of hands on things that you could play with...I mean observe and discuss in a manner befitting adults. After the museum, we went back to the hotel, only to find out that we were actually in the hostel which was 5 minutes up the road. We hiked there but the key wouldn't work so Peter went back to the hotel, sorted everything out and then hiked back to the hostel. Any distance is a hike now with the weight of our bags. We then wandered around the town; Peter went off to the forest and then to see some Alvar Aalto buildings while Kif stayed in Lordi Square, which was named after the 2006 Eurovision song contest winner. They dress like monsters and play heavy metal, but the still one the contest with their recording breaking vote count! That night, we walked out on to a bridge to watch the midnight sun. We caught it in what we are referring to as a "grey zone". We are not entirely sure if the sun had completely set by midnight, but we are not sure if it stayed above the horizon. Oh well, it was really bright out regardless.

Another early morning followed as we had to catch a train at 715 am in order to get to Tampere in southern Finland for the Iron Maiden concert. The train was full of Iron Maiden fans heading down for the show. They were all dressed in there black Maiden shirts, and had some of the longest hair that either of us had ever seen. Also, they were drinking...and drinking...and drinking. Most of them started around 10am or so. With a mixture of the fans and alcohol, it was quite an atmosphere upon arrival in Tampere. We didn't really have a place to stay, because every single hotel room in town was booked, so we tried to put our stuff in the train station lockers. They were full, so we went to tourist info to try and figure out what to do. Peter went to a fancy hotel across the street and managed to sweet-talk one of the staff members into letting us put our luggage in their left luggage room. Problem number 1 was solved. Kif had managed to sweet talk the tourist info staff into getting us space at the campsite in town so Problem 2 was now solved. Those were really the only two problems so there was nothing more to do but go and set up our tent (Marcus's tent actually) and then grab some food and head to the concert. The concert was AMAZING!!! There were 30,000 people in their (28,998 crazy Finns and 2 crazy Canadians) rocking out for a good 3 hours. Some of the Finns passed out due to a combination of cheap alcohol and sunlight, so part of the floor of the stadium was a little like one massive bedroom. The place almost errupted when "Fear of the Dark" came on. We headed back to the campsite after the show and had a great sleep in the tent.

Did we say great sleep? We meant absolutely terrible sleep from hell. It was a 2 person tent, and Peter is one and a half people so it was a really tight squeeze. We also didn't have blankets or pillows so we used sweaters or backpacks as pillows. Then there was the cold. It got very cold at night there and neither of us were prepared so we were basically curled up in little balls, trying not to touch the sides of the tent that were wet from all the condensation that develops in a poorly ventilated tent. We checked out at 6am, after about 4 hours of sleep between the two of us combined. We wandered through Tampere, saw a couple of the sites and then caught the train south to Turku, Finland's former capital and oldest city. We stored our stuff, then wandered around town past the church and the catsle, all in an effort to kill time before we could get on our ferry. We finally got on the ship around 8pm, and had a relatively quiet night as a result of the craziness the night before.

We arrived in Stockholm at 6am, and took the metro to Centralen so we could catch a train south to Malmo. We did some sight-seeing there, including Santiago Calatrava's beautifully designed building called "The Twisting Torso". Picture Arthur Erickson's new one going up in Vancouver, but way cooler. We wandered past some cool statues as fountains, before heading to Lund to see the domkryka. We returned to Malmo and caught a train back to Copenhagen, where we had started our trip 92 days earlier. We stayed at a hostel which was right downtown and close to the train station. We went out and met up with one of peter's former profs, Mads, at a bar. We all hung out there for a while before heading to another bar. Kif and Peter then headed back to the hostel, but neither of them wanted to go to bed so they headed to Rosie McCool's. The bar itself isn't stunning, but it was the first one they went to when they were in Copenhagen at the beginning of the trip so it was a nice way to end things.

They got up early the next morning and took the train out to Kastrup airport from where they flew to London. Peter lucked out and got the emergency exit seat! We then had to kill 5 hours in Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which wasn't too bad because there are 50 inch tv's screen everywhere. We finally boarded our plane after watching 3 hrs of the BBC News, which was full except for the seat next to Peter so he managed to get space on both flights! We arrived in Vancouver after a decent flight, culminating in great views of both Iceland and the Coast Mountains near Vancouver. Both sets of parents didn't forget about us, we were wondering if they might or not, and thus ended our 3 month odyssey in Europe.

There will be pictures posted shortly, basically as soon as Peter can finish the editing of over 1200 photos!

What we learned in Finalnd:
-"Scream for me Tampere. Scream for me Tampereeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!"
-Finnish is an "odd" language
-Skanska (a Swdedish dialect) is just as odd a language as Finnish
-The word "kiitos" works for just about everything in Finnish
-Santa Clause is real and has his office in Napapiri
-Our trip was amazing!


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