The Amazing Eurasian Odyssey
Part 11: Helsinki
as told by characters Matthew Garrick and Stephen Williams
We stepped off the train in Helsinki, Finland, which would be the first English- speaking nation we had visited in nearly seven months.
Almost everyone born within the past 50 years speaks fluent English. We could speak and convey full, complex thoughts and ideas and not have to worry about communication issues due to insufficient vocabularies.
After spending a semester in Macau where we spoke in very simple terms, our conversational English skills had probably seen a severe degradation of effectiveness.
At the Helsinki train station, we ate overpriced tuna subs and talked about our next plan of action.
A fellow exchange student we met in Macau was from Helsinki, a curiously energetic fellow by the name of Olli, with whom Matthew had shared an apartment in Macau.
He was my favorite fellow exchange student besides Matthew, who doesn't really count since we are both from S.C.
Unfortunately for us, at this time Olli was searching for internships in the Bornemouth, England area; however, his brother, Ryku, was in Finland and agreeable to showing us around and giving us a place to stay for a night or two.
With Helsinki being on the water, one thing Ollie recommended was to take a short ferry out to an island and hang out for awhile.
While walking to the harbor, I was amazed at how beautiful the old parts of the city were. It just seemed like such a peaceful place but chilly, especially on the ride across the water!
We walked around the island, which was like a small village and tourist attraction. We bought ice cream from one of the stores, and it was so expensive. The dollar is so weak now.
Helsinki reminded us of S.C. The summer weather was much different, though, as we were huddling for warmth in Finland while our families back in the Palmetto State were probably frying eggs on the sidewalk.
We fell asleep on a grassy knoll for a few hours before returning to the train station to meet Ryku. We caught the metro back to his place.
Back at the house, Ryku began preparing dinner while Matthew and I looked around.
The mischievous highlight of the next day was at Helsinki Cathedral where we sat on the steps and watched seagulls steal ice cream. People would get ice cream from the stand, walk to the church steps, sit down, and within a minute, a seagull would make a grab for the frozen treat. We probably saw a dozen ruined ice cream cones.
We went to see Harry
Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix which was just released in theaters there. The next morning we woke super early to catch the ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Estonia. Several ferries make the two- hour voyage per day between these countries. Yet, these weren't small 150- person hydrofoils like those we had boarded between Macau and Hong Kong so many times. These were like ocean liners with multiple decks and all kinds of fun stuff going on.
Despite how chilly it was, I found a cozy place that blocked the oncoming wind and ocean spray but was still open to the rising sun. I promptly took a nap while Matthew roamed the ship, probably looking for hearts to break. Failing at this, he eventually came back and then we reached port in Tallinn, Estonia.