Today was an early start. We drove the short distance to the ferry port, and then embarked on the Viking ferry destined for Turku, in Finland. We glided out of Stockholm Harbour, just as the sun had risen, casting a silver light on the water. It was a very swish boat indeed, and huge. It felt more like a cruise liner, but having seen it in port yesterday moored up next to a really monstrous cruise ship, in comparison, it was a tiddler. Despite that, we seemed to walk miles trying to negotiate our way around. Since the crossing was nearly twelve hours, we opted to take a cabin for the day. What a good idea that was! No sooner had we set sail, when Howard and I decided to take a little early morning nap, to make up for our early start. Two hours later, we both woke up! I fear we are becoming rather lazy on this trip! Or maybe Howard was so tired after all his ABBA dancing yesterday!
Up on deck, the sunshine was pounding down. We could only bear to sit out long enough to quaff a drink, when we had to slink indoors to the cool. The joyous thing about this ferry was the air-conditioning. Under normal circumstances, you may have called it cool. But today, in the extreme heat, it was our salvation. I took to lingering in one particular spot by the door, where it was coolest under the fan – sheer bliss!!
We stopped mid way on our voyage at the Aland Islands, a popular holiday destination for Swedes and Finns, we understand. In total there are 6,700 islands in this archipelago at the southern end of the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. Shamefully, I hadn’t even heard of them before today. They are actually an autonomous region of Finland, but speak Swedish. Aland has it’s own parliament, it’s own stamps, and flies it’s own blue, gold and red flag. It is apparently the sunniest place in Northern Europe. The ferry stopped at Mariehamn, the capital of the largest of the islands called Fasta Aland, and literally hundreds of holidaymakers disembarked. Then, for what seemed like hours, we continued to wind our way through this archipelago of mainly uninhabited stoney outcrops, smattered with pine trees. It was as if they were stepping stones, leading us all the way to Finland. The ship’s captain certainly had a task on his hands with the navigation, passing through narrow passages between the islands. I can now understand why, when we had visited the High Coast in Sweden last week, and had read about the glacial uplift, why it would be possible for the land masses of Sweden and Finland to join at some stage in the future. It suddenly made much more sense.
After another brief spell on the sundeck, Howard and I went in search of food. We were a little confused to find that the restaurant had already closed, and so had to make do in the rather aptly named ‘casual food bar’. It turns out that the boat, being Finnish, was running on Finnish time – which is an hour ahead of Swedish time. The penny only really dropped when I looked out of our cabin window, and saw that the ferry was actually docking. We suddenly went into panic mode, gathered up all our stuff, and ran down to the car deck. What numpties!!
We are now in Turku, which was the former capital of Finland. It seems pleasant enough, on first pass. We took a brief walk up to Turku Castle, to stretch our legs, and are now sat in a bar, sampling the local brew. Howard is trying Finnish beer, whilst I am sampling the local batch gin, served with Fever Tree, frozen cranberries and rosemary – certainly different.
It remains unbearably hot and airless here in Finland. It seems that the whole of the Baltic region is still very much in the grip of this unusually hot weather.
Over the next few days, we will make our way to Helsinki. Oscar has an important appointment at the VW garage to get his awning fixed, which will at least enable us to create some shade once more.
Apologies for the dull photos – mainly ‘ferry related’!!