Sat 24/07/10 01:43
and the ferry to Stockholm

So where do I begin?  It’s been a few days since I’ve had a chance to write anything. The first problem was that the internet was down at the hostel in Helsinki, and then I was on the ferry without Internet, and finally once I got to Stockholm I was just too burned out to write. So now with a few hours of sleep under my belt, and internet at my access, I have the urge to write.

I spent most of Thursday just wandering the streets of Helsinki waiting for the chance to board the ferry to Stockholm. Helsinki isn’t very big and most of the touristy things are located in the same part of the town, and since I’d spent the last two days seeing them, the third day was a little bit of a lost day. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to say, because I enjoyed myself, it was just that I didn’t see anything new, in fact I just went back to some of the places that I went earlier. Had coffee at the café overlooking the harbor, explored the church on the rock (see pics from my first post from Helsinki), and went to the Esplanade and ended in a park reading my book.

Ken curtis ferry to stockholm   Ken curtis ferry to stockholm

Ken curtis ferry to stockholm   Ken curtis in stockholm

Now it doesn’t happen very often anymore that I get so excited that I can’t stop smiling, but when I boarded the ship for the trip to Stockholm I was all grins. There was something about it, maybe since it’s the first time as an adult that I’ve been on a ship that big, I don’t know, but just like a kid I explored it, from top to bottom, and for bow to stern. So cool.

Ken curtis ferry to stockholm   Ken curtis ferry to stockholm

The ticket that I bought was a plain ticket with no cabin or bed, so I was on my own on finding a place to sleep. No problems though I’m pretty flexible when it comes to sleeping arrangements. I had planned on sleeping on the top deck under the stars, but at about 9pm the captain kicked us off. To be honest is was pretty cold and very windy, I doubt that I would have enjoyed myself if I had been able to stick to my plan. It did though kind of make it hard for me to find a place to “set up camp” because most of the rest of the ship was full. So I hung out on a bench for about 4 hours until most of the people were gone and then decided to walk around a little bit. I don’t know why but it seems as if I almost forgot about the rest of the ship, the bars, casinos, and stores. It wasn’t long before I was being warmed up with a pint and a shot.

Ken curtis ferry entering stockholmI woke up at six in the morning on a bench with my backpack as a pillow. I slept fairly well considering that people kept standing over me looking out the window. There is something kind of unnerving about waking up with people milling around you. I had been hanging out with an Aussie that was about four benches over and he was going through the same thing. When I think about it, the people that were looking out the windows were probably just as annoyed with me as I was with them.

We got into Stockholm around 930 and I was at the hostel by about 11. The hostel wasn’t ready for me to check in so I took off down the street. The street that the hostel is on is pretty cool. They’ve closed it off to vehicles and only allow pedestrians. The street goes for about 3 miles and makes for a fun walk, though it does become a little bit crowded.

Wed 21/07/10 10:50
and a sunburn….

I started the day early, about 6am and by about 4 this afternoon I was back in the hostel asleep. It’s generally not my proudest moment when I need a nap after 10, albeit active, hours, but hey, guess I needed it.

My whole goal today was to take a day trip to the island, Suomenlina. This island was used as a military stronghold to the city of Helsinki up until I believe WWII. A friend at work who used to live in Helsinki suggested that I do it, and I’m glad that I did. For what it lacked in actual military infrastructure, it more than made up for in the social aspect that this island seems to play for many Finns.

As it seems like I do every so often my first step in my adventure this morning was to get lost. I’m beginning to understand the street structure a little here, and I guess I was feeling a little bit over confident because I turned right when I should have turned left. I was on the right street that I wanted to be on, so I just figured that I follow it until I get to the water, which I finally did. The only problem is that it was the wrong water. No worries though, I just went back the way I came and in about 40 minutes I was where I needed to be. The ferries leave every half hour for the island so I didn’t have long to wait before I was on my way.

Busy Helsinki street   View from Suomenlina

Probably the first 45 minutes that I was on the island I kept thinking that there must be some mistake, that this island is just a bunch of old buildings, although interesting there really wasn’t any reason for people to be taking trips to see them. See, when you get off the boat you have a choice, go left across a bridge or go right, up a hill. Did I mention that this morning I turned right when I should have turned left? Well, I did it again. I went up the hill and ended up wandering around for quite a bit just looking at old buildings, some had people living in them and others were being restored, interesting, but not that interesting. After thoroughly investigating that part of the island I headed across that bridge.

View from Suomenlina   Ken Curtis in front of some old guns

The view out of one of the walls, Suomenlina, Helsinki   View of Helsinki from the water, Ken curtis' summer trip 2010

The best way to describe the makeup of the island is to visualize it being broke in two, one side was for fighting and the other side was the housing for the people that did the fighting. This side was really interesting; there were old rusted guns, bunkers, and tunnels. In most cases they were in bad shape, but it was really fun just walking around imagining what it must have been like to have lived there hundreds of years ago, and also the views from the island overlooking the water were absolutely beautiful. There were areas where you could go down to the sea and sit on rocks, and if you wanted to you could go swimming, which a lot of people were doing. At one point there was an old dude that was strapped to a parachute and riding the wind in short 30 second rides. It looked like it was a lot of fun, and at one time he almost hit me with his feet as he sailed along. I’ve got a video of it, but I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to upload it or not.

I spent about an hour and a half wandering around this part of the island taking pictures and just being surprised on the amount of people that were using the island as a mini-retreat. There are several areas that are kind of like parks, and each one of them were packed with people picnicking or laying out in the sun. It was almost like the whole island had become a theme park of some sorts, but of course, with no rides.

Para sailing Suomenlina, Finland   Ken Curtis, 2010

I got back to Helsinki about 1 and relaxed on the steps of that huge white church in the photograph with a pint of raspberries watching the tourists wander around.

Tue 20/07/10 08:22

I took off this morning on a hike that I really didn’t know the destination… I knew that there were some things that I had read about in the Lonely Planet, like the Esplanade, but that was about it. If you know me, you know that I love pretty much everything about the water, the color, the smell, and the idea of it taking you far away, there really isn’t too much bad to say about the water, so I wanted to see that too. It didn’t take me too long to find both.

The Esplanade is best described as a market place with vendors selling everything from fish to t-shirts, and is situated in front of a dock that has sightseeing boats leaving to other cities and the zoo. Although it still wasn’t at the level as some of the other marketplaces that I’ve been to, like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, there was a nice, quiet feel to it. I didn’t buy anything except a postcard, but I think I’ll head back tomorrow and look for a shirt as a little souvenir. I also want to go on a boat tour of some of the islands, and that is where they leave from. So tomorrow I’ll be back.

I also walked along a portion of the waterfront eventually ending at a small coffee shop for a latte and a view of the boats coming in and out. Very peaceful.

On my way back to the hostel I stopped to get my boat ticket to Stockholm. I don’t know why, but back when I was in Russia I priced tickets and it was very expensive to travel from Helsinki to Stockholm, but it really isn’t. It’s not cheap, but it’s nowhere close to as expensive as I remember. So, Thursday night I leave for Stockholm on a 12-hour ferry ride. It should be fun.

I still haven’t made up my mind yet about Helsinki, there is something that is really nice about it, but it doesn’t seem to have very much liveliness to it. The women are beautiful though, and that’s always a plus. J Maybe tonight if I can stay up longer than 9pm (sad isn’t it?) I can go out and see some of Helsinki’s nightlife, One of the things that I really like though is that when you go to a store, or pretty much anywhere you’re greeted with “hey” At first I thought that it was the same as our “hey” but so many people did it, that it may be something other that that, maybe it’s the Finnish way of saying, “yes” or something… when I have internet, I’ll look it up.

Ken Curtis Summer Helsinki   Ken Curtis, Helsinki Flag

Ken Curtis, Helsinki waterfront   Ken Curtis, Helsinki Summer 2010 Ford Mustang

It’s only about noon right now, and I’m trying to decide whether I should have a beer now or head out for some more sightseeing. The Fins take their beer seriously too, so maybe to show my support for their culture, I should have at least one before I head out again…

Tue 20/07/10 00:20
“Happy Days meets The Kremlin”

So I’m in Helsinki and to be honest I still don’t know much about it. I got in about 2 in the afternoon, and to my hostel at about 4. When I got here I was so tired that any thought of actually going out and exploring at all was long gone by the time I finally made it to my room. The plane trip to here had a stopover in Istanbul so for the most part I had been awake for 36 hours, minus about 5 that I got on the plane. What I have seen of Finland is that the people are very nice, and the weather is absolutely perfect. Other than that, I’ll have to think about before I write any more. I will say that the architecture doesn’t seem that impressive, and there doesn’t appear to be much to see. I keep coming up with that Finland is best described as “Happy Days” meets the Kremlin.

Today I’m going to walk around the city and take some pictures, get my ticket to Stockholm and probably head to the water. Maybe try to find a city tour to go on. I can’t stop thinking that I’m missing something here, that if I just find out what it is, I’ll be very impressed with the city.

Sun 11/07/10 01:00
…of what I hope is going to be a great vacation.

Summer 2010 Kenneth CurtisSo the time has come for another adventure, and although most of my “high priority” destinations have been seen, there are some places that I want to experience. Amsterdam, London, Scotland, and Berlin are just some of the places that I hope to see in the next six weeks.

It’s been one of the most difficult trips to decide on for several reasons, one is that it’s “Western” Europe, which doesn’t hold a lot of mystery for me. At least not the way China or Russia did. Two, it will probably be more expensive than any of the other trips that I’ve taken, and I really don’t want to spend a lot. The last reason is that, well, I don’t know if there is a third reason, but the other two have been difficult to overcome.

What I really wanted to do was to rent a place in Argentina and spend the summer just exploring South America, but since I’m from North America it seems a little “wrong” to move to Dubai to put myself into a more central location for traveling, and then flying across the world to visit someplace that is relatively close to America. So for now, I’m sticking with Europe, Western Asia, and Africa.