Travel To Vaasa

Trip Start May 10, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Flag of Finland  , Western Finland,
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Andy's 40th birthday today. Now that is really hard for me to believe but his mother says it’s all true.  He is a good son, husband and father.  We are proud of him and love him very much.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                We are on our way to Vaasa for the Vaasa Choir Festival.  I understand there will be 30 or so choirs or choruses participating plus numerous other ensembles including the well-known King Singers from the United Kingdom.  Today seems to be a great traveling day, overcast and very mild temperatures.  We had a very good breakfast at the Bible Institute.  There were 2 porridges, one white (maybe rice) and the other like oatmeal (probably was), the usual sandwich makings of sliced ham, turkey, swiss cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, several types of bread and rolls, cold cereal like corn flakes and rice crispie, bananas, oranges, apples, yogurt, etc.  We paid about $225 for our stay at the Bible Institute, quite reasonable for 3 nights and the meals we consumed.

There are very tall trees everywhere we go, whether in the city or the countryside.  We just went through a major construction site on the highway.  Again the construction was in solid rock.  It looked like they were digging down at least 50ft.  The roads are decent but the bus suspension system seems to be a bit lacking as the road imperfections seem to have a big effect on us because we sit so high off the roadway.  There is a fence all along the highway.  I asked why and they told me it was for the moose, lots of moose.  Every once in a while a series of commercial business, auto dealerships, warehouses, ect seem to all by themselves.  I am sure there is a town around it but somewhere but you just can’t see them from the road.

Everyone seems to be a bit more rested each day even though we are darned tired at the end of each day.  We were waking up at 1:00-3:00am due to the time change and the fact that there is only 4-5hours of dark each night. We will all probably just get used to it just to turn around and go home and go through the same process all over again.

We are traveling through the countryside again.  There are some open areas but very little ground under cultivation.  Again I think there is a severe lack of topsoil here.  Much of the tree area has been cleared of underbrush.  Of course the highways are grass-lined and dandelions are everywhere.  In the city we saw great patches of daffodils alongside the roads.  Markku is doing a very good job as tour guide and translator.  It’s very convenient to have a Finn as one of our group.

We just made a pit stop at what I would call a Finnish truck stop.  The whole facility was designed on an arc – the building is long (probably 300ft) and narrow with a gift shop on one end, 2-story restaurant with a large buffet and convenience store and mini market.  The fuel dispenser layout and canopy also followed the arc of the building.  For those interested, the fuel pumps were Wayne.  They offered diesel, E05 and E10.  The building also had a basement where the WC’s (water closets) were located.  There was also a playground out back with some short walking trails and a small pond.  We all dropped a few euros  for the local economy on peanuts, candy, ice cream and water.  We just passed a big IKEA production facility.  I don’t know what that is but Linda says Katie and Amy like it.  I am sure they have sign regulations but they must be much different than ours.  They have small and large malls with the back of the building towards the highway and huge signs and logos covering the back of the buildings and some tomes well above the buildings.

One of the ladies in our group, Nancy, who was also on my previous trip to Russia keeps an interesting record of the trip.  She carries a small, handmade(paper and binding, etc.) diary.  She prepared the book ahead of time by taking the itinerary, looking up tidbits about the places we are to visit, cutting out segments of maps, etc.  She then makes small sketches and little notes and marks to record the trip.  She is a good artist.  At the rest stop she gathered little bits of flora so she could add little sketches.  She must have learned from the Lewis and Clarke Expedition J.

Finland is reportedly one of the richest nations in the world.  They have a pretty low unemployment rate and good incomes.  They would have to make money because the pricing we have seen is pretty high.  An ice cream cone (one scoop) costs 2.8euros, fuel is 1.7euro/liter, etc.  I booked a hotel for our return from Russian before we come home at $147euros.  The current exchange rate is about 1.38dollars/euro.  We’re seeing a few more farms now.  Nancy has a map that shows the land masses under cultivation.  Finland has a little more land that can be farmed than some of its neighbors.  She said this is probably why the Vikings invaded because they had used up all their ground.  From her map I can see why other nations invaded places like Estonia and Latvia, as their land is much more conducive to growing crops.

We’re also seeing more lakes now.  Minnesota advertises their 10,000 lakes.  Finland advertises their 100,000 Lakes.  The area is very green as most areas are this time of the year.  The landscape is rolling hills, pockets of evergreen and birch, farms, and lakes – very pretty!  The bus has a GPS that signals with a cow moo every time he exceeds the speed limit and a cow bell when he approaches a camera.  They have cameras placed along the highway that takes convenient photos and sends you a ticket for speeding violations.  I agree with Markku in that the cameras would probably all be target practice in our country.  They are very obvious.  Markku says there are trout, pike, walleye and other species in the lakes and the fishing is great.  If you own property on the lake you can use traps of all kinds and you can have 3-50meter nets.

Power is generated by burning natural gas but also wood – scrap, stumps and pellets.  Birch trees are a big part of the economy.

We arrived safely in Vaasa.  I say safely because the bus we were on was a pit.  We learned that the driver had been assigned to a new bus but the bus got a hole in the windshield so they made a substitution with a bus that had the shock absorbers or some other component in the suspension haywire.  Every time he made a slight correction with the steering wheel, even on a straight stretch, the bus would sway back and forth.  Some in the back of the bus were starting to get woozy.  I felt like I had sea legs for 3 hours or so after we got off the bus.  We were uncomfortably warm for nearly the whole trip.  The driver said the AC was going full blast.  We finally convinced him he had the heat on but we still didn’t get much relief until I was able to pop open the vent windows in the top of the bus.

Our first stop in Vaasa, literally, was at the local assisted living facility.  We sang our set for the group and they were very pleased.  We were able to visit for awhile over coffee, tea and sugar doughnuts.  I always enjoy watching old folks light up when we sing for them.  A great way to finish our travel day.

The hotel is very nice but quiet small.  The Finnish architects have made very good use of their space.  It is sort of hard to describe but they have a small sofa and the way they make the sofa functional is to allow the sit-down desk portion to slide over the other part of the desk so you can sit at the sofa.  Like I said, it is hard to describe.

This bathroom has an enclosed shower with a cool corner door closer mechanism.  You have to insert your room key (card) into a slot to turn the lights on.  When you leave the room, you remove your key, which turns off all the lights and the TV after a minute or so.  You also have to insert your card once you are in the elevator to get it to move.

Long post but I had nothing better to do on the long ride.
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