You make me smile

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July 4th 2008
Published: September 30th 2017
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This is "Iron Boy", a tiny little statue that local grannies knit tiny little caps for. Locals also rub his head for good luck.
Geo: 59.3327, 18.0645

Before leaving the hostel this morning, had a quick chat with some of the bunkmates. Some guy from Michigan and some girl from Vancouver who is currently studying in Leiden, in Holland. There was another girl with a Scottish flag on her backpack, but turns out she's actually Swiss. Funny because I didn't think she looked Scottish, but didn't think she looked Swiss, either! She's headed to Helsinki, too, but is flying instead of taking the night ferry like I am. Anyway, that was enough human contact for me - I've been in a bit of a solo mood lately.

Off to the Cathedral - pretty blah stuff. The same was true of the Nobel museum - they did have one slightly interesting exhibit called "Design 4 Science". Things viewed under an electron microscope were either presented as art, or were the inspiration for other artwork. Since I still had some time left to use my Stockholm Card, I popped over to the Royal Armoury - another blah sight. A pretty crappy day so far, I must say!

Still with some time left, I popped over to the treasury - boring. Some of the crowns that the nobility wore looked

Cool carving of St. George and the Dragon, inside Storkyrkan (Stockholm's cathedral).
more like the cardboard ones you get from Burger King, than anything regal. Next up was the Mint - blah again! I would never go to any of these sights under separate admission, but since it's covered ... I think today I set a record for most boring sights in the shortest time period.

I had some time to kill before the changing of the guards - I chilled down by the harbour, listened to some music, and munched on some macadamia nuts. Mmm ... honey roasted ... Did some quick shopping at the Galeria mall, near Sergels Torg - I needed some more shorts because I expected much cooler temperatures in Scandinavia, and really didn't bring enough.

Back to the Hotorgshallen food market for lunch - I was VERY tempted by the middle eastern deli that I saw yesterday, but again ended up having the fish soup. I can't get over the amazing taste and value at this place and again, can't get over how I ate until I felt like puking. Damn included refill!!!

Did some quick browsing along Drottningatan again, and headed back to the hostel to pick up my bag. It was time to catch the bus to

Neat double staircase inside the Royal Palace.
the harbour for tonight's Helsinki ferry. Kind of annoying - the bus pulled into the bus stop, but it had absolutely nothing identifying it as being the correct bus, and the driver said nothing after he pulled up.

I noticed that my backpack seems fuller and heavier, but I have no idea why. It can't be accounted for, because the only thing I've bought so far is that pair of shorts today, and I've actually used quite a bit of body wash and lotion, etc.

It took forever to get on the ferry - there were computer problems so we all stood around for quite some time. Friggin' hot in the terminal! I finally made it on board and realized again that I'm no longer a cruise fan. Swedish and Finnish people use this cruise as a big duty-free shopping/drinking excursion, so the ship is nothing but a giant shopping mall. The prices in the on board restaurants actually weren't that bad - they weren't really gouging, so the prices were pretty in-line with what you see on land. But don't think that I am suggesting that the food is affordable, because it's still very expensive.

The captain announced that

At the mint - the world's largest coin.
there were over 40 nationalities on board today, but I've read that in general, over 90% of passengers are Swedish or Finnish. There are actually two ferry lines that do the cruise but I went with Silja, the more expensive cruise line, because my railpass gave a discount on a cabin bed, whereas Viking only gives a discount on passage. Of course, with Viking you could save because you don't need to have a cabin, and can sleep on a chair, deck, or wherever. Silja actually was running a promotion that gave me an even better price than the railpass discount, so I have a bit more to spend on food now! I would've preferred going on Viking if I could've gotten a cheap cabin bunk - they're more of a budget line, so there would be more backpackers than on Silja, where it's all families.

"Up Leon", a circus troupe from Brazil put on a pretty low budget show - I have to cut them some slack because it was geared more towards kids, but it was still pretty cheesy. It improved with some acrobatic maneuvers, but I found the contortionist portions to be a little disturbing ...

I went

The girl at the reception desk in the Royal Armoury was offering a free souvenir book if you filled out a questionnaire. I have no idea why I bothered, because I really didn't want the book, and it would just be extra wait that I would have to carry around for the next month. Oh wait ... I remember why I took it, now - I'm Asian, and am always looking to scam! Speaking of which - I tried to steal the pen (I always lose mine), but she casually asked about it as I was leaving. D'oh!
back outside for the sunset - very cold and windy. It was quite a strange sunset, almost like a double sun. The sun actually disappeared for a while, and then re-appeared. I think there were some clouds right on the horizon, and the sun must have disappeared behind them. Then the clouds shifted and the sun re-appeared, only to have the clouds shift again, splitting the sun in half and making it look like there were two suns, just before it finally set. Does that make any sense? Either way, it was cool! And I don't know if it's because I never looked before, but you could really see the curvature of the Earth at this far northern latitude.

It was probably the most memorable sunset I have ever witnessed. As I watched, I repeatedly listened to one of my favourite songs from the past two years, "You make me smile". And it certainly did ...

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Chilling down at the harbour ...

They sure have a lot of Spanish restaurants in Scandinavia, but why are there never any Spanish women in them???

Amazing fish soup, the sequel.

The cabin in the ferry to Helsinki- I was disappointed to find that I was the only person staying there tonight. Secretly, I had hoped that the other three bunks would be filled with the three Spanish senoritas from the hostel in Oslo, and that they would all offer to scrub my back for me, or have a pillow fight. Or both!

I bought these pants over a year ago in Belgium - they fit quite well when I bought them, but I seem to have put on some weight since and they don't fit any more. However, with the amount of walking I do while traveling, I knew that they would eventually fit again - finally, they did! It's interesting to note that even after buying these pants, they didn't seem to fit as well at the end of the Belgium trip, after all that beer, chocolate, and Belgian waffles ...

A Tale of Two Cities - I picked up this book two years ago in Croatia and still haven't finished it, despite taking it with me on three other trips since. I found the start to be incredibly boring, and just haven't had any interest in continuing to read it. I don't know why I keep carrying it with me ... I should just eat it, since I can't afford to buy food in Scandinavia anyway!

These are some of the upper decks, where you can find lots of cabins and amenities.

This is the lower deck where I am staying, where you can find the cheapest cabins on board. Notice how there are absolutely NO amenities? This desk is actually below even the car deck!

The rest of the ship is actually done up pretty nicely, but not the cheap deck! It's about as basic as can be. Notice the shopping cart? Maybe homeless cruisers stay on this deck, too! That might explain the bad smell ...

El Capitan, the steakhouse on board - if you're going to give it a Spanish name, you should really have some Spanish senoritas working there!

Dinner was at the cheapest option on board - a cafeteria. A turkey wrap, stuffed with bell peppers and lettuce - not bad, but not great. I also had a big piece of chocolate cake with strawberries - the cake was quite dry and too sweet. It was an OK meal - I could've done better because there is actually an impressive selection of restaurant types and prices on board, but didn't want to spend any more than I had to. Tapas, seafood, high-end French, two cafeterias, and even a famous Swedish smorgasbord - tempting, except when you looked at the prices!

Found some pear cider for sale in the liquor shop - score! Definitely not as good as the stuff you find in the Baltic states, and also a lot pricier - 2.50 Euros for a 0.5 litre can! And this is supposed to be duty free! I drank it on the deck outside, watching the the world go by. The scenery is quite nice, but is kind of boring after a short time.

Disgusting Finnish salty licorice - I remember very clearly the first time I sampled it. One of my friends had brought some to the office and gave some to another friend. I remember hearing him complain about it in his cubicle, complaining about how disgusting it was and asking if he could spit it out. I joked "Man, he just gave that to you and you're complaining about it? It can't be that bad - let me try some." I like black licorice - but as soon as I tasted it, I said "Holy crap, you're right - this tastes like ass!" I held out a bit longer, however - the saltiness seemed to come in cycles. It would go away after awhile, then return, go away again, only to return once more. I finally gave up and spit it out, too.

Mmm ... chocolate with nuts ... I used some of my remaining Norwegian Kroner the other day to get some. A good use of money!

They had a big Playstation lounge on board the ship - I'm surprised they didn't charge extra for it.

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