Sunday, September 07, 2008

Trip to Finland: Part 3

I'm enjoying my new Netbook, and the fact that I can sit in a coffee shop and write my blog posts on a keyboard that's big enough to type properly on, not like on my Treo. I'm also enjoying the 3g wireless broadband. £15 (around $30) for 3GB of data. That's a far cry from the $5 I was paying to Rogers for a ridiculous 5MB or some such.

Anyway, back to Finland.

Sunday again started late, though not as late as the previous day. I think we got moving around 11am or so, but my memory is understandably foggy. Oliver had a few errands to run, getting some cheeses and plastic cups for the wine and cheese, though we met up near his place for a bite to eat, and coffee, first. I had some very odd, but tasty, sandwich. It had a strawberry some slices of melon, and, I think, some cream cheese, along with lettuce and more that I can't remember. It was an explosion of different tastes, that I would never ever have thought of combining, but it was very good. We didn't have time to relax over breakfast as long as we would have liked though because we had to get those errands finished and be on a train by around 3pm, in order to get to Oitti in time for the wine and cheese. The student society (the direct translation of it is student nation, which I thought was kind of cool) owns some property with a summer cabin on a lake, just outside the town of Oitti, which is just over an hour's train ride from Helsinki.

After a bit of running around, we made it to the train station, bought our tickets, and had about 20 minutes to sit down over a cup of coffee. We had been carrying three plastic bags full of bottles of wine, eight bottles in total, with us all day, so it was definitely nice to put those down and sit down for a while. The train journey was quite uneventful, until we arrived in Oitti. Upon leaving the train, and just beginning to walk down the platform, I realized I had left my backpack in the overhead on the train! I carefully put down the bottles of wine I was carrying, and as the train started to beep, indicating that the doors were about to close, I sprinted for the doors, shouting to Oliver that I had forgotten my bag. Oliver ran and held the doors open while I raced across the carriage, snatched up my bag, and quickly limped back to the door. I say limped, because it was a wet day, and when I had leaped onto the train I landed on a wet patch, my legs nearly going entirely out from under my, and my shin banging rather hard against the steps. It left a rather nasty looking bruise. After recovering my bag, we started walking towards the cabin, a few kilometres from the train station. Oliver tried hitching a ride for us a couple times, but the only person that stopped took one look at the bags of wine bottles we were carrying, shook his head, and carried on. In the end, it only took half an hour to walk there, and despite how my shin looked, walking on it wasn't too bad.

Looking back now, I'm disappointed in myself for not taking any photos of this summer cabin. It was quite a fair size, with around 5 bedrooms upstairs, with bunk beds in them, probably able to sleep 12 or so people on beds, not counting floor space, or the couches in the living room. There's also a dining room on the ground floor, with bench seats along the table, and a medium sized bedroom with a single bed for the caretaker. People from the student society take turns being the caretaker, living at the cabin for a month at a time. That sounds positively idyllic, considering the place even has running water and internet access.

While waiting for people to arrive for the wine tasting, Oliver showed me around the property, down to the sauna by the lake and the dock. Just outside the house, I saw a bunch of round wooden pegs with numbers on them, that looked to be part of some kind of game, so I asked about it. Oliver gave me a quick rundown of how the game works, and I thought it sounded quite interesting. Nice and simple rules, but a bit of strategy involved in making the rules work to your advantage. A couple people were out on the porch for a smoke break, and they asked if I'd like to play, so we had a game. I did quite well for a beginner, and Oliver won the game, though it was very close between him, and a fellow named Ville (though I'm sure I've spelled that wrong.)

Eventually everyone expected arrived for the tasting, and we all sat down for some wine and cheese. Thankfully, it was much more casual than their usual tastings. I may not have explained that Oliver is president of the student society's wine club, so their tastings generally involve a lot of discussion, I imagine about legs, bouquet, and plenty of other things about wine that are just beyond me. This was more my idea of a good wine tasting. "That was tasty, pass me that other bottle would you?" I had a wonderful time asking questions about Finland, and hearing all sorts of stories about university life.

One of the drinks I was introduced to while I was at the cabin was some sort of grapefruit and gin mixture, called Gin Long Drink. It's something you can buy from the Alko in bottles, not just some cocktail you mix. Apparently, it was made up for the 1953 Summer Olympics which were held in Helsinki. It was quite nice, though I don't know if it's found outside if Finland, unfortunately.

At some point later in the evening, we went down to the sauna. I had bought a bathing suit earlier in the day, during all our running around doing errands, so that I could enjoy the sauna, and a dip in the lake. This was before I discovered that the usual way of enjoying the sauna in Finland is in the buff. Once again, the differing European attitudes towards nudity. Thankfully, I've done enough skinny dipping on the camping trips that I was comfortable with it, and I quite enjoyed the sauna. The only saunas I've been in at all recently have been dry saunas at the ski trip. They're electrically heated, and have great big warning signs that you are not to put water on it. This was a proper wood-fire heated sauna, with a great mound of coal to pour water over, and a tank for heating water in. After sweating it out for a while, and jumping in the lake once or twice, you mix some cold water from the lake in a bucked with the hot water from the tank, and pour that over yourself to rinse the sweat from your body. It's incredible how clean and refreshed you end up feeling after that.

When we left Helsinki, the plan for evening was to spend some time at the cabin, and then catch the last train back to Helsinki at 10:30pm. However, once we were there, and having some fun, Oliver looked up the train schedules for the next morning, and informed me that, if we wished, we could catch the train back in the morning, around 6am, and still be able to catch the 8am ferry to Tallinn, Estonia, as planned. When 10:00pm rolled around, and neither of us showed any sign of wanting to walk the half hour back to the train station, it was pretty much decided that we would be staying the night. As with my other nights in Finland, it turned into a rather late night, and I didn't turn in until 3:30am. Oliver was still going strong, young guy such that he is, so he was going to wake me at 5am, so that we could get to the train station. In the end, he let me sleep in, which was nice, and woke me at 6am instead. Eventually, we got a ride into town with the brother of the girl that was on her caretaker month at the cabin, and we caught a train into Helsinki at around 8:30am.

1 comment:

slightly-less-random said...

See, I totally don't understand the North American prudeness towards nudity. What's the big deal??