So Finland. There are various ways to get from Germany to the country of thousand lakes. First, of course, is flying. For someone who does research on renewable energy and blogs about sustainable travel by rail not really an option. At a much more leisurely pace you travel on the Travemünde–Helsinki ferry. However, a 29-hour overseas journey may not be super-exciting, especially when most of it is done during nighttime.
Therefore, we decided to take the following route: Travel to Stockholm by train, stay there for the night and then board the daytime ferry via the Åland Islands and through the Turku Archipelago. The latter is considered as one of the most stunning boat trips you can do in Europe.
Oldenburg to Copenhagen
People use to say Oldenburg is a rainy city. It’s a cliche, especially in this hot summer. As if one last piece of evidence was needed, our beloved hometown sent us off with a blazing sun even at half past six in the morning.
The days and weeks before were tough. We had to give up two flats, clear the places at our former working group, and finally attribute all stuff into three categories: (1) take it to Finland, (2) store it six months and take it to Sweden and (3) leave it in Germany for two and a half years. That’s probably the reason why we reached Hamburg more asleep than awake.
After a coffee break, we boarded the Eurocity to Copenhagen. There are two noticable facts related to this train. First is that it stops at the other place in Germany called Oldenburg (as from the real Oldenburg, we consider it as fake). This always leads to funny situations during ticket control.
Second is that the entire train goes on a ferry to cross the Fehmarn Belt between Germany and Denmark. After the 45-minute passage, wodden houses and cross flags along the railway track gave a first touch of Scandinavia.
Copenhagen to Stockholm
We reached Copenhagen on time. Because this is not the usual case, our timetable had a two-hour buffer there. We spent it hanging around at the station and making contact with Danish prices (two cappuccinos and two pieces of pastry: 17,50 Euro).
We then boarded the X2000, Sweden’s version of the ICE. The first one was bound to Lund, where Doro spent an Erasmus semester a couple of years ago. The second train onwards to Stockholm didn’t have its best day. Not only it’s been 40 minutes late and most of the toilets were out of order, but also the air-condition surrendered to the heat. These trains are obvioulsy made to withstand -30 degrees Celsius, but not +30.
Luckily, there was one place in the train with decent temperatures: the bistro coach. So we had a good excuse to go there from time to time to eat something or grab a cooled Lättöl.
Sleepover in Södermalm
Due to contruction work at Stockholm Central, our train ended already at the Södra station in Södermalm. For us this was good news. The station lies in walking distance to the Stadsgården ferry terminal, as well as the Scandic hotel we’d booked for the night.
Nevertheless, because it was getting late and because of our luggage – each of us carried two backpacks and a suitcase – we climbed into a taxi. A bad idea, as we soon realized. The walking distance suddenly transformed in an erratic city trip, for which the driver wanted more than 300 Swedish Krona. It was the first time we were ever cheated by a taxi driver.
Stockholm to Turku
To be fair to the Stockholm taxi drivers: The next morning we experienced the exact opposite. The very polite and kind man, who even spoke German to us, brought us timely and at a reasonable price to the ferry terminal. There the Viking Grace was already waiting for us.
In the flagship of Viking Line we had booked a two-bed cabin. With private bathroom and direct view of the sea. You think that’s decadent? Wait for the price! It was 31 Euro per person. Or in other words: exactly the same amount, an undesired sightseeing tour through Sweden’s capital cost you when you arrive late in the evening, with heavy luggage and look like stupid tourists…
We left Stockholm through the famous Skärgården, thousands of small island scattered into the sea. The viewing platform on deck 12 turned out to be the best place to enjoy the scenery. Again we were lucky with the weather. The sea was calm and the sky cloudless for the entire ride.
If you are from the Nordic countries, there are basically two things to do on this ship: drinking and sunbathing. The beer sold well even at nine o’clock in the morning. Some passengers did the cruise, which means they took the direct ferry back, just to enjoy the “entertainment” on board.
Apart from a short nap, we used our cabin only as a storage for our luggage. Instead, we stood most of the time with our mouths open on the railing. Why? Look at the pictures, we think they speak for themselves!
Arriving at our new home
After a half-day journey that flew by, the time had come: we dived into the Turku Archipelago! Our new home showed itself from its best side. Sparkling sea, beaches and people having dinner in front of their cottages. They were so close, we could have spit on their heads.
Thanks to the perfect organisation of our host, we could pick up the keys for our apartment the same evening. The quite modern flat turned out to be pretty close to the city center, as well as to our future working place Åbo Akademi University, directly next to the Turku Cathedral.
After a first improvised dinner – including Karelian pasties, a traditional food from the eastern part of Finland – we had time for a quick walk into town. Although it was already after 11 o’clock in the evening, there was still enough light to take pictures with the mobile phone.
With these impressions we would like to finish this post. More to come in the next weeks. Stay tuned!