We started the day off by waking at around 05.00 hours. The train for Tampere would depart at 06.30 hours. Basically enough time to get to the station but I had figured on walking there which would take something of an hour, so there wasn’t much time to linger.
Since Merja still had some packing to do I had mentally changed our plan to the next train. By 05.55 hours she decided that we should go by bicycle and thus we started off. Within 5 metres this proved to be a disaster: 2 people on a bike with 2 heavy backpacks and the one sitting on the backside of the bike not having enough room to sit due to the size of the pack of the one in front. I took the bike to the station and Merja hitched a ride. She was at the station waiting for me and we still had 10 minutes to spare, so in other words it had taken me only 20 minutes to get there fully packed. We just had to be on this train since Merja’s son would be awaiting us in Oulu where the train was due at 09.12 hours.
During the trip to Oulu some elderly women and a man were already annoying us with their loud chatter so early in the morning, we had figured to sleep at least until Oulu. I slept all right but Merja kept waking to the people’s talks.
The train arrived in time in Oulu and we had 18 minutes to spare before departure time and during which we were to find Merja’s son. While Merja walked towards the station via the tunnel underneath the tracks, I walked beyond the adjacent train and saw him walking from the station towards the tunnel, he saw me as well, and pretty soon they both walked up the stairs towards our carriage. We were off to Tampere at precisely 09.30 hours.
We got off the train in Tampere at 14.46 hours after having spent the day chatting, eating the huge breakfast Merja had made the previous evening and reading in Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur. Tampere had been on our minds as a place where we might spent the night camping out in the wild. It was unfortunately so disgustingly big, noisy, full of cars, people and smog and the annoying sign at the local branch of Stockmann, Finland’s largest department store telling us that it was only 160 days 9 hours 12 minutes and 20 seconds, 160 days 9 hours 12 minutes and 19 seconds, 160 days 9 hours 12 minutes and 18 seconds to the Third Millennium.
From the centre we walked along Hämeenkatu towards some scenery at the other end of the town. We sat ourselves down on some benches overlooking the Särkänniemi amusement park, which looked significantly bigger on television than in reality. The Näsinneula observation tower would have given a gigantic view of the whole Häme region but since my money hadn’t come in yet we just ate some sandwiches and enjoyed the view from below. We decided to go on towards Hämeenlinna, the region’s capital and just under an hour’s train ride from Tampere. The train left from the station at 18.00 hours and we arrived in Hämeenlinna at 18.45 hours.
The cleanliness of Hämeenlinna’s railway-station was the first thing I noticed. It also looked just renovated, but there wasn’t a single piece of garbage lying around and no evil-looking men drinking from obscure bottles from plastic or brown paper bags were to be seen here. In fact hardly anyone could be seen here. We checked out a town-map inside the station and walked about 4 kilometres Northeast to Aulanko Park. Along the road we couldn’t help but notice the overall cleanliness everywhere around us.
We needed water and took it from a tennis-park close to the park. In fact we had had the park to our right hand side for some time now but continued onwards to be as far away from the town as possible. Just before the hotel and golf-park we turned right and made our way into the woods via the portal of an old castle, which was now being used for summer-theatre performances. We walked straight past it up and up and up until we came upon a small lake, which according to the map was called Joutsenlampi (Swan’s pond) and made our dinner on one of the surrounding benches and tables. The coffee, bread and cheese and 2 packs of noodles tasted remarkably good after a whole day on the road.
The park is artificial and modelled in Central European style with small ponds, pavilions and exotic trees if one could call Eastern Siberian trees “exotic,” they were huge though. After dinner we made our way further into the woods and made camp not too far from the Joutsenlampi.
At around 11.00 hours we packed up and made our way back to Joutsenlampi for a brunch. We had seen a few people enjoying the vicinity of the lake the day before, but we were not prepared for the enormous amount of them that we saw when we arrived there now. Cars were parked on the one end and lots and lots of people were walking around the pond disturbing our peaceful brunch. But all right, it was Sunday after all.
Unfortunately there are one-way car-roads around the park and one can thus reach rather deep into it by car, as many seem to do. Even though we had slept quite far away from the regular roads, passing cars, during the previous night’s rest once in a while awaked us.
We followed one of the roads closest by and came upon a car park, after having already passed one at a nearby pavilion. From this one everyone seemed to be walking along a steep road up towards some restaurant. We followed this road as well and quickly realised what all the fuss was about, the restaurant wasn’t the main attraction, a viewing-tower was and a –free– view over the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley and river below. Here we stood for a while and watched the beautiful scenery.
To the right of the viewing platform stairs led down into the valley. Heavy backpacks strapped tighter on our backs we descended along the stairs which were interrupted at regular intervals by platforms with benches and some even with tables in order to enjoy yet another view of thick forest, rocks, bushes, flowers or simply to take a rest from either coming down or climbing the stairs.
The weather began to change rapidly, we had already seen some dark clouds coming towards us from the North and distant thunder was audible. Just before one reaches the bottom of the valley a shallow man-made cave emerges on the left-hand side. A statue of big stone bears –a female and some cubs– guard the entrance and the benches behind them.
The rain had reached us by now and it started to pour down upon us so we took shelter in the cave and while the storm was raging over we waited and waited. The rain changed from drops to bigger drops and even hail. I sort of washed my hair in the downpour ending up standing right in the middle of it. After that I laid myself down on one of the benches and read some Big Sur.
After a while the rain wasn’t much more than a drizzle and we hiked on into the valley along the road, which was of the “people-only” kind, so no disturbing cars here anymore. We simply walked on and come upon a cottage with a car road leading back to the hotel and golf-park.
Merja took her time in using the toilet of the hotel for refreshing herself. In fact it took such a long time that Merja’s son and I waited on the steps to the entrance of the hotel and sheltered there for quite some time for the rain that was pouring down again. Finally she came out and since the rain had stopped we decided to go on towards the centre in order to check it out and find a place for the night on the other end of town.
Next to the hotel is the art-gallery of one of Finland’s most famous living painter, Mr Juhani Palmu. Merja couldn’t restrain herself and walked right on in; waiting and waiting again. The gallery doubled as the honorary consulate to Haiti; perhaps this is where Mr Palmu spends a lot of his time gaining inspiration. My inspiration had to come from the nearby castle where I had decided to wait for Merja. When she was finished looking at the art we walked towards the centre via the railway-station.
Unfortunately it started to rain again and we took shelter under a group of trees underneath which grew –as everywhere else in this area– raspberries. I had taken on eating them whenever I found some and so the rain wasn’t too bad indeed. During our walks I was constantly bending over picking up raspberries.
After crossing the seemingly dead centre of the town we continued along the main street Raatihuoneenkatu in search for a shop that was open so that we could buy some more supplies. We finally found a local branch of Antila; a large Finnish department-store group and again we waited and waited for Merja.
While the rain poured down again we had a good look at the map and decided to walk towards the Ahvenisto Park area to the East of the centre. Upon arrival at this marvellous area we descended down towards a lake and the closer we came to it the more we liked it. We dropped our packs on the grass next to the sandy shore and enjoyed the sight of this beautiful clear and clean lake.
I made some coffee and tea and afterwards I couldn’t help myself but change into my swimming trunks and into the water. As I stood about chest deep in the cool water I noticed the surface being disturbed by something not too small. A fish I presumed and a large one it must have been. I started to swim anyway and after a few laps I took the string out of my hair and let it flow freely and thus sort of washed it again with fresh lake water.
We had dinner on bread and cheese and sausages and I made another thermos of tea for later in the evening at our campsite. After this fresh swim and dinner we hiked up the surrounding hills and found a site to camp out for the night. Hung my trunks out to dry on some branches and laid myself to rest in my sleeping bag. I woke up during the night and realised that this was probably the most quiet I had ever “heard,” if hearing quiet is indeed possible.
Woke up, rain poured but ended soon enough. Walked down to the lake again, where Merja finally took a swim as well. Had our breakfast here and walked to the centre.
Money had arrived and the first thing I did was buying some pipe-tobacco—Amphora. Looked around for 2nd-hand bookstores and found some. Bought a copy of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and will read it someday, it was only Fim 4,-.
Got on the bus towards the holiday-centre where we were supposed to arrive by today. Had to get of the bus about 4 kilometres from the centre though, so we walked to our final destination and were thus unfortunately late for dinner but were given some sandwiches and yoghurt.
After a short shower we walked around and saw a beautiful sunset at the beach. 3 saunas were still hot and we wished that we had known that earlier so we could have used them, maybe tomorrow. Beer was only Fim 10,- at the centre, definitely the cheapest I have ever seen in Finland, apart of course from normal food-shops.
Our first taste of the food here. Had breakfast at 08.30 hours and lots of it, I had cereals, porridge, bread, orange juice and coffee. We were too tired after all that food; all we could do was sleep. Laid out the tents to dry in a nearby shed. Woke up again around 11.30 hours just in time for lunch. Vegetables, rice and potatoes and some good chicken-gravy. Self service as usual, so standing in line with old people shuffling in front, getting hungrier by the second. Unfortunately no coffee!
13.00 hours: a little walking trip to a farm about a kilometre away. Big group, lot of people with children. Not too many old people (they’re dancing the Tango next to the cafeteria and it’s too far to walk for them), so we weren’t kept up too long. The farm had 2 cows and some sheep. There was a shop nearby as well which sold sheep-products, well wool-products anyway since I started to miss sheep-meat by now. Checked on the tents and sleeping bags, I was afraid that children would start to play with them.
Don’t know what kind of problems these people have: the old people are simply old, with or without disabilities (they seem to be able to throw darts and marbles whole day long, but they just walk from their rooms to the food-house and back via the cafeteria). Can get peace and quiet here just as long as there are not too many people around. Sitting at the waterfront, is what I like.
The young people, young families all look terrible, bad clothes, bad skin, don’t know what kind of social cases most of them are. In general: all look poor and poorly educated. I Am probably the only foreigner around here. Plan to swim and take some sauna later on today. Turning back now to Jack Kerouac (Big Sur again).
A squirrel just came as close as 50 centimetres from me, it wasn’t tame, but wasn’t too afraid as well. Ran away from my outstretched hand quick enough though.
Dinner was served in the usual buffet-style order. Summer-soup and bread, again no coffee. From 18.00 – 21.00 hours the swimming-hall and adjoining sauna were available without a fee. So –naturally– it was swimming- and sauna-time for us.
Two beers and a few pipes to refuel the lost fluids. We had a little bit of an excitement after that. Merja wanted some more coffee—she had bought a cup at the cafeteria but it closes at 21.30 hours. It being ca. 22.00 hours now there was nothing else to do but start the fuel-stove in the bathroom.
Unfortunately the fire alarm disagreed with this and a terrible sound was heard for a few minutes until Merja had found the housekeeper to turn the whole system off and reset it. He didn’t see it as a problem, but some of the old people –in night-gowns– didn’t seem to understand the simple fact that people simply want some more coffee at this –for them– late hour. Merja told some that it was only the coffee-machine and that they needn’t worry. Who knows what they’ll start doing at home now, since coffee-machines can make fire alarms go off? “All these new technologies are good for nothing, the old days, that’s when everything was fine.”
I skipped breakfast, Merja didn’t. We rented 3 bicycles and were off to Hauho (some 10 kilometres from here) after a lunch of salad, vegetables, potatoes, and some meat-mush.
There was some money on my bank account but not what I had expected. The Social Security deposit was late. Merja phoned their office in Rovaniemi and convinced them to hurry since I was somewhere in the south, had phoned her to call them since I was out of money, picking berries and couldn’t come back now. She lied and it seemed to work. They promised that the money would be on my account by Friday. Let’s hope so, bills have to be paid. I also sent my passport to the Dutch embassy in order to apply for a new one. Mine had expired last April.
We drove around this little town after that, going to the local library for a piss, refreshing of water, and checking the local magazines for events and just because there was nothing better to do. This little town does have a great selection of small idyllic houses that sets one’s mind off in a dreamlike state.
The local church wasn’t much of a site. No beautiful Florentine frescos here just one dark biblical painting which I didn’t understand and some glass-in-lead windows with no significant patterns.
The boat-dock had mainly open boats but one boat made me wishing for one; a beautiful sea-going motorboat with all the gadgets named Sea Rose, an English name on a Finnish boat. It reminded me of an article I had recently read in Newsweek about Hemingway’s captain. A lot seems to remind me of Hemingway lately.
We then went to a local food-shop because Merja wanted to have some chocolate or ice cream, naturally her son wanted this as well. I opted for 2 bottles of Tuborg beer. Wrote cards to my grandmothers and brother and niece. Sarcastically told my brother –who just recently co-opened a Czech-style bar named Praha in Amsterdam– that I was drinking Danish beer and certainly not Velkopopovicky, which by the way is a splendid Czech beer.
After that I left Merja and her son sitting in front of a museum while I quickly went off to the post office to send the cards. Incidentally I also brought the bottles back and bought some new pipe tobacco. They didn’t have any imported brands so I had to do with some Finnish stuff. Not as thick as I had wanted but it works. When it’s finished I’ll go back to the better stuff immediately.
Some 300 metres from the church was supposed to be a museum-area with old Finish houses. We thought we’d found it when we cycled into a nice clean yard. A man opened the door of the main house while we were walking around the yard. We thought wrongly. It was the local priest’s and his, or rather his community’s, house. He friendly directed us further towards the museum-area. It consisted of a few scattered barns; one house and a windmill. Merja’s son’s constant whining made us cut our trip short and return to the holiday-centre. We were back in time for dinner with just 10 minutes to spare. How happy Merja’s son was.
After dinner we fell asleep for about 3 hours. Took some coffee with Merja after that in the cafeteria. Now, as I’m scribbling these words, the sun has dropped below the horizon after a bright orange sunset. Puffing at my pipe, under the hungry eyes of Merja’s son, who practically janked the thing from my mouth after several times asking me to give it to him for a while and his mother’s approval of him taking some puffs himself.
I finished Big Sur, only the poem at the end is left: “Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur”. I shall read it now, while Merja and her son have left for the beach for a stroll and I am finally able to appreciate the sounds of the wind again, alone in peace.
Inspired by Jack’s Sea poem I wrote the following:
The lake’s waves make sounds: swoosh, swoosh, swash, swooch. The wind blows through my hair, past my face: frough, frough, swough. Fading orange in the west, light to clear blue over me. Haven’t seen a star in what seems like ages. Scattered clouds in the west as well. Where have the colours gone? Can’t see them but they must be there. Trees don’t change colour like chameleons. Van Gogh might have liked this place in one of his darker periods. I like it.
Woke up in time, for breakfast that is. Merja and her son were still fast asleep so I went by myself to the food-hall. Breakfast was no surprise; bread, cereals and porridge. The only difference this time were Karjalan Piirakka (Karelian Pies) with scrambled eggs. Returned to bed after all that, read some Dharma Bums and Jane Eyre and wondered why old people always sit with their mouths ajar; you just wait for them to start drooling.
3 old women arrived the other day; all 3 of them have their hairs tied in knots on the back of their heads. Nuns perhaps, they surely look like nuns.
Lunch was quite as usual as well, nothing special. Actually so usual that I don’t even remember what it was. We went down to the beach after that. Merja wanted to have some coffee there so I had to bring the cooking-gear along as well. It was quite warm, we sat in the grass, I read some Dharma Bums and smoked some more pipe.
The wind was blowing far more fiercely than it had done the previous night. Merja’s son kept longing for a suck at my pipe and thus irritated the living shit out of me. Constantly whining when we or I would come to swim with him. “Go alone, leave me in peace.” He finally fell asleep on the grass, time for Merja and I to have some time amongst ourselves.
The time was around 15.00 hours and a half-hour before a short guided nature-walk had started. First in line were the 3 nuns. They lingered long enough for Merja’s son to wake up and thus prevent us from any immoral conduct. Time thus for making coffee. Since the wind was blowing so strongly we had to make windshields out of all available furniture and towels. Before long the fire burnt uninterrupted for our water to heat. After coffee I retired to the room and enjoyed some Jane Eyre.
Dinner was meatballs with brown sauce, potatoes and salads. We decided to heat one of the beach-saunas and have a dip in the lake. The sauna didn’t have a mirror so I walked back to the room and shaved there. The sauna was heated sufficiently by the time I returned. Heated it was all right but unfortunately Merja’s son kept throwing water on the rocks all the time –as he always does–, so I ended up taking a shower in the room anyway.
Washing finished thus beer-time. The road to the cafeteria was so quiet that I wondered where everyone was. They were all sitting in a room adjoining the cafeteria listening to some man talking, later they started dancing the Tango and I had to stand in line for my beers, Ah well, I can wait, sometimes.
I have forgotten to mention that there’s this cute little squirrel running around here and taking food from people’s hands. Since this is my most favourite animal I’ll try to feed it tomorrow. I just love these little animals, I like watching them eat. Their little hands quickly turning their food around while they eat as quickly as possible. The one here is rather small, probably a young one.
Later in the evening while Merja and her son were watching television –everyone looking at the same odd thing at the same time and laughing at the same jokes at the same prescribed moment– I wandered off to the beach again to do some writing and reading –Jack Kerouac, of course– and smoking another few pipes.
Some old guy woke us up by knocking on the door, opening it, apologising, and telling us that the door was open. Well it didn’t matter much to me since he woke me –us– up in time for breakfast, which was the usual stuff. Had my cereals and thick dark-brown bread. Most of the old people seemed to be leaving; they were carrying their suitcases and Captain Hook had his carried for him. The biggest open-mouth-drooler appeared to play the violin, since he had a violin-case as part of his luggage.
We slept a few hours more after that to be in time for our lunch. I skipped the liver-sauce but had 3 pieces of chicken-wing. The salad was pretty good as well. After lunch we paid Fim 20,- for renting a boat. According to Merja everyone was jealous because we were going onto the water for a row and no one had noticed the boats before.
We were finally off for an island close by. As we neared it –I was doing the rowing– we noticed that it had a cottage and boat-dock. At first Merja thought that the cottage was a boat-house but that changed as we walked towards it, it was indeed a cottage: dark-brownish with only a few windows with shields; must be dark inside even with the shields open. Tramping over this little island and seeing the evidence that no one –like the owner– had been here in quite a while, we –relieved as we were– sat down on the porch for a while.
Merja wanted to see if we could get to some other place, so we got in the boat again and rowed on towards a group of rocks dooming out of the lake’s other side. They appeared quite far away so that we decided to head towards another shore. It was extremely difficult to land there so that we headed back to “our” island. In doing so we passed an area occupied by birds (gulls). One was rather pissed of at our presence and tried to irritate us away by flying low overhead. It didn’t succeed. We landed again at the dock and sat down on the porch.
I read Dharma Bums and fell asleep in the sun. Made coffee when I woke up and Merja was halfway through her Helsinki newspaper. My stove’s fuel must have been nearly finished because it didn’t burn as fiercely as it had done before. Somehow the bottom seal caught fire again as it had done so often before when I was still using lamp-oil for fuel—I now use gasoline (Euro lead-free 95/98). I had cleaned the stove the previous day –when it burnt perfectly– and had removed and had put back the ‘fuel-direction-line’, perhaps I had pushed it back in too far?
Coffee was ready but Merja had forgotten to take some cups along with her. I poured it into a water bottle and we went back to the holiday-camp, mainly because of Merja’s son’s constant whining about going back so that he wouldn’t miss dinner. We were too late for dinner so we fed ourselves on the evening-food-packages, which we got every evening, nothing much but something. For Merja and her son this was not enough so they had to have something from the cafeteria as well. I had beer.
Later in the evening we had sort of a last walk around the premises, we were to leave tomorrow. The sun shone strongly still and I enjoyed –fully clothed– the last of one of the beach-sauna’s warmth.
The alarm rang at precisely 07.15 hours and we were thus in time to start cleaning and packing. I ate a few extra pieces of the dark bread and Merja –secretly, as in that no one saw it– packed some bread for the road, since we would be leaving today for a yet still unknown destination. Merja’s son had decided to leave for Oulu (his home) today so we figured that the best place to go to would be Tampere—again. We could have gone to Hämeenlinna but then we would have had to hike the 4 kilometres to the crossroad in order to catch the right bus. The bus for Tampere had a stop not even 200 metres from the holiday-camp. It was a trifle late but that was no problem, we had all the time in the world.
Since it was 153 days 10 hours 31 minutes and 46 seconds, 153 days 10 hours 31 minutes and 45 seconds, nay 153 days 10 hours 31 minutes and 44 seconds to the Third Millennium, it was clear that we were back in Tampere. We wanted to leave our bags in a locker at the railway station, but the only one left with a key in it was broken, so we hauled them along with us to at least 4 different bookshops in search for another Jack Kerouac book—no luck there though. I was quite hopeful entering Akateeminen Kirjakauppa but saw none of his books. Unfortunately I should have looked better than I had. The following Sunday while waiting for the train to Rovaniemi, I spotted his Mexico City Blues in the window. Better luck next time.
After the train for Oulu had departed Merja’s ideal was running to the local branch of the Alko chain and buy some wine. I followed her ideal. We sat in a central park and drank a bottle each. I checked the local food-shops here and couldn’t find any noodles; we still had a few days to go and I thought of buying a carton of rice as well (basmati or jasmine) and some dehydrated herbs or something in order to make our meals. Had to buy fuel as well.
After the wine I went out to buy the fuel. I found a gas-station not too far off and filled my 0,6 litres fuel-bottle with Euro lead-free 98. The guys working there laughed at my “big” buy but understood. Tried the food-shop again for the “rice and stuff” but it was closed by now. Went to a kiosk around the corner and surprisingly they had noodles, so I bought us 2 packs of chicken-noodles. Furthermore a pack of Amphora pipe tobacco and a bottle of Raspberry Cider, which I drank to one of nature’s calls in the toilet of the place where Merja was waiting for me. At that time we still hadn’t a clue as to where we would go, although Merja had indicated to take the train and go to Turku on the western shore of Finland, where boats for Stockholm depart and arrive from as well.
We made our way back to the railway station and found ourselves with enough time to spare –at least 153 days 4 hours 18 minutes and 17 seconds– in order to buy a beer and some french-fries. Hoping that we would find a nice place to camp in Turku we boarded and were on our way again.
From the railway station in Turku, where it was now dark since the time was around 23.00 hours, we walked along a road and turned right towards a gas station. Merja filled the water-bag and we walked a bit further to find a camp-site for the night. Up a hill we went and it was so dark and steep that I tripped over some rocks and fell flat on my back. Finally I got my front-bag loose and was able to crawl up again; I had only cut my left knee a bit.
It was so dark that I had to get out my little flashlight and build camp with it between my teeth halfway under an overhanging tree.
The cars had roared past whole the time we were there, but Merja hadn’t noticed this. We had absolutely no idea what time it was, but figured it to be about 14.00, maybe 16.00 hours. Downhill from our site we saw that during our last night’s hike we had ended up quite near a shopping-mall which appeared to be open on Sundays. Time was only 12.30. We shopped for some cheese and bread and Merja insisted on using the toilets to refresh herself. The choice fell upon the –usually cleanest– invalid’s toilet, and clean it was al right. During Merja’s visit there I re-entered the mall and bought some instant cappuccino and a bottle of Coke. After Merja’s turn it was mine and I read some Dharma Bums while peacefully relieving myself.
Heavy packs once again strapped to our backs and on the road we were again to the centre of Turku. The central church is a prominent point of reference when looking for the centre, we used it to guide us along in a general direction towards our planned destination. In a park, dominantly overshadowed by this St. Michael’s church, we made some coffee –cappuccino– and ate some bread. The gas-stove was rather troublesome. I couldn’t get a good fire going and it kept going out. Perhaps it was just dirty (this proved to be true when I finally cleaned it at home).
We wanted to go to the caste, Turku’s main attraction, and soon enough found ourselves along the main road to the international harbour which is next to the castle. Turku’s central canal was filled with boats of all sorts and sizes and some Swedish naval exhibition was going on at the end. Before reaching the castle we boarded a navy-yacht which was open without a fee for visitors to look around. Thirsty as we were –the temperature was somewhere around 30 degrees Celsius– we had some refreshments, Merja coffee I Coke, just outside the castle.
We wondered what the entrance fee to the castle would be and philosophised on this for a while. Through the portal we went and were able to go in past the sign saying “Tickets in here” towards the courtyard. An open door looked inviting and we quickly dumped our bags behind a wall and headed for the open door. Alas, the passage was blocked by a young man playing some ancient instrument. To the normal entrance then which was up some stairs towards the ticket-booths. Tickets were a hefty Fim 40,- per person and since there was just over an hour of opening-time left we skipped the whole damn idea of entering and just sat outside.
Later yet I did go further in past the ticket-booths, but that was just to get some fresh water from the toilets and relieve myself of another call of nature.
From a phonebook at the shopping-mall we had visited this morning we had taken a sheet with discount coupons for one of Finland’s leading fast-food chains Hesburger. Our quest was now to find the nearest branch. This took us on a journey halfway through the city again, with our heavy packs strapped to our backs still. We finally found a small one, after several closed ones, and boldly I went in for our order. The coupons however were last year’s and thus no longer valid. Had we only looked a bit closer. We both had a double hamburger anyway.
Just to the right of the international harbour is the recreational island of Ruissalo, famous for its yearly beach-rock-concerts. We hiked towards it –halfway across town again– in order to find a sleeping place for the night, that is a reasonable campsite. Just across the bridge to the island we realised that we were in need for fresh water again. Since there didn’t seem to be anything close by I decided to go back to the harbour area and find us some water. Merja stayed behind on the island with our packs and I started walking again in search of our holy water with quite sore feet by now.
The gas-station on which I had set my mind was already closed by the time I got there, so it was past 21.00 hours as I concluded from the opening times table. Its free water supply was –unfortunately– behind locked doors and so I had to go on, we needed water. All the places I found needed special keys to get the water flowing. Eventually I ended up in the Silja-Line terminal where the evening boat for Stockholm had just left (at 21.30 hours). The guards let me in the closing terminal and so I got the water from the toilet.
By the time I came back to Merja she was already so worried that she had contemplated on carrying both our backs in search of me. She thought that in my quest for water, probably smoking my pipe, daydreaming, asking the government where the children play and generally floating along the road, I must have been hit by a passing car or something. Luckily none of the sort, I just had to walk a bit further for water, that was all. I had been gone for more than an hour and had been walking all the time, in other words kept warm. She however was quite cold by now so we quickly decided to go onto the nature-trail not too far behind from where we were standing.
We walked back about a 100 metres and disappeared into the woods in search for a site to camp. Houses were build along the trail, somewhat hidden and probably just used in the summertime. We came upon a gigantic big house, no one was home here, but along the road was another house where the residents had decided to be that night. We washed ourselves with some fresh rainwater from the big house and I even drank some of it. “This isn’t Germany’s Ruhr-area,” I figured. We continued along a train from behind the big house and quickly found a site. It was on a large rock overgrown with soft moss. Comfortable at first but still quite hard as we learned the hard way throughout the night.
We wanted to wake up a little earlier so that we would have enough time for exploring Turku even further than we had done the previous day. We packed and walked back to the big house which was –luckily– still unoccupied. Merja used the rainwater to refresh herself. She also used the privacy of the area to change some clothes and at some time she was actually walking around stark naked totally oblivious to her surroundings and the fact that someone might really be inside the house after all. All this while I suffered over the stove making coffee; it still wasn’t working properly and I didn’t have a small enough pin with me to clean it. I had already refreshed myself by pouring two buckets of rainwater over my head.
After our breakfast we headed towards the centre and quick enough realised that the time was only 10.00 hours, so we still had the whole day in front of us. We decided to head for the railway-station, first of all to check on the departing trains and second to leave our packs in a locker or something so that we didn’t have to haul them along for the rest of the day. A smart move, since the temperature had already risen towards the upper 20-ies Celsius.
We didn’t really know where to go when we had arrived in what is commonly known as the centre. Merja is currently studying Aromatherapy and the main office of her “school” happens to be in downtown Turku. We decided to visit there and at least buy her some oil that she would be able to use for her studies. We were on the right street but couldn’t resist walking into an enclosed market place. Something like we know from Oulu, an inside market place where one can mainly buy fresh fish and ready to eat fish-dishes. A lot of noodles and herbs around but not so much fish-dishes as we are used to. I missed the salmon-pie that I usually buy and immediately eat in Oulu.
Continuing along the street we found Merja’s school. Up with the near century old elevator and in we were. It was a normal house converted into an office and classroom. After Merja had her tour and we were both introduced to those working there, I bought her some oil and out we went again.
We decided to go to the outside market in downtown Turku to try to find some coffee and some other refreshments. A lot of fresh fruits were on sale there, not too expensive, but we didn’t buy any. Merja was dying for coffee by now and I needed to sit down and give my feet some rest. A local grill sold coffee and some foods. We luckily found 2 plastic seats and I ordered us 2 cups of –rather weak– coffee. We had bought 2 doughnuts elsewhere and drank and ate while resting and watching the locals pass by. Merja gave me her camera and had me take her picture in front of a vegetable-stand between the people. She later on took my picture whilst I stood in front of a stand full of sunflowers; sort of a Van Gogh thing. After the coffee it was time again to hit the bookshops in my desperate search for another Jack Kerouac-novel. Guess we checked them all, but unfortunately I didn’t get lucky here either. From the bookshops to numerous indistinguishable other shops and yet again to other shops.
Apart from the caste Turku has other attractions like the Maritime, biological and “what’s in an name” pharmacy museums. All of which have entrance fees. We walked towards the maritime museum and its neighbouring “old crafts” museum. We didn’t go in neither, just walked towards them in order to see the other side of town.
When one turns to the left just in front of the entrances of these museums and past the Russian consulate one enters a park stretching out over a hill overlooking Turku and on top of which lies the Art museum. Here too the entrance fee was rather hefty but we did enjoy the view from its surrounding benches. We sat there for a while and were just glad to be in the shadow of some trees since the temperature had risen above 30 degrees Celsius. We contemplated on what to do. Out of professional interest Merja wanted to have a look at Turku’s central hospital, so we had a look at the map, stood up, and headed down from the park onto the streets towards the hospital. A local food-shop provided –for a fee of course– the necessary fluids to continue.
Merja really went inside the hospital to have a look. I merely followed. We both used the clean toilets and I took so long that Merja opened the doors and called my name. I had taken on reading Dharma Bums again and was washing most of myself since even I was getting disgusted by the smells “perfuming” from my body.
All this walking had brought us a healthy appetite and we both craved a pizza. Rovaniemi doesn’t have cheap pizza-joints like Oulu has, but luckily we had seen some scattered around Turku. We entered one just around the corner of the hospital and next to the university. Basic fee plus an additional cost per topping, salads, water and coffee or tea included.
Full and satisfied we walked towards Turku’s cathedral for a visit. What I had missed in Hauho’s church on frescoes, sculptures, and other art was abundantly available here. Mikael Agricola (1510 1557), the archbishop of Turku who was the first to write down the Finnish alphabet and translate parts of the bible in Finnish as well as properly documenting the traditions and animist religious rites of ethnic Finns in the 16th century, had probably been here since the cathedral dates from before his time. Its oldest parts even date back to the 13th century.
Since there wasn’t much more to do on this side of town, we headed for the centre once more. Checking out all the shops we apparently hadn’t visited yet. Finally time closed in for us to head for the railway station, retrieve our bags and board for Tampere—where else? On the road to the station we went into a local food-shop and bought a bottle of spring-water and some sandwiches. From another food-shop still we bought the missing items, like some cheese and meat. Merja actually went into this latter one in order to buy us a pack of cologned tissue papers, for washing your hands and face with in the train.
We arrived a bit early at the station, but sat outside it in a park for a while amongst the locals and others waiting for the departure of their trains. Our train would leave at 20.15 hours and arrive in Tampere with about 4 minutes to spare to 22:25 hours: the departure time for our train back to Rovaniemi. We went in to retrieve our bags and use the toilets. Merja had mentioned something about smelly feet, so I took my shoes and socks off and washed my feet in the washbasin. Filled up my empty water bottle and waited for Merja in the lobby while surfing the internet at no charge on a big touch-screen. 5 minutes before departure time we were on the train and ready to go.
As I mentioned the train arrive in Tampere about 40 minutes before the train to Rovaniemi would leave, so that gave us some time to check around. Tampere is supposed to be famous for its Musta Makkara, which literally means “Black Sausage.” Its reason for being black or rather dark, is to be found in one of its ingredients: blood. Just outside the station is a grill which sells them for Fim 10,- apiece. I couldn’t resist buying one of course. The man serving them topped ours of (we bought just one, since they are rather large) with puolukka, or red berries which is supposed to be the grand topping. The idea may sound disgusting, but the sausage was very tasty. Some young skaters asked us in English whether we liked the sausage, in Finnish we replied that we did. Apparently only tourists eat them.
There was still enough time left to walk a little further on towards some church we hadn’t noticed before. We turned around it twice to the left and walked towards the main street. Upon passing the bookshop Akateeminen Kirjakauppa I noticed Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues in the window, why hadn’t I seen that before when I was inside trying to find on of his books, why hadn’t I asked? Around the corner I noticed that we still had 151 days 2 hours 50 minutes and 23 seconds left to the Third Millennium, so perhaps I’ll buy the book another time. We boarded the train and at precisely 22:25 hours it departed for Rovaniemi.
We took our seats halfway a carriage slightly to the back of the train. It was still light outside, but darkness would fill the Finnish landscape soon enough. The couple next to us were already drinking. Typical Finnish thing, drinking whenever they travel anywhere, given their tax-free bottles they presumably had come from either Tallinn or Stockholm or maybe even flew in from elsewhere. I took the Dharma Bums book from my bag and started reading again, while Merja made us some sandwiches. After a while when the eating and reading was over I started writing down these notes and helped Merja get her sleeping bag from her backpack. She was tired enough to start sleeping and made herself a nice bed on 2 seats. I continued writing and at some point when she was fast asleep I went to the cafeteria and bought us a small bottle of pop, the water bottles were already half gone. I used the tent bag for a pillow and started to sleep as well, but I kept waking at every stop the train made.
I had been rather cramped on my 2 seats but had slept fine anyway and awoke about half an hour before arrival in Rovaniemi. The train arrived at precisely 07:49 hours and we were off towards Merja’s workplace less than 2 minutes later after we had retrieved her bicycle, which had been standing at the railway station all the time since we had left. We went to Merja’s workplace simply because she had to start working again this day. While Merja showered I made us coffee and at 09:15 hours I was in the bus home and fell fast asleep on the bed.