tiistai 24. tammikuuta 2017

Trip To Finland By Land & Sea (Part 2)

You know how some smells just belong to certain places? The crispy December morning that our ship arrived to the Vuosaari harbor, I knew I was home. I knew it already from smell of the air. The incredibly bad coffee we had had on board had already informed us that we were approaching my dear motherland.

Our schedule was packed all the way from the first day until the last one. I had to get directly from the harbor to an other city called Lahti to attend my driving licence course. In Finland the driving licence is unfortunately passed in three parts and I still had to finish the two last ones. Luckily I had found a driving school that would arrange me to pass the last parts in just three days. Buuut this meant that right from the beginning I would have to sacrifice so much time on something else than being with my family and friends. Well, duty is duty. What marks still this holiday in my mind is the incredible, painful, tiredness! We didn't waste time on such things as sleeping!

We certainly spent our time efficiently, but we were not quite prepared to just how short our time in Finland would feel. Already a few days before having to get on the ship again, we found ourselves really sad. I'm not in general a homesick person, but this time I can really say that I had really missed being in my own country. How easy it was to communicate and how natural everything felt. Of course I did discover also the things that annoy me about Finland (non existent customer service, people don't talk to each other, nobody says hello etc..), but it is still where I come from and despite of everything; the place where I have my roots.

The eleven days we spent there were wonderful and made us determined to come back at latest the next summer. 

So we started our journey, descending slowly back from the north to our southern home. We stopped for New Year in Strasbourg. Of that stop I just remember the cold that had been eating me alive the whole day (the cold of southern Europe has nothing to do with the north's) and the hunger. Our New Year's eve was pretty much us two on the streets of Strasbourg looking for food. To our surprise everything was closed (security measures?) so finding something to fill our bellies was a kind of a mission. Finally, we found a restaurant that was fully booked for the evening, but allowed us to eat outside. They had heat lamps and blankets so we accepted since it seemed like our only chance to have something to eat that night. Eventually other desperate tourists joined us for a freezing New Year's eve meal on the terrace. But everybody was on a good mood and we were happy, we were back safe in France. When we arrived to Strasbourg, we noticed immediately the change of the common mood compared to Germany and Finland. People smiled to strangers on the streets and treated each other with more politeness.

Next day we hopped on the TGV and were back in Avignon by early afternoon :)

maanantai 9. tammikuuta 2017

Trip To Finland By Land & Sea (Part 1)

Kukkuu!

We have been back in France from our trip to Finland about a week now. That journey ended up taking me into some very deep waters even though it was amazing to visit my homeland again. Even now that we are back I have a strange feeling that things are taking the direction they are meant to take, but the end result will surprise even me. Am I making any sense?

Our trip to Finland took some time as we had decided to cross Europe by land and sea. We took a TGV train from Avignon early morning which took us just until Frankfurt. I must say that during this whole trip I wasn't really able to enjoy the public transport because of the fear of possible attacks. I think everybody was nervous around Christmas. It is always so heart breaking when you hope that you are afraid for nothing and...then what you feared and expected takes place (like in Berlin and later in Istanbul). I don't feel care free anymore when I travel in Europe or when I go to big events in France. But I am happy that France is really doing its best to make people feel more and more safe. Police is very active and visible everywhere and during any kind of events. Even in grocery stores there are more guards and they perform check ups of people entering.

Well, enough about that.

What made me feel also gloomy and thoughtful was the common atmosphere that I experienced in Germany. I have visited the country before and I don't remember remarking this kind of absolute coldness in the air. When we arrived to Frankfurt and were waiting for the next train we were treated only rudely and this attitude continued just until the harbor of Lübeck. Me and my husband both speak a little bit german, but I expected that at the terminal of Finnlines I could at least have service in english. I hardly received even a "hello" from the front desk staff and after few seconds it was clear we weren't going to speak english. I was baffled by the minimal amount of service she provided us. We were lost looking for the shuttle to the ship for a good time until we found the place. When we found the spot, there was no information on when the transport would arrive etc. Well, we were quite amused by the situation and the rudeness we were constantly handled with, but also after being on the go for about 15 hours it was also not that funny anymore. In France politeness is valued so much that this change of atmosphere was quite a culture shock. I remarked that the the more north you go in Europe the less small talk or basic politeness you should expect. This goes for Finland also unfortunately.

So after about 15 hours of travel through France and Germany we made it on the boat. My husband and I had opted to not take a common cabin in order to save some money. I was in a female berth with three beds and he was in a male one. We both ended up having one roommate and we were both having some great conversations in our cabins. I was with a retired finnish woman who lives most of the time in Germany and my husband shared his cabin with a finnish man who works in Germany for the European commission. He was what my husband and I jokingly (but respectfully) call a man of fine feelings. You know, someone who is a bit of a renaissance man and on the top of that has impeccable manners and a good heart. In the end of the trip he shook my hand and said: "You have a very intelligent man here". Do you know how rare a compliment like this is from a Finn?

Story of our trip shall continue soon!