Saturday, August 15, 2009
Jim compared them to Rochester's Skycoasters band. Most of their songs were in English, but none that I recognized. When they took a break we went to another stage where we heard a group that described their music as Finnish retro soul. They were OK.
We returned for Pickadoll's second set and thoroughly enjoyed their music and were sorry when they didn't come back for a second encore.
Our third band was described as Danceable's Electro Techno Kraut, and I did not enjoy their music at all~ although at first they were very entertaining to watch. We left after their first song because I did not like the feeling of their hard-driving beat, taking the place of my heart beat in my chest!
We then walked to a third stage, where by far the largest crowd had gathered and we heard alternative psychedelic rock, by a group from Mexico City. We didn't hang around here too long either.
But we were out and about for Stockholm's night life! One funny thing that we saw was at one of the stage sites, there was a large tent set up that had the word "Sauna" on the outside and all these people on the inside wrapped in towels! These must have been the transplanted Finns! Another thing that we saw but didn't really understand were all the posts and wires that were decorated with hand-knit wraps! And I'm not talking about small scarves here, these were major projects decorating the performance areas.
After a late night, we tried to sleep in, but that is not a skill that we we're too good at. But we had plans for today anyway and were ready to get on the road (or in this case, water).
We boarded a small ferry boat for a trip through the archipelago to the small island of Vaxholm.
Since the archipelago is a what makes Stockholm Stockholm, we decided to visit one of the islands a bit further from the actual city. The trip took about an hour and we arrived about 11 AM.
We spent most of our time walking around the small town and on a nice coastal trail. Early in our walking we discovered a small restaurant right on the water that was away from the main shopping area, so after working up an appetite, we returned to this place for a simple lunch and entertainment provided by passing boats and kids swimming in the harbor area. Here are a couple of photos from our time on Vaxholm.
Tonight we will be spectators at the annual Midnight Run, a 10K road race through the streets of Stockholm in which 21,000 runners participate! Jim looked into how to enter, but the entries filled up on July 8th, so we will cheer on the runners tonight. Fortunately, the race starts at 10 PM with the post-race festivities lasting well-past midnight. Actually the race goes right by our hotel and we will have a window view of all the action.
Then I guess we will pack up our stuff because we have a 1 PM flight outta here tomorrow! Of course we need to take a subway and a bus to get to the airport, so we will get an early start to make that all happen.
So from Stockholm, hey!
Hope all is well.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Today we arrived back in Stockholm which marks the beginning of the end of our Scandanavian adventure.
Yesterday ended up being a beautiful day for our planned bike ride and we made the most of it. The bike rental shop was about a mile away, so a nice walk started our day. We were outfitted with 3 speed cruiser-type bikes and a bike map of Helsinki. We ended up riding about 34 kilometers. Helsinki is another town, like Stockholm that has been planned with bikers in mind. There are many trails through parks and most roads have a designated bike lane or a marked spot on the very wide sidewalks. We loved exploring Helsinki in this manner!
Our route took us along mostly coastal paths and roads so our water view was always changing. There is a photo across one of the harbor areas where the boat we would board later that day awaited us.
We supplemented our PB&J lunch with some fresh strawberries from the market. When we decided we'd had enough biking, and our time was running out, we headed through a high traffic area and I was a bit concerned about riding our bikes through all these people. But not to worry, there was a wide bike lane with its own traffic signals!
After returning the bikes, we walked back to the hotel where we claimed our luggage from their storage area and decided to walk to the ferry terminal. We wanted to get there in plenty of time so we could be checked in before Jim had to make his 4 o'clock phone call. There was a nice waiting lounge so while he talked across the pond, I made some progress on my knitting.
Our return to Stockholm was on a different ship than the one that brought us to Helsinki. We still had a small cabin, but quite spacious when I compared it to my train cabin.
We stood out on the deck as the ship left the port area, wanting to watch as the ship made its way through a narrow passage between a rock and a hard place! The hard place was the island of Soumelenni, an island we visited when we first arrived.
We moved along to the lower decks after being sure of the safe passage through the narrow channel, because we had the 6:00 seating for the buffet dinner. After all the exercise we had that day, the choices on the buffet were wonderful. Also, this buffet has unlimited beer and wine to go along with your dinner. I did not really get my money's worth (according to Jim) because I only managed 2 glasses of wine, but Jim made up for my short-comings with 5 beers! Jim wants me to point out that they were small beers, and he is right!
After a decent night's sleep, we awoke to overcast and rainy conditions. We ate the breakfast buffet and then found a comfortable spot to sit near the windows so we could enjoy the cruise through the archapelago approaching Stockholm. The weather started to clear as we neared our port and the sun was out with just a few "Kodak' clouds around. We had a 15 minute walk to our hotel, which did not have our room ready at 10 AM (imagine that!), but has a luggage storage area where we deposited our bags before heading out on another Stockholm adventure.
When we were here 9 days ago, we bought a ticket to tour the palace, which included 3 related sites. We still had the National Treasury left to do on our tickets, so that was our first destination. At the Treasury we saw all the crown jewels. On the way out of the palace grounds, we saw an advertisement for a free organ concert in the early afternoon. When we figured out that the recital was in the Royal Chapel, we decided that would be a great way to spend an hour. But before the concert, we needed lunch and once again, the ice-cream shops with their homemade waffle cones were calling me! Life is good when lunch is ice-cream!
The concert included pieces played on the Royal Organ(?), and on a grand piano and it was all wonderful. We enjoyed the beautiful music while taking in all the decorations around the inside of the chapel.
After the concert we hustled over to a nearby church hoping to catch the 2 o'clock tour of their bell tower. We just made it and the tour was great! Our 2 guides were students studying to the Lutheran ministers and this was their summer job. As we climbed the 206 steps to the top, we climbed through history, starting with bricks and mortar from the 1300's, up to the top which was completed in the 1700's. We walked around on the outside of the tower (similar to what we did in Estonia) and were rewarded with wonderful views of the city.
We got checked into our hotel and while Jim went for his run, I walked around the area near the hotel.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I arrived back in Helsinki at 7 AM yesterday and after a shower and breakfast I visited a huge department store here in Helsinki called Stockman's. It took me 2 hours to walk around all 7 floors of the place. This store has a hardware department, pet store, flower shop, 3 restaurants, a grocery store, a liquor store, and a fabric and craft department to go along with all the clothes, shoes and home decorating stuff you might imagine would be in a large department store. It was pretty amazing.
I then had a leisurely lunch at an outdoor cafe before walking to the site of the 1952 Olympics. The highlight here was being able to go to the top of the tower that held the Olympic flame. Here is a photo of the tower as well as a couple of views from the top.
For all you runners out there, here is a photo of the legendary Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish runner who won many gold medals in his long running career.
I walked a few more miles, checking out the marketplace and harbor area before heading back to the hotel. Jim has typically gotten back from work between 4 and 5 PM, but then has an hour or more of phone calls back to the J&J crew in the USA. There is no need for me to hang around in the hotel room while he is on the phone, so it is a good time to do more exploring.
We usually don't know where we are going to eat dinner when we leave the hotel in the evening, and just wander around checking out the menus of the various restaurants and cafes. When the weather has been good, we've tried to eat at a restaurant that has outside seating, which is fairly common. Mom asked what we've been eating. We've had salmon a couple of times, but mostly pretty regular food. It has all been good.
On our walk home last night we stopped to hear these guys playing the marimbas. They were awesome, and seem to play on this closed off street most every night.
So this morning I was off to the town of Turku, via the train. Turku is a 2 hour train ride to the west of Helsinki. When Finland was ruled by Sweden, this was the capital. When the Russians took over, they moved the capital to Helsinki. After a stop at the Visitor's Info Center, I got on a bus for a 3K ride to the Turku Castle. Lots of history here considering that construction on this place started in the 1200's.
Turku is built up on both side of the Aura River, which flows into the Baltic Sea.
After my return bus ride I crossed the river and walked to this Handicrafts Museum, kind of like the Genesee Country Museum. In 1827 most of Turku burned to the ground, with the exception of this cluster of homes and businesses. In the early 1900's a decision was made to refurbish this area and turn it into a museum and it is very well done. There were 7-8 people in various parts of the museum demonstrating their crafts, including this woman who was making lace. She had 44 pairs of bobbins that were intricately woven back and forth, while pinning the lace work open on a roller. You can see part of the lace piece that she has completed. It was fascinating!
Several of the homes had grass roofs, which looked to be thriving!
One more sightseeing stop before heading back to the train station and that was to see the Turku Cathedral. Don't have a lot of details, but another old building, with a long, rich history!
By now it was after 3 PM and I was starving! Turku has a branch of the Stockman's department store and stopped in hoping that they had a bakery and that they made these soft pretzels that I tried yesterday from the Helsinki Stockman's. Sure enough~they had 'em, so I bought 2 for my lunch and they were tasty!
My train back to Helsinki left at 4 PM and it was an easy way to travel. During my train travel today I got most of the heel done on my second sock.
Our pre-dinner wandering tonight reached a new high! We walked almost 3 miles looking for a place to eat! And then we ended up at a good Italian place less than a half a mile from our hotel!
Oops~ don't want to foget to tell you that I participated in another Finnish custom, that being the sauna. Saunas are everywhere and it is part of the Finnish lifestyle. Our hotel has a sauna so last night I decided to give it a try. Couldn't convince Jim to go. There were separate men's and women's sauna and I was the only one in mine. There was a sand timer in my sauna which I flipped over as I entered and I lasted about half of the recommended time, about 7 minutes. I think I would have died if I stayed in there for 15! I took a cool shower when I got out, got dressed and returned to our room. I didn't feel all that great when I returned so I don't think I will go again tonight. I guess the sauna is something you have to get used to! Mercifully, there are no photos from my sauna!
Tomorrow is a bike riding morning around Helsinki, rain or shine and then we board the ferry back to Stockholm tomorrow night.
Hope all is well!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My train left Helsinki at 9:24 PM on Monday and I had a berth in one of the sleeper cars since I had 13 hours on the train, most of those during my usual sleeping time. Here is a photo of my cabin.
I was assigned the bottom bunk and my cabin mate was due to get on the train in Tampere, a stop on our route around midnight. I did some knitting and looking out the window until it got too dark, (11 PM!), enjoying the new scenery. Logging is big business in the north of Finland and I saw several trains full of logs going to a mill. Finland is very flat and the central part has lots of lakes.
It was all very interesting and I am very glad that I stopped. An architectural feature of this museum is the very large and imposing glass tunnel.
So I will spend the day exploring Helsinki on my own and try to do some laundry.
Thanks to all who sent congratulatory comments to Jim!
Hope all is well.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
After spending some quality time up top, we continued our adventure by walking down all those stairs.
We spent the next 3 hours wandering the narrow streets, and marveling at the view around each corner and through each arch. There were unique churches on every corner and in the main market square. Many of these buildings date back to the 14 and 1500's. Enjoy these scenes.