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|From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bron Gondwana)|
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 19:48:19 +1000
The travel day from hell! We were up at 3:30 to pack, leaving in the taxi at 4am. Spent half an hour sitting on the floor at Stanstead waiting for the gates to open, then the same again sitting around waiting for the plane to go. Tried to get our Eurorail passes validated, but the station wasn't open yet. We had forgotten to buy food for the flight (and for the rest of breakfast for that matter), and realised just how expensive the crappy sandwitches at a place with a captive audience can get! As Kate said (or will say if you're reading these by date, she posted it all as tomorrow's entry) - Ryanair doesn't allocate seats. People with young children get to go on first, but after that it's free for all. I asked before the gate was opened if I could queue jump, but they said no. We stood at the front of where the queue would form anyway, and a lady with a baby needed someone to carry her pram, so I quickly grabbed the job ;) The lesson from that, grab the _back_ of the two exit rows, because they don't let you lean the seats of the front one forward into the exit row. I'll know better next time. In Stockholm, after an hour and a half on a really hot bus - they don't seem to know about air conditioning - we sat in the terminal for ages trying to work out what to do. this was our first real time in a place where they don't speak our language, and drive on the wrong side of the road! We finally found lockers for our big bags, and decided to go see some of the city while trying to get a backpackers for the night. The original plan had been to take the ferry that day, but we thought maybe we'd stay one night in Stockholm first. The Lonely Planet says to book ahead at least a week for Helsinki - it should say that for Stockholm too. We tried two backpackers, both full - and disheartened, we returned to the train station. We were faced with a choice of paying for an agency to find us rooms (there was one at the station), or trying to get a ferry. We decided to try the ferry first, as that would give us a full day in Helsinki to find somewhere, instead of the already 3:30 time in Stockholm. Silja Line (our original planned ferry) was fully booked - but Viking Line still had space, if we were willing to sleep on the floor. Better than that, it was free with our Rail Passes (doesn't even use up a day on the ticket!) The boat left at 4:30, bus from the train station at 4:10. We had 30 minutes to find somewhere in Helsinki. During summer, two buildings that I assume are student accommodation during term turn into hostels. I called the second (and cheaper) one listed in the Lonely Planet. Of course prices are Euro now, so I couldn't see at a glance if they had changed much since the book was printed. Anwyay, they had a male and a female dorm room available. I quickly booked for 3 nights, then we grabbed our bags and were on the bus. So much for Stockholm! We will be back in a week or so, and it was intersting anyway. We saw a few buildings. We were very tired, and fell sleep not long after the ferry left. We did look out the windows at all the amazing little islands - very cute with houses on them. The land is very 'broken up' between Sweden and Finland. We woke up about midnight, and went for a walk. They were still partying in the nightclub and pub down a couple of floors. Outside, you could see the light where the sun was just over the horizon - there's nothing like it in Australia. We tried to take a photo, but on a moving ship, it was probably just a dark blur. When we got back inside, the bars had shut - I guess fasionably late was just a little too late here - so we went back to sleep on the floor.
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