Jan 5th - 11th
05.01.2010 - 11.01.2010 -14 °C
January 5th : Nousiainen -> Stockholm (Sweden)
We had a post red wine lay in this morning (we've had a few of those here in Nousiainen....). We did the last little bits of packing and uploaded some photos onto Marise's computer, then showered and I cooked a dhall for M&K. We then drove to Mylly shops where we bought some thanks gifts, a birthday card for Colin and some Marimekko card prints. We picked up Kimmo from work and then headed back to Nousiainen for the 'last supper'.
We drove to the port and said very sad farewells to Marise and Kimmo, who had again given us an amazing and enjoyable experience of life here in Finland. We had to wait for a little while before we could board, but once on we made our way to the information counter to ask for our booking 'under the name of Captain Christopher' (ooh la la, hehe!). We got the key which opened the door to a lovely cabin, with 2 beds, a shower AND a window on the 6th deck. It was really nice! Soon the ship was off and we crushed through the chunks of ice on the ocean on our way through to Sweden.
We got changed and then headed out to see what the ferry had to offer. We briefly looked through the duty free shops (this, as always, predominantly involved spraying ourselves with perfumes and colognes we wouldn't purchase), and then made our way to the bars and restaurants. We had a drink in the pub-like bar, which had a guy strumming in the corner playing Pink Floyd covers. There was a sort of karaoke bar which had attracted a large group of Roma Gypsies, all looking amazing in their huge puffy skirts, long black hair, ribbons, frills, big bangles and hoop earrings. I couldn't take my eyes off them, they looked beautiful! Despite a slight dodgy air of criminality which hovered over the swarthy men of the group, I had to resist the urge to go and dance with them. This was made a bit easier by the appalling mutton-dressed-as-a-lamb-in-tight-leopard-skin performer who was wailing in what sounded like Russian to a tinny backing track. We made our leave and headed to the 'disco', but there was certainly no 'Friday Night Fever' happening. We had a brief cold kiss and cuddle on the snowy deck and it was soon near midnight. So, we headed back to our cabin (darrrling) where we had showers and got into bed, ready for an early morning, and new country, tomorrow!
January 6th : Stockholm
The 5:30am wake up call came far too soon after falling asleep! We wearily got changed, packed bits and pieces into our bag and ate the bean wraps Marise had made for us for breakfast. We watched the pretty lights of Stockholm as we came into dock and then shuffled out with the masses into the arrivals hall. The first 2 transfer buses into town were full and the 3rd one wouldn't take cash for tickets, or accept our Australian Visa card. We decided to head into the waiting area to let the crowds clear, have a coffee and work out the best way to get into town when it's a bit lighter. We were in no rush, as it was only about 7am it was still pitch black and -14c outside. After a while in there, we found a hostel in a leaflet which sounded okay, and then walked to catch the local bus to the train station where we got the underground to a stop which was a short walk from the hostel. It was very quiet on the streets of Stockholm, as today is 'Epiphany' it is a public holiday, most places are closed and everyone is inside (having epiphanies I suppose..). We checked into the 18 bed dorm at the hostel, Sweden (well, Scandanavia in general) is incredibly expensive and the cheapest room we could find was still 20euros each!! We chucked our bags in and then went on the internet to send a few more last minute Couch Surfing requests. We then went to a supermarket which was thankfully open and bought a bunch of stuff to make a nice picnic lunch. As all the sights are closed we didn't have much to do, so we went for a short walk around the hostel area to get some information from the tourist office on museums etc and then went back to the common room to decide where we wanted to visit, as well as to finish our Vietnamese Visa applications which we need to take to the embassy tomorrow.
Chatted to some nice folk in our dorm and then hit the sack, looking forward to being able to see places tomorrow!
January 7th : Stockholm
After breakfast this morning we checked our email and were very happy to find that we had a couch surfing reply from a nice sounding girl called Emmy. We arranged to meet at her place at about 5pm and then set out for the day. It was really snowing heavily! Squinting through the flakes we made our way to the Kulturhouse, a cool place which has galleries and art stores. Had a phone call from home which was nice, it is funny talking to Mum and Dad who had just left the beach and were sitting outside in the still-light of 8pm, while I was standing ankle deep in snow amidst a dull, grey day! Had a nice look around the Kulturhouse, and then hopped on the commuter train out to the 'burbs, where the Vietnamese embassy in peculiarly located.
We got to the station and had a bit of a walk to find the embassy. It is on a regular suburban street, there is all of a sudden a huge building in nice grounds bearing the Vietnamese flag! We submitted our application and paid the fee to the nice lady, who said it would be ready by Monday (we fly out on Tuesday). We then got the train back to Stockholm, by which time it was getting into the late afternoon, so we headed back to the hostel and made some late lunch and chatted to Dave, a violinist from Melbourne. We then grabbed our bags and caught the train to Emmy's place, stopping on the way to get a groceries and bottle of SA wine from the government run alcohol shop.
Side Note: In both Sweden and Finland (and probably other countries I don't know about too) the government have a monopoly on the selling of alcohol. There is one government run shop (in Finland, it is called Alko – haha!) which sells alcohol in limited amounts at limited times. In Sweden the shops here close at 6pm on weekdays, 3pm on Saturdays and do not open at all on Sundays. It's very different to our idea of a bottle-o at home! People were flabbergasted when we told them about Australian drive-thru bottle shops. I guess the idea is to curb binge drinking and alcoholism, but these countries still suffer huge numbers of deaths from diseases related to alcohol abuse, so who knows if it's really working.
Emmy met us at the station nearby her flat. A lovely girl, she is studying politics and international relations, planning to become an NGO. She is actively involved in gender equality groups and other human rights organisations, and we got off to a fantastic start chatting away. She is one of those people I felt instantly connected to, Cam and I both knew we'd have a great time staying with her. She has other CSers (CouchSurfers) coming on the weekend so we can only stay 2 nights, but that still makes for a nice sojourn away from the hostel. Emmy's little flat is very welcoming and cosy. It is a one room flat with the bed in the lounge area (one of those you can fold up to the wall to look like a wardrobe). We had a cup of tea and chatted for a while in the lounge, Emmy showed us some of her amazing artwork (comics!) before Cam and I made spinach curry for dinner. After eating we hung out, listened to some music, watched a movie and then settled down to sleep on the big comfy couch.
January 8th : Stockholm
Emmy was up and out to uni early this morning. We cleared up the lounge of bedding and then set out to get a coffee. All of the foot paths are covered in really thick, slippery, undulating ice! There was a very heavy snowfall which was not cleared off the paths, which then melted and re-froze, so walking around the place was a challenging affair indeed!
The area in which Emmy lives in nestled on one of the many islands Stockholm is built on. It has lots of cafes, op shops, students and arty student-type things. We went into a second hand shop where I found a cool purple dress-kinda-thing. It was originally made in Finland, then hand altered into something else (sort of a long vest?) in Sweden. So, a book and a 'hand made Scandanavian dress' – for $6 heehee.
From there we walked/ice skated onto the other islands of Stockholm. The old part of town is really lovely, bearing tiny cobblestoned alleyways with glowing yellow lamps hanging above heavy black doors. We ogled around there for a little while, then went up to the Royal Palace to have a walk around. Next stop was the Nobel Museum. Famously, Alfred Nobel left in his will that people would be awarded the 'Nobel Prize' in different categories each year (Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Medicine.....and others which have slipped my mind [I won't be getting one for memory!]). The museum was really interesting, and went through lots of the inventions, discoveries and work of past winners, as well as information about current prize holders. Gallileo's telescopes made up a big part of the exhibition, as well as videos on winners like Obama and Mandela. We were there for a really long time so decided to go and grab a hot chocolate on our way back to Emmy's.
As it's a Friday night, it's party night! Soon enough the flat was full of people, one of whom was a lovely lady called Mari who is a photographer. She is doing a project on Couchsurfing for her portfolio, and took lots of snaps of us hanging out with the group throughout the night. There were lots of interesting people, most of whom were studying global politics or working in that vein, so we had really enlightening conversations over wine, beer and curry. After a while the TV came on for the grand event, the Feminist Party Leader was competing in the Swedish version of 'Dancing With the Stars' and they wanted to show their support for her After that we all rugged up and headed out to a bar for a few more drinks. We chatted with Mika, Simon, Sara, Zofia and others who were all very welcoming and super interesting. It was a really good night! The bar closed a bit after 2am, so we started on the cold walk home. Emmy was going to sleep at a 'special friend's' place so we headed back to the flat alone, did some cleaning up then happily curled up to sleep in her big bed!
January 9th : Stockholm
Woke up to a cheery 'Good Morning!' from Emmy coming in this morning. We had a cup of tea together and she asked us to stay for a few more nights! She has other CSers coming tonight but wanted us to stay on :D We were more than happy to say yes! Cam and I then got showered and headed out, first stop: Vegetarian Buffet in the old town. It was heinously expensive, but we figured that with Couchsurfing a few more nights we could spare the money, and it was really really amazing food. We had a slow degustation there and then made our way across to the museum island, where we had planned to go to the Modern Art museum. Unfortunately, everyone else on the planet had decided they would too, the huge line of people lead right outside the door. So, we made the executive decision to come back another day! We had a walk around that island, the views over the water to the rest of the town were really beautiful, with a big sailing-ship-turned-hostel taking centre space. It was getting dark and we were getting pretty frozen so we decided to start walking back to Emmy's. On the way we visited a few little glass art shops, got some biscuits and tea bags and then got back to the flat about 5pm. Emmy's gender equality meeting had just finished and the new Couchsurfers had arrived. Romain and David from France! They are really nice guys, and Cam enjoyed 'parlaying fransay' with them We all drank many cups of tea with biccies and chatted before putting a movie on. After watching a couple of films it was about time for bed, and we all somehow managed to squeeze in. I shared the bed with Emmy, Cam and David on the L shaped couch, Romain on the floor!
January 10th : Stockholm
All up a bit early today, we had some breakfast and then set out to the Modern Art Museum. There was a Salvador Dali exhibition, who we both really love. Having been to his studio in Montmatre, The Salvador Dali Museum, Dali Universe in London and various exhibitions in other galleries, we thought we had seen pretty much all of his stuff, but were pleasantly surprised by lots of new things in Stockholm. We spent a few hours looking around the Modern Art Museum, like most contemporary art places, there was about an equal amount of good looking art to utterly ridiculous shit, but was fun nonetheless.
After that we went to the Architectural Museum, which was predominantly focusing on Scandanavian architecture and how it has developed. That was quite interesting, they included lots of famous buildings in the city and it gave us a bit more of an insight into why they are made the way they are.
By this stage we were really hungry, so we took off from the museums and started the walk back to Emmy's in the snow. We got some corn chips and salsa on the way and shared that with everyone when we got home. The Frenchies were on cooking duty tonight, and we were very happy to receive a delicious French Omelet with potatoes and cheese – yummm!
Watched another movie and then hit the sack, worn out from another long day walking.
January 11th : Stockholm
A slow morning this morning! We checked our emails to find that the accommodation we had booked for our arrival in Vietnam was now unavailable(!) so we decided we'd just wait until we arrived to find somewhere ourselves. We got dressed and then went to a coffeeshop around the corner for a caffeine hit. We talked about what we want to do in Asia (hadn't decided yet, and we fly out tomorrow...) and then got on the commuter train back out to the embassy to pick up our passports complete with Visa. We had been given a 1 month visa from our date of arrival and happily made our way back to town with them in our hot little hands. We went for a walk through the main sort of shopping area and then to the Reichstag parliament building. We wandered around that area for a while, perused a few shops and galleries and then went to the airport bus station to get a ticket for tomorrow, before going back to Emmy's. She had forgotten that she had another CSer coming tonight! It had been arranged ages ago so she hadn't remembered when she said that we could all stay We all went for a nice walk along the docks and up to a cathedral which overlooks the city and then on the way back picked up Saskia from the train station, who was equally surprised to see all of us. Cam and I made a really nice pasta for dinner and we all chatted about life, the universe and everything before beating the rules of physics and all squeezing onto a some sort of soft horizontal surface to sleep.