Day 28 - Helsinki

Trip Start May 20, 2013
Trip End Jul 05, 2013

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our last full day in the Nordic counties dawned (if that is the right word, here in the land of endless twilight) overcast but dry. We'd had a quiet night, although there was a point when we thought we had made a terrible mistake moving down to the seaside. A succession of boy racers pretending they were Jeremy Clarkson, bikers pretending their 250cc machines could really do wheelies, and young couples parking up and pretending they really weren't doing what they were actually doing, made this grumpy old man think we were going to have to spend the night in a bizarre Finnish version of a mix of Aberdeen's Beach Boulevard, the beach car park in Ayr, and the set for Top Gear. And yet, as if by magic, peace and tranquility fell over Helsinki as, presumably, the wannabe Richard Hammonds et al took their mounts back to mummy and daddy around the midnight hour.

The Sunday forecast was for rain, so we decided an early start for our bike ride round Helsinki was called for. Well, early ish. Cycling here on a Sunday morning was bliss. There isn't much traffic, there are plenty of bike lanes, and the bikes have their own traffic lights, so the chances of being squished by a tram are relatively low. Our first call was at the market at Kauppatori. As well as the usual tourist tat, there were fruit and veg stalls, arts and crafts, and people selling meals from various parts of Finland, and of course euro nosh for the unadventurous, or Americans as they are more commonly called. As lunchtime was approaching, we had some 'Lapland selection', which was basically reindeer, sausages, mixed veg and tatties, washed down with a traditional Sami drink of 'Fanta', all the while defending your meal from the predatory attentions of the local seagulls.

After lunch Alison bought a litre of strawberries, (You read that right. They use a litre measuring jug, and fill it up with fruit) and we continued our meander round the Finnish capital. The furthest we got was the Temppeliaukion kirkko or Rock Church which is carved out of the solid rock. However, this being Sunday, the church was closed.

By now the clouds were building and we decided to expedite our return to the mother ship. We pedalled like fury down the bike lanes and along the empty pavements. We believed this was legal, as everybody does it. However Alison was berated by a local lady who told her in no uncertain terms that nobody over 12 was allowed to cycle on the pavement. Alison thanked her for the information, explained that getting the regs for cars was easy, but difficult for bikes, so you tended to do what everybody else did. At this the lady mellowed somewhat, apologised for the weather, expressed surprise that Alison had pedalled all the way from Scotland, and wished her a good holiday.

In what is becoming par for the course on this holiday, we got back just before the heavens opened. Actually it would have been better if we had made it a couple of minutes earlier, but we missed the main downpour. As consolation for the truncation of the bike ride, Alison issued 500ml of strawberries each. Very nice they were too.

From the warm and dry of the bus, Alison watched the dinghy racing in the bay. She was most impressed at the skill of the crews of the 49ers competing for the Audi trophy. The wind had strengthened and was gusty, so capsizes were common.

Me, I just sat and listened to my phone in iPod mode, and contemplated why, if a country of 5 million people has high quality free health care, an old age pension from age 60, extended maternity and paternity leave, world class free school education with a free school meal everyday, free university education, and proper social security, and that country is called Finland, then that is quite normal. But if that country is called Scotland, then it is something that could not possibly be afforded, and those that advocate such things are hopelessly naive economic illiterates. What could possibly be the difference? Answer on a postcard to that nice Mr Darling, the abominable no man. (Rant over)

In late afternoon the rain stopped and the sun shone briefly. Alison got on her bike and pedalled off to the super loo. I accompanied her to upload a few photos on the free wifi at a wee coffee kiosk. Tasks completed, we pedalled back along the sea front, just before another squall hit us. It keeps you fit, this dodging showers in Helsinki.

After tea, our last meatballs in the Nordic countries, and possibly the last before IKEA Braehead in due course, I wandered down the slipway near the camper to check if what I had read was true. Yes, by dint of sticking my forefinger in the water and sucking it, I can confirm that the Baltic is salty, but not very. Brackish, I believe the term is. I can see now why it is so fond of freezing in the winter.

Mileage 3427 (unchanged)
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Maggie on

What is a super loo?

magicbus1 on

See picture on Day 27, or come to Helsinki with a 50 cent coin and find out for yourself.

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