At this point it should be pretty obvious why I’ve been stalling on posting the Helsinki ugly photo collage. As I mentioned last week, we spent that entire weekend trapped on a floating mall food court just traveling to and from Finland, so we were only actually there long enough for me to take 11 pictures — and they’re all terrible. But I’m a girl of my word, and I promised you this, so here. Take it. (Yes, it’s a mini version.) Just please promise me you’ll form your opinion of Helsinki from a way better source than this hot mess.
Unless you’re an exceptional swimmer, there are only two real ways to cross the Baltic from Stockholm to Helsinki: hop a short 45-minute flight, or take a 17-hour boat ride. Assuming you want to make the trip over a weekend without taking extra vacation days, this is a no-brainer, right? You would obviously choose to fly because then you’d have that much more time to actually sightsee and enjoy the city. But you would be boring! Seriously where is your sense of adventure? We took the boat.
(It’s worth mentioning that there was a bit of a price difference that factored here: Flights were around $250 not including an extra $30 for the airport bus, while the round trip boat ride was only $45 each and accessible via the tunnelbana. We’re not completely retarded, we’re just cheap.)
So just how was the boat? In college, I developed a sudden and crippling fear of flying, and was too scared to book a ticket home for spring break. By relying on my powers of passive-aggressive persuasion – such as by reciting aviation disaster statistics and leaving subliminal terrorists are going to be on our plane and we’re totally going to crash hints all over the apartment – I actually managed to convince my roommate that we should take the Greyhound bus to Miami instead. From our school. In Boston. It took 27 hours each way, including a 3 AM mandatory refueling stop in Deliverance, North Carolina both directions – and suffice it to say, this boat ride wasn’t as bad as that.
But it was something. The Silja Serenade bills itself as a cruise, so I think that’s where we went wrong. Had we gone into this expecting a blinged out ferry, well then I would be singing the praises of this method of Scandinavian travel.
Hey speaking of singing, there was a show!
What you’re seeing here is some sort of motionless, bungee-trapeze rendition of Con Te Partiro that took place, unannounced, on deck 6 to the cheers of screaming drunk Norrlanders. I think Katie’s face really tells the complete story.
Among the other fun surprises on board were spacious cabins…
A bizarre “Italian” themed scarf-as-ball-gown fashion show (good thing we booked months in advance to get seats for this)…
And all the inebriated, old Norwegian men that three girls could ever hope would badger them into dancing in front of a crowd…
There was also, of course, a selection of buffet-style restaurants that ran upwards of €30 for a plate of pasta (better not to do the conversion and just eat), and a smokey casino full of whiskey-soaked karaoke and seasickness delights. Seventeen hours x 2 = 34 hours, and guess how much of that was spent sleeping? 0.2.
You’ll notice this blog was not about Helsinki at all, and that’s because we were only there for about 14 seconds when all was said and done. But stay tuned because I just might have enough photos to scrape together an ugly photo collage Helsinki edition after all!
And just like that, it’s November. I know. I can’t believe it either, but just to prove it, my landlords back home deducted rent from my checking account this morning, so it’s for real, folks. It’s the final countdown.
I have a few topical and amusing things from this weekend that I should definitely blog about before I forget them, but I’m going to be totally honest – I’m not really feeling it tonight. So I’ll jot down some of those stories tomorrow-ish, and in the mean time I will leave you with another installment of the ugly photo collage. That’s right, they’re back! You thought I had done away with these because they’re lame and you have to squint really hard just to see what’s in each one, but the truth is I just forgot all about them. And, in the process, I lost three full weeks of my-life-in-pictures. I’ll never get those memories back, and the world will always have to wonder, but wait, what did week seven look like?? – but there’s nothing I can do about that now. We all have to just move forward from here.
Take it away, Stockholm: Week Nine-ish!
Here’s something they don’t tell you when you’re a bright-eyed little American who’s selected to move to Sweden for the GROW program, and you’re so friggin’ excited about all of the European travel opportunities you’ll have over there that it’s all you can do to not lose your shit: You won’t be getting any new stamps in your passport.
Ok, sure…when you first arrive at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, you’ll stand in line forever at customs, and they’ll give you a gratis little stamp for your trouble, but it’s not much to speak of. It’s kind of a boring one. Oh, but! you will think to yourself as you lug your 14 suitcases to the cab, I have so many other trips planned while I’m here! I’ll be filling up these last few passport pages in no time! I can’t wait to see what all of the other stamps will look like!
Oh, you dumb American. You’ll be wrong, as usual, and the sooner you can let go of that stamp delusion, the better. The truth is you won’t be getting any more passport love or attention while you’re here, at all, ever. You are used to traveling around the Caribbean for work, with the MIA airport gestapo tracking your every move. But in Europe, the borders are wiiiiide open, and with neutral, lovable old Stockholm as your departure point for all of your side trips, people will care about you even less. I mean, look at you…you’re clearly no threat to airline security because you’re coming from SWEDEN. You might as well be coming from Switzerland or Neverland.
When you land in Latvia, there will be no customs agent grilling you about where you plan to stay, and when when you go to the Czech Republic, no one will check your passport at all – coming or going. You will be able to print out your boarding pass at a self-service kiosk without ever having to show an ID – even when passing through security, where the only thing they’ll actually look at is the crumpled up boarding pass you just found on the floor.
While I’m spilling travel secrets that will give TSA an aneurism back home, I might as well confirm that you won’t need to take off your shoes or put your liquids in a little baggie at security, either. You won’t realize this ahead of time and you’ll be the only one to take your boots off, and people will stare at you, but who knew?
And so after months of traveling, you’ll be left with fond memories of new places explored, but a burning existential question will linger, because you are a petty person: Without the stamps to prove it, did you actually go anywhere at all?
Annnnd, without further ado…the ugly photo collage: Prague edition is here! And well worth the wait, eh? Yep. These just get better and better.
Sometimes when you stop blogging for too long – say, to travel around Europe for a week, and then to catch up on a marathon of Cops and Family Guy on Swedish syndication when you’re back – you lose your motivation to write. It’s not for lack of stories to tell – in the last week, I’ve been in three countries and I have probably a hundred things I could write about here. I could even fall back on another ugly photo collage to fill some bloggie space. Oooh, actually, maybe I’ll make one after this…
But the point is, I feel rather out of shape. So let’s just agree to consider tonight’s post a training blog. I will write some stuff that isn’t particularly compelling or organized and with absolutely no theme or story arc, just to get back on the wagon here, and you (three people who read this) will support me in that. You will!
So first thing’s first, because most of my posts have to contain some variation of this topic (I don’t make the rules): It’s freezing here. Like really, really cold, and not just because I think temperatures in the 60s are chilly. Lately, I’ve been conducting my usual 2-mile commute-on-foot in morning temps of around 30 degrees. 30!! And we’ve barely scratched October. November is going to be a long month, folks.
Also on the weather subject, I should mention here that all week long, there has been an ice cream truck blaring its universally creepy music outside my apartment at around 9 PM. Every night. This seems not only an odd season for it, but also time of day, and neighborhood, because everyone in Östermalm is retired and old and looong asleep with their pomeranians by that hour. And yet, I too am always in my pajamas by then, so I never make it downstairs for a push pop either. That’s right, I’m really living it up Euro-style these days. 29 is the new 80.
On a slightly less lame note, I’ve had grilled cheese for dinner four nights in a row now (I said slightly less), and I have just enough cheese left for another one tomorrow. This may sound sad to you, but with all the $26 meatballs and heavy cream sauces I’ve been eating every day, I am LOVING grilled cheese week. And so is my credit card. This is a trend I actually plan to continue until I pay off the Prague trip, so don’t expect any exciting “OMG I had the most delicious fois gras last night” posts in the near future. Or ever, because fois gras is gross.
Ok now I feel like doing the ugly photo collage thing so stay tuned.
Oh hey, Internet! I know, it’s been a while, but I can explain. My entire department was out of town at the Frankfurt book fair all last week, and I had worked so far ahead on my edit projects beforehand that I had nothing left to do, so it was the perfect storm for traveling. It wasn’t a ton of time, but I managed to squeeze in three days each in Riga, Latvia and Prague, Czech Republic before I had to report back for duty in Stockholm this morning. Stay tuned for pictures and stories from those trips this week.*
*an empty promise…it probably won’t be this week