Ferry across the Baltic Sea

The next morning I caught an early train to Stockholm, to meet with my ferry to Helsinki.

Due to upgrade works we were to catch a bus for the first part of the journey and then transfer to train. This was my first brush with what seems to be a common thing in the UK too - people taking their dogs on public transport. A girl a few seats in front had a little pocket dog on her lap, and was telling it to be quiet.  Successfully too, to my surprise.

We arrived in Stockholm in the afternoon, with time for me to buy something for dinner at the railway station. Here I found my credit card was no longer working and there was a message on my phone for me to contact the bank. Having hardly any credit on my phone, and still using a NZ number, I went hunting for a pay phone I could use to call Visa. Turns out there are no public phones that will allow you to do that. And none of the shops had a landline I could borrow - they all had mobiles that charged for or couldn't make the call. So I thought I'd just have to wait till I got to Sanna's house and ask to use her landline - till then I had to get by on the cash I had on hand.

I dragged my now ridiculously heavy bags along the street between the railway station and the ferry terminal. I'd had to buy another bag in Vietnam to carry the suit I'd had tailored, and as a result had accumulated a number of little extra things on my way that equalled strained hands and shoulders.

I'd decided to catch the ferry instead of flying because it was an awful lot cheaper, around 45 Euro for the trip plus the night's accommodation.  I'd caught a ferry ten years ago with Sanna, from Helsinki to Stockholm and back, and remember it being quite pleasant - a world away from the Interislander experience! After being on board a little while I realised it was the same ferry, or at least the same design, as the one I'd been on ten years ago!

I was in a four person cabin with a woman from America who loves travelling in Europe, and lady from somewhere in Scandinavia who wanted to move to warmer parts of southern Europe and wears a wig because it is easier to do her hair every morning! Cosy, but after a couple of weeks in hostels it wasn't a problem. I greatfully grabbed a shower ate my takeaway dinner and headed out to enjoy the entertainments - on a budget.

The programme said there was an orchestra on at 8pm which sounded worth going to.  It was only 6pm, so I paid for the cheapest sweet item in the cabinet at a cafe and took a seat inside to read my book for a while.  Avoiding the glares from the other patrons who walked past looking for a table.

Just before 8pm I went to the front of the ship to find the orchestra, only to find that 'orchestra' was a bit of a misnomer - it was a five piece band playing covers from the 50s to the 80s with a European accent. Nevertheless, I ordered a hot chocolate and took a seat in the top circle to watch. Next up they played Johnny B Goode. So cheesy, so oddly retro in a run down, perhaps previously glamorous, but now just tacky, theatre.

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The sun began to set while I was watching the entertainment, striking the polished brass columns in the theatre and glowing on the walls.



Through the night we travelled from Stockholm via Mariehamn (11.30pm) on the way to Helsinki (arr 9.50am) - apparently this detour allowed the company to sell duty free in the shop on-board.  Given the length of the queues, I'm guessing this was an important part of their business!  Though given the price of meals on board (30 Euro plus for a smorgasboard dinner) I'm sure they were making plenty from us in every way possible.


On my list to do before I come home again is to take the ferry to Tallin in Estonia, part of the former USSR.  The city is said to be very beautiful and have a large proportion of medieval buildings. The Christmas market is also said to be gorgeous.

After a night's fitful sleep we arrive in Helsinki.  I had booked the buffet breakfast (at around 15 Euros I think) but there was an awful lot of food. I packed myself like a camel and prepared to disembark. Only to remember that Finland uses Euros, and have to unpack my backpack to get to the wallet in the bottom that had the 50 Euro note from Markus and Christine (thanks so much guys!).






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