Day 87: What a night

Trip Start Oct 17, 2013
Trip End Mar 22, 2014

Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Sunday, January 12, 2014

I had to post yesterday before the real adventure began. We had three uncertain things about last night:
1. Would the bus driver let us ride the bus with the Eurail?
2. Would we be able to find the train station in Tornio, and would it be a warm place to wait?
3. Would the train show up in Tornio?

The bus showed up to the station in Sweden right on time. It was a nice new bus that had two levels. Even though we were about the 20th people to board, two of the front seats on the top level were still open. We got great views of the road while we were driving along in the cold. There were signs for Moose crossings, but we didn't see any. Turns out that our first point of concern was not even really a concern as the bus driver never asked to see anyone's ticket. I was ready with the Eurail the whole time but I could have just as easily never had one at all. 

We were expecting the bus to drop us off at a station in Finland in a town called Tornio. The bus actually pulled into a station on the Swedish side in a town called Hapranda. We had looked up how to get from the Tornio bus station to the train station earlier but we had no real idea of how to get from the Swedish side to the same station. Luckily there were maps in the deserted Hapranda bus station. We had exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes to make it from point A to point B. 

With only going off route once, we made it to the train station in 40 minutes. (Note: this is our second country boarder crossing by foot and not by choice). It was not a nice walk though because the temperatures were well below zero and then the wind kept blowing and blowing. At least there was a pedestrian path the entire route. The moment of truth... would we have to wait for the next 40 minutes out in the cold or was there a station? As we approached the dimly lit station area we were greeted with a hut. Three sides made of glass, a roof and a bench covered in snow. No warm place at all. For the next 40 minutes I walked up and down the platform to keep warm and to pass time. Eventually other passengers showed up and we breathed a sigh of relief knowing that there would be a train tonight (or maybe we were all just confused)

At the scheduled arrival time of the train, there was no train. An announcement came on the speakers and said that the train would be there in 15 minutes. Sure enough, at the exact moment our toes were about to freeze off, the train came chugging along. It was a diesel powered engine (actually there were two engines at the front). We climbed on board and took two seats in a section that was empty and warm. The engine started up, lurched forward, shook for a few seconds and then stopped. This pattern repeated itself for about 45 more minutes and then there was silence. Something would not let the train move forward. 

This might have been a problem for us if we weren't too busy looking out the train windows at the Aurora Borealis! That is correct, John and I were able to see the Northern Lights for a few brief minutes. The green swirls moved around the sky so quickly and beautifully. It was so amazing to actually be able to see them. We thought that we would go home without any sightings even though the night was perfect for them. We saw one large green light move around for about a minute and disappear. We also saw several other smaller rays (I don't know what you call them) that did not move around as much. We didn't see anything like what pictures of the Northern Lights show online and in books, but we did see something. Sorry there are no pictures from us, it was too hard to get the camera to focus through the window of a train and we didn't want to take our eyes off of the lights. 

After the light activity died down and the conductors had given up on the train, we both just curled up and went to sleep. I was just hoping that they would not kick us off the train. John later told me that the train left the station a little after midnight (about 2 and a half hours behind schedule). We slowly made our way down from the north and into Helsinki by about 11am. 

In Helsinki we tried to check into our room but they wanted to charge us a 20 euro fee. Instead we stored our bags for free and had a little wander around the city. We are taking a ferry tomorrow and went to see if we could get tickets. With the Eurail we were supposed to get a nice discount on a certain ferry. We went to that ferry and they told us that starting tomorrow the ferry would be out of service for 10 days. What rotten luck.  We do have a plan B for the ferry but we have to wait until tomorrow to get tickets. Talk about last minute planning. 

In Helsinki we saw some neat stuff in the short time that we wandered around. Our first stop was to a large brick building with a copper roof up on a hill. We somehow entered the basement first and then left because it felt like we should not be down there. Upon entering the correct entrance we saw that we were inside a Russian Orthodox church. We also saw Senate Square where the Helsinki Cathedral and Finland National Library are. On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the Parliament building and climbed the steps

Back at the hotel we were able to check in. We learned just a few days ago that this place came with washers and driers FREE of charge. Holler. We wasted no time in signing up for a washing slot. Oh clean clothes, you are so nice. Our room is nice and came with a little stove top so we were able to have a real cooked meal. For the past week or so it seems that we have only been eating on the trains. Once I finish this we will have some dessert and then sauna time. We have the sauna reserved for one hour. I don't know if I will be able to last that long but it will feel nice to be warm all over. We are both super glad to have a real bed to sleep in tonight.

# of countries: 26
# of cities: 62
# of planes: 3
# of trains: 129
# of buses: 16
# of taxis: 2
# of beers: 62 
# of monies found: 9.91 Euros, 8.05 Peruvian soles, 5 cents American, 10 cents Bolivian, 1 cent Canadian, 15 Swiss Francs, 11 Czech Republic Korunas, 5 Croatian Lipas, 2 Hungarian Fillers (no longer in use), 10 Romanian lei, 1.01 UK Pounds, 1 Ukrainian Hryvnia, 3 Danish Kroner, 22 Norwegian Kroner
# of times we did laundry: 4
# of languages we know how to say Butterfly in: 18 (Finnish - Perhonen)
# of holes in Amberīs sneakers: 4

Next stop: Crossing the water to Tallinn, Estonia
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Cheryl andPeter on

Hello Finland. So glad you saw the aurora borealis!even it was only for a short time. We are sure it was the view of a lifetime. Can't wait to hear what's next in Estonia!

We had a busy weekend, Saturday we went to Aunt Jan's and took her motorhome shopping, then had a nice dinner with her, Thule, Gracie and Duncan. Today we drove to NIAGARA fals to see the ice on the falls. It was chilly, but probably not as chilly as where you are! There's a new Evan post on the blog for you to read.

Love you both, keep warm and dry, travel safe. Stinky kisses from Gracie
Love dad and Cheryl

Josh on

I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the northern lights post - glad you saw them! I have no life

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