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November 25th 2009
Published: December 24th 2009
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Immediately after entering Finland from Russia, the bus conductor came around collecting boxes of cigarettes that everyone had bought in duty free - there was clearly some kind of money making scheme going on! He couldn't communicate with us, otherwise I'm sure he would have tried to get us involved! It did explain all the counting of passengers before we reached duty free - making sure he got the full allowance!

Our bus arrived in Helsinki at about 5am whereby we were moved from the back seat onto various double seats, so that the bus conductor man could lay out on all five back seats - cheeky! Without much question, everyone on the bus just slept right there on a stationary bus. Us foreigners had no idea whether or not we were at our final destination, or why we might have stopped, but we followed suit and slept there for a couple of hours! Still dark, at about 7am everyone just got up, and went out into Helsinki! Darkness and November in Helsinki, are good friends - there are only about 6 hours of daylight each day. So, at 7am we trekked in the dark to the 1952 Olympic stadium
The Old MarketThe Old MarketThe Old Market

A lovely place to go for lunch and for a stroll
which was home for the next two nights, and there we had a proper sleep in a proper bed for a couple of hours! (the interruption of customs at the Russia-Finland border meant that we didn't get much sleep on the bus).

Having been (awake) in Helsinki for a few hours we went walking and found the adorable market place by the harbour area. It is quite small, but full of lovely stalls selling fresh bread, fish, reindeer and other typically Finnish goods. An added bonus was that was it was indoors, away from the cold and rain. There were a couple of eateries inside as well, so we decided it was time to try reindeer! Our Finnish friends on our Mongolian trip had told us this was a popular Finnish dish, so we had to try it! We ordered all three reindeer dishes on the menu, and the lady laughed as I got to the third order, so I felt compelled to explain that we had just arrived in town!! Rudolph turned out to be quite tasty!

Another tip from the Finnish was to go to an ice hockey game. We went to see the local team ''Jockerits'' vs the ''Pelicans'' and it was great fun! The locals got very involved with chants and flag waving. At first we had no idea what was going on and struggled to keep up with the fast paced game, but we soon got into it! I was so impressed with the skill of the players. Their skating skills alone were incredible, yet on top of that they are chasing a tiny black puck around, braking hard, skating backwards, and attacking other players. Sadly our support for the local "Jokerits" didn't help them win the game, but as tourists we'd had a fantastic time!

On a slightly gloomy day, we took a fifteen minute ferry to Suommenlinna, an old fortress that has been used by the Swedish, Finnish and Russians at various times over hundreds of years. We walked around in the rain, which was a shame because in the summer I expect it is a beautiful island to stroll along. We spent a lot of time just walking around in Helsinki which was a nice way to take in the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the city. Finland seems to be a very friendly and obedient nation - you wouldn't even consider jay walking across a road!

One popular refreshment we learned about from our Finnish friends whilst in Mongolia was "Fisu".
Here's how to make Fisu:
-Open 700ml bottle of Vodka
-Insert 3 packets of original flavour Fishermans Friends
-Shake vigorously until the Fishermans friends have dissolved (vodka turns brown) and voila!
It might sound a bit odd, but try it!

It's a very refreshing shot of vodka! We enjoyed some home made fisu on the cruise ship from Helsinki to Stockholm, and it tasted just as good as the stuff sold in bars. (Also, instead of leaving you with smelly sambuca or tequila breath, you're all nice and minty!!)

The cruise ship was a bargain at 45 Euros for a four person cabin overnight, en suite, below the car deck. We saw a brilliant singer perform parodies and explored the large boat, although it was very cold and windy out on the deck. It was a good journey and a nice change from trains and buses!

J x

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